Steve Blanks Talks Startup, Success & Seed Funds

“The skill I had was the ability operate in chaos. That set my trajectory.”Widely regarded as ‘the founding father of modern entrepreneurship’, Steve Blank was part of numerous startups and retired the day before the IPO of the last company he co-founded in his living room, E.piphany.

He is a critically acclaimed author, listed as one Harvard Business Review’s Masters of Innovation in 2012, ranked as one Forbes’ 30 most influential people in tech in 2013, consulted to some of the industry’s biggest organizations, and his Lean Launchpad class has become the standard for commercialization for all federal research, training 1,900 teams and launching over 1,000 startups.

Blank has set the agenda for startups over the last few decades. And yet, according to the professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford, he only possesses two skills. “Starting out, I lacked a lot of skills – and I still do – but I had two important ones: being able to operate in massive chaos; and then, among that chaos, being able to see patterns in lots of data,” he says.

Tracing his ability to perform in spite of a frenzied backdrop to his childhood, noting that he had grown up a ‘dysfunctional family’, Blank has certainly come a long way from high school in New York, where he says he might have been chosen “least likely to succeed.”

Speaking to me off the back of a visit to the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Oxford Seed Fund – a student-led fund that provides capital to the university’s most promising startups – Blank is understandably keen to reflect on the role of educational providers in supporting entrepreneurship:

“They’re not only useful for early-stage ventures, but they’re now essential for corporations to stay in business.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that Blank thinks so highly of educators. Post-business, he’s had an illustrious career in academia that has seen him teach at an array of world-renowned institutions, from UC Berkeley and Columbia to Imperial College, in the UK, and lunching a flurry of courses at Stanford, from Hacking for Defense and Hacking for Diplomacy to Hacking for Recovery and Hacking for Climate and Sustainability.

A staunch advocate for the importance of schools like Oxford Saïd, Blank’s attendance at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Oxford Seed Fund was an apt reflection of his commitment to education as well as a nod to a pioneering initiative from a leading institution.

“Steve’s presence and invaluable insights left a great mark on our students and community, sparking new perspectives on the future of startups and inspiring us all,” Maria Zubeldia, Director of the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, commented.

“He explored the dynamic intersection of technology and entrepreneurship and shared his views on how technology is poised to revolutionise the startup landscape and reshape the relationship between entrepreneurs and investors,” she added. “It was an immense honour.”

Article Courtesy of Forbes July 16, 2023 by Matt Symonds, Fortuna Admissions & CentreCourt MBA 

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