Developing a 21st Century Entrepreneurship Curriculum

12/14/12Follow @sgblank

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went for it. Luckily, I had interviewed students for the course (as I had designed it before coming to the conference) during enrollment months (before I knew I would even teach this methodology) because I knew I wanted only the most passionate and committed students and I would do my best to hold them accountable to executing on their ideas. It took time and preparation to roll this out so quickly, but the materials I received at the conference made it possible. I had a roadmap in front of me, and I just had to be prepared to deliver it.

One of the biggest (and best) surprises from actually teaching the class is the way that students bounce back from the direct and sometimes tough live feedback. I had a major fear that we would scare students right out of the class, but after the first two weeks, they expressed how much they appreciated it, one student tell me that this was his favorite class because he had learned so much in just two weeks. This realization made the rest of the semester easier, knowing that the feedback that is sometimes hard to give and take is the most important, and is valued by the students. We established an environment of trust and a place where we were comfortable being uncomfortable.

What I wish I knew going into the semester is that the interview process and student selection is incredibly impactful on the success of the class. In an effort to be inclusive, I allowed any student who had a business he/she wanted to launch enroll. Going forward, I will be much more particular based on each student’s readiness. I did get quite lucky, however, as the majority of my students are a good fit and truly want to work on their business models. Some, however, are not ready. They need to mature a bit before the LLP process will hit home with them and I should defer these students to a later year.

In the future I will also train my mentors in a more significant way. I had an incredible pool of experienced entrepreneurs and business people to choose from – but without fully understanding the customer development process, some were steering my students way off track (asking for business plans!) and I had to pull them back when we met in class.

I also wish I could have recruited more in-class advisors to give live feedback…this was challenging because of my timeline, and while I did get a fair number to visit, more would have been welcomed. There is an art to giving the right type of feedback in the right manner at the right time. It takes practice, and the more experts we have in the room, the more powerful it can be.

The best part about the whole thing is, of course, the results my students have experienced from giving the process the attention it deserves. I was blown away by how hard undergrads would work for their business idea. I was impressed EVERY week by the outside work that was done and the number of interviews performed. There were incredible learning points every single week and over the course of the semester multiple businesses made first sales, gained new customers, launched, and one even got hired by a competitor to roll his product into a product line through a proprietary manufacturing process. Because of this success I have seen increased interest from other colleges and from the MBA program…spring will be an incredible class!

Lessons Learned

  • The student interview process and selection is critical
  • Undergraduates can handle the class
  • Students bounce back from the direct and sometimes tough live feedback
  • Align and train mentors to embrace customer development
  • Go for it!

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://twitter.com/quotejoy Marta Ockuly

    Will the Lean Entrepreneurship course be available for educators on-line? I love the idea of an action-oriented learning model. Please offer readers a way to follow up.