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Why LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman Is Teaching A New Class At Stanford

Silicon Valley isn’t the only place where you can successfully launch a startup. But it is arguably the best place for your scale-up.

Why LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman Is Teaching A New Class At Stanford
[Photo: Flickr user Joi Ito]

This fall, Stanford students with dreams of making it in Silicon Valley may want to leave room in their schedules for a class taught by entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman. The new course, dubbed “Technology-enabled Blitzscaling,” will impart wisdom on how tech companies founded in the Valley scale so quickly from startups to behemoth game changers.

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Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a partner at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, says “the general ethos” of the Valley is such that too much value is placed on the creation of startups. “It kind of leads everyone to have the view that if you invest in the right idea, everything else comes easily,” he told Fast Company.

But tech giants like Facebook, he says, came to dominate their respective industries through what Hoffman and his Greylock colleagues have termed “blitzscaling”: rapid growth that allows a company to beat out global competitors. “There’s this implicit knowledge that scale-up is really important here in Silicon Valley, but everyone always only talks startup,” Hoffman says.

His class–as well as a book he is working on with investor Chris Yeh–will address the issue of blitzscaling, and is a joint effort between Hoffman, Yeh, fellow Greylock partner John Lilly, and LinkedIn exec Allen Blue. Hoffman says he thinks of the course as a “sequel” to an entrepreneurship class that Y Combinator president Sam Altman taught at Stanford last fall, for which Hoffman was a guest lecturer.

“Why is it Silicon Valley still creates so many of these companies, that we begin to invent terms for them like unicorns?” Hoffman said. “The reason is: The way of capturing a global opportunity, by scaling very fast into it, is something that’s part of what we do very well here. ‘Playbook’ is probably a little too strong [a word], but we have a set of expertise, knowledge, and information to do that.”

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The course will be largely lecture-based–pulling, in part, from the “raw draft” of Hoffman’s book and the “living knowledge” that he says is shared across the Valley–and will feature guest spots from figures like Altman, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. It will meet twice a week, and while primarily targeted at Stanford students, the class will also take applications from entrepreneur types outside the university. (Hoffman said it will probably enroll 80 or so Stanford students and about 20 others; applications are due this Friday.)

In a LinkedIn post announcing the course, Hoffman links to where people can apply and lists some of the questions he hopes to answer about scaling. (“What is the role of the founder?” “What are the key decisions and questions?”) Entrepreneurs who don’t snag a spot in Hoffman’s class should still keep an eye out for videos: Much of the class, Hoffman says, will be recorded and broadcasted after the fact, and some sessions may even be live-streamed.

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About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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