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steve blank
Works at U.C. Berkeley, Haas Business School
Lived in new york city
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Lecturer Stanford and U.C. Berkeley
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  • U.C. Berkeley, Haas Business School
    Lecturer, 2002 - present
  • Stanford University
    Lecturer, 2005 - present
  • California Coastal Commission
    Commissioner, 2007 - 2013
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Teach at Stanford Engineering & Haas Business School U.C. Berkeley

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retired
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new york city - ann arbor, michigan - Alpena, Michigan - Biloxi, Mississippi - Korat Thailand - Coral Gables, Florida - Ubon, Thailand - Udorn, Thailand - Alice Springs, Australia - Pyeongtaek, Korea
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Startups focus on speed since they are burning cash every day as they search for product/market fit. But over time code/hardware written/built to validate hypotheses and find early customers can become unwieldy, difficult to maintain and incapable of scaling. These shortcuts add up and become what is called technical debt. And the size of the problem increases with the success of the company. 

You fix technical debt by refactoring, going into the existing code and “cleaning it up” by restructuring it. This work adds no features visible to a user but makes the code stable and understandable.
While technical debt is an understood problem, it turns out startups also accrue another kind of debt – one that can kill the company even quicker – organizational debt. Organizational debt is all the people/culture compromises made to “just get it done” in the early stages of a startup.

Just when things should be going great, organizational debt can turn a growing company into a chaotic nightmare.

Growing companies need to understand how to recognize and  “refactor” organizational debt.
Startups focus on speed since they are burning cash every day as they search for product/market fit. But over time code/hardware written/built to validate hypotheses and find early customers can be...
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I’ve known Edmund Pendleton from the University of Maryland as the Director of the D.C. National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Node (a collaboration among the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, George Washington, and Johns Hopkins). edmund pendeltonBut it wasn’t until seeing him lead the first I-Corps class at the National Institutes of Health that I realized Edmund could teach my class better than I can.

After seeing the results of 500+ teams through the I-Corps, the NSF now offers all teams who’ve received government funding to start a company an introduction to building a Lean Startup.

Here’s Edmund’s description of the I-Corps Lite program.
I’ve known Edmund Pendleton from the University of Maryland as the Director of the D.C. National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Node (a collaboration among the University of Maryland, Virginia Te...
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Thibault Duchemin and his team applied for our Lean LaunchPad class at UC Berkeley in 2014. We accepted them because it was clear Thibault was driven to solve a very personal problem – he grew up in a Deaf family, the only one who could hear. His team project was to provide automated aids for the hearing impaired.

Here’s his story.
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I’ve been working with Roberto, the Chief Innovation Officer of a diversified company I’ll call Sprocket Industries.

I hadn’t heard from Roberto in awhile and when we caught up, it was clear his initial optimism had faded. I listened as Roberto listed the obstacles to the new innovation program at Sprocket, “We’ve created innovation teams in both the business units and in corporate. Our CEO is behind the program. The division general managers have given us their support. But the teams still run into what feel like immovable obstacles in every part of the company. Finance, HR, Branding, Legal, you name it, everyone in a division or corporate staff has an excuse for why we can’t do something, and everyone has the power to say no and no urgency to make a change.”

Roberto was frustrated, “How do we get all these organizations to help us move forward with innovation? My CEO wants to fix this and is ready to bring in a big consulting firm to redo all our business processes.”

Uh oh…
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I just spent a day working with Bob, the Chief Innovation Officer of a very smart large company I’ll call Acme Widgets.

Bob summarized Acme’s impediments to innovation. “At our company we have a culture that fears failure. A failed project is considered a negative to a corporate career. As a result, few people want to start a project that might not succeed. And worse, even if someone does manage to start something new, our management structure has so many financial, legal and HR hurdles that every initiative needs to match our existing business financial metrics, processes and procedures. So we end up in “paralysis by analysis” – moving slowly to ensure we don’t make mistakes and that everyone signs off on every idea (so we can spread the collective blame if it fails). And when we do make bets, they’re small bets on incremental products or acquisitions that simply add to the bottom line.”

Bob looked wistful, “Our founders built a company known for taking risks and moving fast. Now we’re known for “making the numbers,” living on our past successes. More agile competitors are starting to eat into our business. How can we restart our innovation culture?”
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What Drives Innovation?
I pointed out to Bob the irony – in a large company “fear of failure” inhibits speed and risk taking while in a startup “fear of failure” drives speed and urgency.

If we could understand the root cause of that difference, I said, we could help Acme build a system for continuous innovation.
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Understanding “Market Type” can save you a ton of money and time.
Understanding "Market Type" can save you a ton of money and time. This 2-minute video explained "why not all startups are the same" and introduced the notion of "market type" and described the diff...
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Last week I got a call from Patrick an ex-student I hadn’t heard from for 8 years. He was now the CEO of a company and wanted to talk about what he admitted was a “first world” problem. Over breakfast he got me up to date on his life since school (two non-CEO roles in startups,) but he wanted to talk about his third startup – the one he and two co-founders had started.

“We’re at 70 people, and we’ll do $40 million in revenue this year and should get to cash flow breakeven this quarter. ” It sounded like he was living the dream. I was trying to figure out why we were meeting. But then he told me all about the tough decisions, pivots and firing his best friend he had to do to get to where he was. He had been through heck and back.

“I made it this far,” he said, ”and my board agreed they’d bet on me to take it to scale. I’m going to double my headcount in the next 3 quarters. The problem is where’s the playbook? There were plenty of books for what to do as a startup, and lots of advice of what to do if I was running a large public company, but there’s nothing that describes how to deal with the issues of growing a company. I feel like I’ve just driving without a roadmap. What should I be reading/doing?”

I explained to Patrick that startups go through a series of steps before they become a large company.
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My guests this week on Bay Area Ventures on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM Channel 111 were:

Kathryn Gould co-founder of Foundation Capital
Mar Hershenson co-founder of the VC firm Pejman Mar Ventures
Sophie Lebrecht co-founder and CEO of Neon Labs
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I am always surprised when critics complain that the Lean Startup’s Build, Measure, Learn approach is nothing more than “throwing incomplete products out of the building to see if they work.”

Unfortunately the Build, Measure, Learn diagram is the cause of that confusion. At first glance it seems like a fire-ready-aim process.
It’s time to update Build, Measure, Learn to what we now know is the best way to build Lean startups.

Here’s how.
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In peacetime the U.S. military is an immovable and inflexible bureaucracy. In wartime it can adapt and adopt organizational change with startling speed.

BMNT, a new Silicon Valley company, is combining the Lean Methods it learned in combat with the technology expertise and speed of startups.
Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way In peacetime the U.S. military is an immovable and inflexible bureaucracy. In wartime it can adapt and adopt organizational change with startling speed. ...
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During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, science and engineering at both Stanford and U.C. Berkeley were heavily funded to develop Cold War weapon systems. Stanford’s focus was Electronic Intelligence and those advanced microwave components and systems were useful in a variety of weapons systems. Starting in the 1950’s, Stanford’s engineering department became “outward facing” and developed a culture of spinouts and active faculty support and participation in the first wave of Silicon Valley startups.

At the same time Berkeley was also developing Cold War weapons systems. However its focus was nuclear weapons – not something you wanted to be spinning out. nuclearSo Berkeley started a half century history of “inward facing innovation” focused on the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons lab.

Given its inward focus, Berkeley has always been the neglected sibling in Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. That has changed in the last few years.

Today the U.C. Berkeley Haas Business School is a leader in entrepreneurship education. It has replaced how to write a business plan with hands-on Lean Startup methods. It’s teaching the LaunchPad® and the I-Corps for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, as well as corporate entrepreneurship courses.

Here’s the story from Andre Marquis, Executive Director of Berkeley’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship.
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Stephen Chambers spent 22 years in some of the most innovative companies in life science as the director of gene expression and then as a co-founder of his own company. Today he runs SynbiCITE, the UK’s synthetic biology consortium of 56 industrial partners and 19 Academic institutions located at Imperial College in London.

Stephen and SynbiCITE, just launched the world’s first Lean LaunchPad for Synthetic Biology program. Here’s his story.
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Steve Blank’s UCSF Class Tests “Evidence-Based Entrepreneurship” | Xconomy
www.xconomy.com

Conventional wisdom says the techniques that help today’s technology startups get to market fast---or, just as likely, fail fast, freeing th

Haas Helps Turn Scientists into Entrepreneurs | Berkeley-Haas
newsroom.haas.berkeley.edu

Dozens of scientists and engineers from around the country converged in Berkeley this summer to refine their startups in a new entrepreneurs

China Startups – The Gold Rush and Fire Extinguishers (Part 5 of 5)
steveblank.com

I just spent a few weeks in Japan and China on a book tour for the Japanese and Chinese versions of the Startup Owners Manual. In these seri

S. M. Stirling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org

Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Drak