Improving the Process for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Scott Francis
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Steve Blank’s process for teaching entrepreneurship – The Lean Launchpad – is a bit like the process for teaching the startup process.  It is a fascinating evolution to observe as it develops; and the results are impressive. I recommend reading the whole series of posts, but if you are the kind of person that reads the last chapter first, or likes to eat dessert before the entree, then have at it. So what is this Lean Launchpad class in his words?
Business plans are fine for large companies where there is an existing market, existing product and existing customers, but in a startup all of these elements are unknown and the process of discovering them is filled with rapidly changing assumptions. Experienced entrepreneurs realize that no business plan survives first contact with customers. So our goal was to teach something actually useful in the lives of founders. Building a product is a critical part of a startup, but just implementing build, measure, learn without a framework to understand customers, channel, pricing, etc. is just another engineering process, not building a business. In the real world a startup is about the search for a business model or more accurately, startups are a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model. Therefore we developed a class to teach students how to think about all the parts of building a business, not just the product.
Clearly the use of the business model canvas to capture assumptions and iterate over them is a big step forward compared to previous approaches (not that that was the only innovation).  We’ve used the business model canvas at BP3 to explain our business model, and we’ll likely use some of these techniques to tweak our business model in the future. One of the key learnings:
3.  The process worked for all types of startups – not just web software but from a diverse set of industries – wind turbines, autonomous vehicles and medical devices.
I thought that was pretty telling.  A good process for a startup should work for more than just web software startups. If you think you’re doing something that is just too damn creative for a process, read Steve Blank’s blog on startups.  The process may not be tightly bound or automated, and doesn’t need to be.  But there *is* a method to the madness and it can be repeated However, the outcome isn’t guaranteed to be successful – it is a startup after all.  Part of me wonders if the BPM community would be willing to accept that idea of following the process but still having an indeterminate outcome… interesting discussion to have!