A New Way to Teach Entrepreneurship: Class 1 at Stanford’s Lean Launchpad

3/8/11Follow @sgblank

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an idea for a startup burning brightly in their heads. Some of those applied as teams. Others came as individuals, most with no specific idea at all.

We wanted to make sure that every student who took the class had at a minimum declared a passion and commitment to startups. (We’ll see later that saying it isn’t the same as doing it.) We tried to weed out those that were unsure why they were there as well as those trying to build yet another fad of the week web site. We made clear that this class wasn’t an incubator. Our goal was to provide students with a methodology and set of tools that would last a lifetime – not to fund their first round. That night we posted the list of the students who were accepted into the class.

The next day, the teaching team held a mandatory “speed-dating” event with the newly formed teams. Each team gave each professor a three-minute elevator pitch for their idea, and we let them know if it was good enough for the class. A few we thought were non-starters were sold by teams passionate enough to convince us to let them go forward with their ideas. (The irony is that one of the key tenets of this class is that startups end up as profitable companies only after they learn, discover, iterate and Pivot past their initial idea.) I enjoyed hearing the religious zeal of some of these early pitches.

The Teams

By the beginning of second session the students had become nine teams with an amazing array of business ideas. Here is a brief summary of each.

Agora isan affordable “one-stop shop” for cloud computing needs. Intended for cloud infrastructure service providers, enterprises with spare capacity in their private clouds, startups, companies doing image and video processing, and others. Agora’s selling points are its ability to reduce users’ IT infrastructure cost and enhance revenue for service providers.

Autonomow is an autonomous large-scale mowing intended to be a money-saving tool for use on athletic fields, golf courses, municipal parks, and along highways and waterways. The product would leverage GPS and laser-based technologies and could be used on existing mower or farm equipment or built into new units.

BlinkTraffic will empower mobile users in developing markets (Jakarta, Sao Paolo, Delhi, etc.) to make informed travel decisions by providing them with real-time traffic conditions. By aggregating user-generated speed and location data, Blink will provide instantaneously generated traffic-enabled maps, optimal routing, estimated time-to-arrival and predictive itinerary services to personal and corporate users.

D.C. Veritas is making a low cost, residential wind turbine. The goal is to sell a renewable source of energy at an affordable price for backyard installation. The key assumptions are: offering not just a product, but a complete service (installation, rebates, and financing when necessary,) reduce the manufacturing cost of current wind turbines, provide home owners with a cool and sustainable symbol (achieving “Prius” status.)

JointBuy is an online platform that allows buyers to purchase products or services at a cheaper price by giving sellers opportunities to sell them in bulk. Unlike Groupon which offers one product deal per day chosen based on the customer’s location. JointBuy allows buyers to start a new deal on any available product and share the idea with others through existing social networking sites. It also allows sellers to place bids according to the size of the deal.

MammOptics is developing an instrument that can be used for noninvasive breast cancer screening. It uses optical spectroscopy to analyze the physiological content of cells and report back abnormalities. It will be an improvement over mammography by detecting abnormal cells in an early stage, is radiation-free, and is 2-5 times less expensive than mammographs. We will sell the product directly to hospitals and private doctors.

Personal Libraries is a personal reference management system streamlinig the processes for discovering, organizing and citing researchers’ industry readings. The idea came from … Next Page »

Steve Blank is the co-author of The Startup Owner's Manual and author of the Four Steps to the Epiphany, which details his Customer Development process for minimizing risk and optimizing chances for startup success. A retired serial entrepreneur, Steve teaches at Stanford University Engineering School and at U.C. Berkeley's Haas Business School. He blogs at www.steveblank.com. Follow @sgblank

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  • http://www.matr.net Russ Fletcher

    I wish I’d had this opportunity when I got my MBA. Congratulations on a great model, especially the focus on mentors at the beginning.

  • Zebediah

    This is a really great course concept but it seems like students would get a lot more out of a Lean Startup Machine or some other “jump right in” approach. Introducing artificial grading pressures for various behaviors seems like it would dilute the learnings while maintaining a gap between “school” and “the real world” that doesn’t need to exist for startups.

  • http://blog.epmworld.in Ram

    Great approach, indeed.

  • http://www.ResearchPAYS.net Tom Kadala

    I see a fundamental flaw in this design. It lacks a sense of collaboration with existing problems, solutions, and similar teams. I would suggest developing a network of entrepreneurs across multiple schools worldwide that can connect ideas from the lab with existing companies and initiatives in their respective geographic locations. Only then will this concept leverage what is out there already and teach young entrepreneurs to reach beyond the classroom.

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  • http://entrepreneur-talk.com/ entrepreneur

    I hope you will continue your same best work and we will get more informative post which can helpful to us. Thanks for this

  • http://www.fixtro.com Deepak Sharma

    I like the process, atlest it gets you to think the way you should. Many times we ignore the most obvious. By learning in this fashion may help in eliminating that issue. Moreover, you have a mentor to look over your shoulders.