Steve Blank on Teaching and Practicing Entrepreneurship

“Entrepreneurship cannot be taught, but entrepreneurship can be taught to those who volunteer.”

Those sage words come from Steve Blank (@sgblank), who has been called “The Father of The Lean Startup Movement”. He’s also Consulting Professor at Stanford University and Lecturer at the UC Berkeley Haas Business School. Blank recently spoke at the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco.

In the old days, you learned about entrepreneurship by going to school for years, getting your MBA, and / or having a ton of money to start your company. “We all know now that entrepreneurship education is a little theory and a lot of practice,” said Blank, suggesting a theory-to-practice ratio of about 1-to-100.

Entrepreneurs are more like artists, not engineers or MBAs. And artists need practice when they’re both learning the skill and executing the skill, said Blank. Theory alone doesn’t cut it. “You have to experience the chaos,” he said. “Entrepreneurship education is like a priest teaching you sex.”

Many of the old prescriptions for business are not (and never were) valid. Blank asked the audience if anyone had actually met their five-year forecast. No one raised their hand — and yet this is something that’s somehow considered a ‘must have’ in all business plans.

“The only people that required five year plans were the VCs and the Soviet Union,” Blank said to the Lean Startup audience.

Building the Entrepreneurial API
If you’re not passionate or driven, don’t become an entrepreneur, Blank told conference attendees. Failure is not the end of the world — it’s just a natural part of the process. Here in the US., especially in Silicon Valley, failure equals experience. Other countries are not nearly so supportive of failed entrepreneurs who want to move on to the next startup project.

To reduce failure and help increase success, Blank is on a tear to develop and teach the “entrepreneurial API”, which he says is comprised of three parts:

* Part 1: Know what the business model is.
* Part 2: Get someone outside the business to test the hypothesis.
* Part 3: Develop through some type of iterative, agile engineering process.

For any API to work successfully, it needs to be done en masse. Blank wants to take the same approach with the entrepreneurial API. His goal, which he readily admits is not realistic, is to create 10,000 startups. To come even close to that goal, Blank wants to democratize entrepreneurship so that it’s not just a Silicon Valley phenomenon. Instead, entrepreneurship should be taught and practiced everywhere in the world.

Next Steps for Democratizing Entrepreneurship

Step 1: Put the class online. Blank already has a free class called “How to Build a Startup” available at Udacity — but right now, it’s still just an audio book. Entrepreneurship is a hands-on practitioners’ skill, so Blank wants to get thousands of these classes taught by live instructors around the world.

Step 2: Create a “Startup Weekend”. The Kauffman Foundation has created 1,000+ events in 100+ countries for 100,000+ entrepreneurs. According to Blank, this now stands as the world’s largest entrepreneurial education group, with hundreds of facilitators and coaches around the globe. The Foundation has formalized these events into a three week course called Startup Weekend Next, which Blank hopes to have in hundreds of locations in 2013.

Those are just the highlights of Blank’s presentation — believe us, it’s worth watching in full.'

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