“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
– Albert Einstein
Entrepreneurship as a Management Science
Those of you who have been reading my blog already know that I have been talking about a new approach to entrepreneurship education called “E-School” or the Durant School of Entrepreneurship. I believe that we have now learned enough about entrepreneurship as its own management science, to rethink our approach on how to teach it.
A place to start would be by recognizing the fundamental difference between an existing company and a startup: existing companies execute business models, while startups search for a business model. (Or more accurately, startups are a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model.) Therefore the very foundations of teaching entrepreneurship should start with how to search for a business model.
This startup search process is the business model / customer development / agile development solution stack. This solution stack proposes that entrepreneurs should first map their assumptions (their business model) and then test whether these hypotheses are accurate, outside in the field (customer development) and then use an iterative and incremental development methodology (agile development) to build the product. When founders discover their assumptions are wrong, as they inevitably will, the result isn’t a crisis, it’s a learning event called a pivot–and an opportunity to update the business model.
Business Model Design meets Customer Development
So how do we teach this approach? Both Stanford and Berkeley have been extremely generous in letting me test these ideas in their engineering and business schools. In fact, starting in January, Stanford will offer Engineering 245, a.k.a the Lean Launchpad, the first hands-on class utilizing the entire business model/customer development / agile development stack. I’ll be teaching this class with two world-class VC’s: Ann Miura-Ko of Floodgate, and Jon Feiber of MDV.
In this class students get real world, hands-on learning on what it’s like to actually start a high-tech company. This class is not about how to write a business plan. The end result is not a PowerPoint slide deck for a VC presentation. Instead students get their hands dirty talking to customers, partners and competitors as they encounter the chaos and uncertainty of how a startup actually works. They’ll work in teams learning how to turn a great idea into a great company. They’ll learn how to use a business model to brainstorm each part of a company and customer development to get out of the classroom to see whether anyone would want/use their product. Finally, they’ll use agile development to rapidly iterate the product in class to build something customers will use and buy. Each week will be a new adventure as they test each part of their business model and then share the hard earned knowledge with the rest of the class.
But what if you’re not a Stanford student and want to learn how to build a startup with the “get out of the building” experience as taught in the Lean Launchpad class?
International Business Model Competition
One of the things I have suggested is that instead of business plan competitions (which tend to focus on a static plan which is often just a series of guesses about a customer problem and the product solution), entrepreneurship educators should think about holding competitions that emulate what entrepreneurs encounter–chaos, uncertainty and unknowns. A business model competition would emulate the “out of the building” experience of the Stanford E-245 class and the customer development / business model / agile stack.
Nathan Furr, a professor at Brigham Young University, is launching the first international business model competition.
The competition will be held on January 24th 2011 (submission deadline Jan 10th) and is open to university students enrolled at least half-time anywhere in the world (more about the competition here and information packet is here). While Professor Furr’s vision is to make this the Moot Corp (the championship of business plan competitions) of the business model world, the broader goal is to kick start change in the way students and educators think about how to train the next generation of entrepreneurs–Durant entrepreneurs.
Not only is this an exciting event planting a flag for the future of e-schools, but Alexander Osterwalder, who wrote the definitive book on business model design, and I will be doing the judging along with Professor Nathan Furr.
Oh yes, and by the way, the prize money is $50,000.
See you there.
Reprinted from SteveBlank.com
Steve Blank is a prolific educator, thought leader and writer on Customer Development for Startups, the retired serial entrepreneur teaches, refines, writes and blogs on “Customer Development,” a rigorous methodology he developed to bring the “scientific method” to the typically chaotic, seemingly disorganized startup process. Now teaching Entrepreneurship at three major Universities, Blank is the author of Four Steps to the Epiphany. Follow him on Twitter @sgblank.