MOOC Review: Steve Blank’s How to Build a Startup

     Steve Blank, an extremely successful tech entrepreneur has turned to educating the public about his novel startup platform called “The Lean Launchpad”. In 2013, he was named by Forbes as “One of the 30 most influential people in Tech” and has garnered serious critical acclaim for his teaching. To learn more about Steve and his teaching, you can visit his blog, which is conveniently also hosted on WordPress.
     My first exposure to Steve’s Lean Launchpad class was through his online course hosted on MOOC platform Udacity called How to Build a Startup. Check out the class intro video:
     The interesting thing about this class was that it wasn’t really a course in the conventional sense I had seen them on other platforms (and even Udacity), but rather more of a seminar in MOOC form. The course is in 8 parts, and gives an introduction to important things such as Customer Development & Segments, the Value Proposition, Revenue Channels, and many more. Each of these subjects is central to Steve’s Lean Launchpad curriculum, and though he goes through them rather quickly – each video ‘lecture’ is on average between 1 and 3 minutes – and in little detail, he gets across the main point of any successful startup: the business needs to be run with customers in mind first. The startup needs customers to make money, and without money the startup will fail.
     What Steve points out is that for most startups, the idea is a good, but the execution is poor, specifically because the founders can’t attract enough customers. At every point in the Lean Launchpad, the founders are forced to think about what the customer wants and how their product can best meet the demand. In the end, it’s a rather simple proposition, but it’s very easy to get caught up in your own idea and not be open to change, especially when you put so much time and effort into an idea.  My favorite line, which Steve reiterates over and over, is that founders need to “Get out of the Building.” They need to go out and ask prospective customers what they think of their product and what could be improved for the customer to want it more.
     pivotSteve argues that this is the best way for founders to really gauge interest in their startup and figure out  how to change accordingly. It’s all about being able to “pivot”, rather than throw away the idea when success  isn’t staring you in the face. Going back and forth between what the customer wants in a product until you can get it right is instrumental to a successful startup, at least according to the Lean Startup model. A fundamental point to make here is that you have to arrive at the Minimum Viable Product to show to potential customers, and then pivot accordingly.
     Though this ended up being much more of a summary of the course than an actual review, I have to say it was among the best I’ve taken so far on any platform. It caused me to challenge my assumptions about entrepreneurship and think much more customer-centric, which will help in any business situation for years to come.

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