For regular updates on Thinkers50 news, ideas and events, subscribe to our monthly newsletter:

* indicates required

#14 2017

Serial entrepreneur Steve Blank is credited with launching the Lean Startup Movement, and revolutionizing the practice and teaching of entrepreneurship and innovation. He has redefined how to build successful startups by teaching entrepreneurs how to rapidly search for a successful business model by using customer development and agile engineering.

Blank first began teaching his Customer Development class at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The concept of engaging students in experiential learning and encouraging them to test the market by talking with potential customers became the basis of Lean Startups and the Lean LaunchPad class that is now taught around the world at top tier universities.

He is the co-author (with Bob Dorf) of the bestselling book, The Startup Owner’s Manual (2012), and his earlier seminal book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany (2003), credited with launching the “Lean Startup” movement. In 2014, he published Holding a Cat by the Tail: Lessons from Entrepreneurial Life (2014). His May 2013 Harvard Business Review cover article on the Lean Startup defined the movement.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany, offered the insight that startups are not small versions of large companies—large companies execute business models, but startups search for them. This led Blank to realize that startups need their own tools, different from those used to manage existing companies. The book describes a Customer Development methodology to guide a startup’s search for a scalable business model.

Working in Silicon Valley since 1978, Blank has been part of or co-founded eight startups. E.piphany, an enterprise software company; a supercomputer firm, Ardent; Macintosh graphics supplier, SuperMac; a military intelligence systems supplier, ESL; video game developer, Rocket Science Games, and two microprocessor companies, Zilog and MIPS.

In 2011 the National Science Foundation adopted Blank’s Lean LaunchPad class for its Innovation Corps, training teams of the nation’s top scientists and engineers to take their ideas out of the university lab and into the commercial marketplace. To date, more than 400 teams of scientists and engineers have participated in I-Corps. In 2013, the NSF funded UC Berkeley’s Haas School and UCSF to offer the Lean LaunchPad class for Life Sciences.

Blank’s lectures for the National Science Foundation, became the “How to Build a Startup” class online MOOC with over 125,000 students, bringing the Lean Launchpad class to a worldwide audience. He open sources all his teaching materials such as syllabus, slides, videos, and notes so that other instructors can use them and spread knowledge. He teaches the Lean LaunchPad Educators course, training 100/educators a quarter how to teach this new method in their schools.

Blank’s work, initially focused on startups, is now being applied to the corporate world, which faces massive disruption, and to small businesses.

In 2010, Blank earned the Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award at Berkeley-Haas. The San Jose Mercury News named him one of the top 10 influencers in Silicon Valley. The Harvard Business Review named him one of the “12 Masters of Innovation.”

Book this speaker

Steve’s Books on Amazon