During his two-week visit to Finland, Estonia and Russia, Steve Blank will visit the key players in the region, as well as a mixture of startup entrepreneurs, students, investors and major corporation leaders.
Blank is serial entrepreneur, cofounding 8 startup companies in Silicon Valley. His last company E.piphany made a 2 billion dollars IPO in 1999. Today he is best known as a Stanford professor, reforming entrepreneurship education and innovation ecosystems around the globe.
Blank arrived in Silicon Valley just as the tech boom was beginning in 1978 and the concept of startups was beginning to evolve. It was a time when new entrepreneurs were continuing the research driven by scientists and engineers, and learning how to build businesses around the technology by trial and error. “It wasn’t pure research, but rather a culture of taking sufficient risks to get products to market through learning, discovery, iteration and execution.” he writes about his time working in marketing, sales and management positions.
Blank now has over 30 years of experience in entrepreneurship, founding eight venture-backed technology companies, four of which have gone public. The companies’ products ranged from semiconductors and business software to supercomputers and games. After the two billion dollar IPO of E.phipany, Blank retired from entrepreneurship and decided to share what he had learned.
He created the Customer Development model to better understand the patterns of building successful start-ups and how to go from product to market. Blank’s experience taught him that the model for success was repeatable and the book he wrote, Four Steps to the Epiphany, became a bestselling technology entrepreneurship bible and has effectively revolutionized the way startups are built.
Steve Blank is critical of the way startups often use the product development model as a framework for building their business.
When developing a product a company first creates a product concept, then builds a prototype and does few test cycles with a closed group in the so-called alpha phase. This is followed by testing with a larger group in the beta phase and ultimately launching to a larger audience.
The product development model is not, however, appropriate for planning a company’s marketing efforts and company building. Blank argues that many failed commercialization efforts have been due to a lack of a systematic approach to develop customers for a product alongside the product development model. The Customer Development model is a four stage process that enables a company to identify who the target customer for their product is and how to sell to them.
Today, Blank teaches entrepreneurship to undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley, Stanford University Technology Ventures Program and Columbia University/Berkeley Joint Executive MBA program.
His new course, Lean LaunchPad, teaches aspiring entrepreneurs his method of creating startups. The 10-week course is hands-on and focuses on teaching not only facts about entrepreneurship, but the skills necessary to succeed at it. Steve’s ambition is to renew entrepreneurial ecosystems and education all around the world.
An indication of the importance and impact of the course is that it has been adapted by National Science Foundation (NSF), a $6.8-billion U.S. government agency that supports research, as part of their Innovation Corps - a program that will take the most promising research projects in US university laboratories and turn them into startups. The NSF will fund 100 science and engineering research projects every year, each team receiving $50,000.
Aalto Entrepreneurship Society and its partners are bringing Steve Blank to Helsinki. Our goal is to develop Finland into Europe's leading entrepreneurship hub. Join us, see the week's program here.