In Utah, Developing the Science of Entrepreneurship


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the final four contestants. The finals were held in the packed 800 seat BYU Varsity Theater with lines of students outside unable to get in. It was an eye-opener to see each of the teams take the stage to describe their journey in trying to validate each of the 9 parts of a business model, rather than the static theory of a business plan.

Each team used the business model canvas and customer development stack to go from initial hypotheses, getting outside the building to validate their ideas with customers, and going through multiple pivots to find a validated business model. The winner was Gamegnat, a gaming information portal (take a look at their presentation here.) At the end of the competition Gavin Christensen, managing director of Kickstart Seed Fund said, “This is going to change the way we invest.” A nice testament to the visible difference in the quality of every teams presentation. The competition was an inspiration to the students, mentors and teaching teams.

Utah: Entrepreneurial Surprises
While I was in Utah, my host kept me busy with a series of talks. I spoke at lunch to a room of 400 entrepreneurs and investors from the region about the business model / customer development stack. I was quite surprised to find the depth and interest in innovation and sheer number of startups that I saw. I was even more surprised to learn that University of Utah has gone from being ranked 94th in the U.S. for startups created from university intellectual property to number one.

When I met with the faculty and Deans at BYU they were proud to tell me that they were number one in the U.S. for startups, licenses, and patent applications per research dollar. BYU has embraced an e-school approach, changing their curriculum to develop and teach the ideas in the business model / customer development stack. Their vision is to make the Business Model Competition an even larger international event, creating competitions at partner schools and providing the materials and insight to create a network of business model competitions culminating in an international finals event. And they are ready to share!

Keep your eye out for more details about creating your own competition, or contact Nathan Furr directly.

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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 Follow @sgblank

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