Open Source Entrepreneurship

One of the great things about being a retired entrepreneur is that I get to give back to the community that helped me. I assembled this collection of free and almost free tools, class syllabi, presentations, books, lectures, videos in the hope that it can make your path as an entrepreneur or educator easier.

Free:

Startup Tools
If you’re building a startup, the Startup Tools tab on the top of this page has curated links to hundreds of startup resources.  Specific links are:

  • A list of startup tools is here
  • Market research tools to help you figure out the size of the opportunity your startup is pursuing, are here
  • Some of the best advice on founding and running a startup from other smart voices are here

Updates and suggestions for tools I’ve missed are welcomed on the Startup Tools comments page.

The Lean LaunchPad course online
I teach potential founders a hands-on, experiential class called the Lean LaunchPad at Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia and Caltech. The class teaches the three basic skills all entrepreneurs need to know:

  • business model design
  • customer development
  • agile engineering

For my  Innovation Corps class for the National Science Foundation it made sense to record the lectures and put them on-line. In my regular classes I now “flip” the classroom and have my students watch these online lectures as homework and we use the class time for discussion.

The free on-line class, hosted at Udacity is here.

Class Syllabi, My Lecture Slides and Student Presentations
The Slides/Video tab on the top of this page has all the open source course material for my classes.  Specific links are:

  • Educators Training Guide is here (part of the Educators Course  - described in the Educators section below.)
  • Course for Educators is here
  • Teachable moments videos for the Lean Launchpad class here
  • How do Customer Discovery videos here and here
  • Sample Lean LaunchPad Lecture slides and suggested syllabus here
  • Syllabi for all my classes are here
  • Secret Notes for Instructors here
  • Latest presentations posted click here
  • Stanford presentations, lectures and syllabus here
  • Berkeley presentations, lectures and syllabus here
  • Columbia 5-day presentations, lectures and syllabus here
  • Caltech 5-day presentations, lectures and syllabus here
  • Some general customer development slides click here

The Entreprenuers Checklist
The good folks at Udemy have taken a few of my lectures at Stanford and put them together in a series online.

The free on-line lectures, hosted at Udemy are here.

Online Guide to How to Build a Startup: The Lean LaunchPad
Startupplays.com, publisher of online entrepreneurs processes guides, drew from my Udacity course and The Startup Owner’s Manual to create a free step-by-step guide to understanding your customers and creating your value proposition. Called “How to Build a Startup: The Lean LaunchPad,” it walks you through the Business Model Canvas and an overview of the customer development process.

Find it here.

Videos
The Slides/Video tab on the top of this page has a number of my talks on entrepreneurship, customer development and startup, some short, some long, and a few interesting.

Find them here.

Recommended Reading
The Books for startups tab on the top of this page is my recommended reading list. These books have influenced my thinking. There’s a short synopsis of why I like each book.

Updates and suggestions for books that I’ve missed are welcomed on the books comment page.

Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley
The Guide tab on the top of this page? I got tired watching dignitaries fly into Silicon Valley, visit Google, Facebook, Apple, and Stanford and then say they understand startups and entrepreneurship.

So for the rest of us I put together this Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley.

Updates and suggestions for places to see that I’ve missed are welcomed on the Guide comments page.

Secret History of Silicon Valley
What began as a hobby of mine – research in the intersection of my military, intelligence and Silicon Valley careers combined with my interest in the history of Silicon Valley and technology entrepreneurship – ended up in this video and PowerPoint presentation. I first gave the Secret History of Silicon Valley presentation as an invited talk at Google, then at the Computer History Museum.

When I gave the talk to audience of CIA staffers they asked how I came up with the talk, so I wrote a series of posts as the back-story that can be found here.

I still love giving this talk to people who lived it and people curious about it.

Almost Free:

Startup Weekend Next
Startup Weekend Next is a three-week version of the Lean LaunchPad class with hands-on instructors and mentors – offered in hundreds of cities around the world.

  • The class is organized, led and delivered by Startup Weekend, the global non-profit that teaches entrepreneurs how to launch a startup in 54 hours.
  • TechStars and Startup America are partnering to provide mentors in the U.S.

They don’t ask for equity and charge just enough to cover the costs of pizza and the room rental.

Sign up here.

The Lean LaunchPad Educators Course
Hosted by NCIIAStanford University and U.C. Berkeley, Jerry Engel and I teach a course for educators interested in learning how to update and revise their entrepreneurship curriculum for the 21st century as well as learning how to teach the Lean LaunchPad class.

The Lean LaunchPad Educators Training Guide here is part of this course.

Next class is Jan 30th. Click here for more information.

The Startup Owner’s Manual
The Startup Owners Manual written with Bob Dorf, has become the step-by-step reference manual for anyone even thinking about a startup. Each section offers detailed guidance and how-to’s, helping you make your way through the Customer Development process using MVP’s and Pivots as you search for a Business Model.

Last month we added a Kindle version, reorganized to make it easier to follow on a tablet and incorporating hundreds of links to websites, blog posts, and presentations.

The Founder’s Workbook
Zoomstra, the publisher of online workbooks offers The Founders Workbook to help you track and monitor your progress through every step of the Customer Development process. It takes the static 57 checklists from The Startup Owner’s Manual and makes them dynamic and accessible by putting them online as an interactive checklist. Use it to keep your team on track and ensure you have completed each critical task as you search for a scalable business model.

Click here for more information.

The Four Steps to The Epiphany
The Four Steps to the Epiphany has been described as the book that launched the Lean Startup movement. The book is still relevant today as when it was written. The last two chapters deal with scale and management of growing startups.

Now get out of the building and make something happen!

Careers Start by Peeling Potatoes

Listening to my the family talk about dividing up the cooking chores for this Thanksgiving dinner, including who would peel the potatoes, reminded me that most careers start by peeling potatoes.

KP – Kitchen Patrol
One of the iconic punishments in basic training in the military was being threatened by our drill instructors of being assigned to KP – Kitchen Patrol – as a penalty for breaking some rule. If you got assigned to KP you were sent to the base kitchen and had to peel potatoes all day for all the soldiers on the base.  It was tedious work but to my surprise I found that it wasn’t the dreadful experience our drill instructors made it out to be. But working in the mess hall, the real eye-opener was the inside look at the workings of something I took for granted – how do you cook three meals a day for 10,000 people at a time. Peeling potatoes was a small bit in the thousands of things that had to go right every day to keep 10,000 of us fed.

One my first career lessons: stop taking for granted finished goods and appreciate the complexity of the system that delivered them.

Solutions From Hands On
When I got to my first airbase my job was lugging electronics boxes on and off fighter planes under the broiling hot Thailand sun, to bring them into the technicians inside the air-conditioned shop, to troubleshoot and fix. The thing we dreaded hearing from the techs was, “this box checks out fine, it must be a wiring problem.” Which meant going back to the aircraft trying to find a bent pin in a connector or short in a cable or a bad antenna. It meant crawling over, under and inside an airplane fuselage the temperature of an oven. Depending on the type of aircraft (F-4’s, F-105’s or A-7’s – the worst) it could take hours or days to figure out where the problem was.

A few months later, I was now the guy in the air-conditioned shop telling my friends on the flight-line, “the box was fine, must be a cable.” Having just been on the other side I understood the amount of work that phrase meant. It took a few weeks of these interactions, but it dawned on me there was a gap between the repair manuals describing how to fix the electronics and the aircraft manuals telling you the pin-outs of the cables – there were no tools to simplify finding broken cables on the flightline. Now with a bit more understanding of the system problem, it didn’t take much thinking to look at the aircraft wiring diagrams and make up a series of dummy connectors with test points to simplify the troubleshooting process. I gave them to my friends, and while the job of finding busted aircraft cabling was still unpleasant it was measurably shorter.

My next career lesson: unless I had been doing the miserable, hot and frustrating job on the flightline, I would never have known this was a valuable problem to solve.

Up From the Bottom
My startup career started on the bottom, installing process control equipment inside auto assembly plants and steel mills (in awe of the complexity of the systems that delivered finished products.) Wrote technical manuals and taught microprocessor design (to customers who knew more than I did.) Worked weeks non-stop responding to customer Requests For Proposals (RFP’s.) Designed tradeshow booths, spent long nights at shows setting them up, and long days inside them during the shows.

Over ten long years I wrote corporate brochures (making legal, finance and sales happy), and sales presentations (treading the line between sales, marketing, truth, and competition), and data sheets, web sites and competitive analyses, press releases (getting a degree in creative writing without being an English major,) and flew to hundreds of customer meetings on red-eyes at a drop of a hat (making sales guys rich and gaining a huge appreciation for their skills.)

Partnered with engineering trying to understand what customers really wanted, needed and would pay for, versus what we could actually build and deliver (and learning the difference between a simply good engineer and working in the presence of sheer genius.) In the sprint to first customer ship, slept under the desk in my office the same nights my engineering team was doing the same.

Each of those crummy, tedious, exhausting jobs made me understand how hard they were. Each made me appreciate the complexity of the systems (with people being the most valuable) that make up successful companies. It made me understand that they were doable, solvable and winnable.

It took me a decade to work my way up to VP of Marketing and then CEO. By that time I knew what each job in my department meant because I had done every one of them. I knew what it took to get these jobs done (and screw them up) and I now pushed the people who worked for me as hard as I had worked.

Career Lessons Learned:

  • Winning at entrepreneurship is for practitioners not theorists.
  • Building a company in all its complexity is computationally unsolvable.
  • There’s no shortcut for getting your hands dirty. Reading stories about the success of Facebook or blogs about the secrets of SEO might make you feel smarter, but it’s not going to make you more skilled.
  • Unless you’ve had a ton of experience (which includes failing) in a broad range of areas you’re only guessing.
  • Great careers start by peeling potatoes.

Listen to the post here:


Download the Podcast here

Customer Development in Japan: a History Lesson

The Japanese edition of The Startup Owner’s Manual hit the bookstores in Japan this week. The book has been shepherded and edited by a great Japanese VC at Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, Takashi Tsutsumi, with help from Masato Iino. I asked Tsutsumi-san to write a guest post for my blog to describe his experience with Customer Development in Japan.

————-

To celebrate the debut of the Japan edition of “The Startup Owner’s Manual” and to express great thanks to Steve and his co-author Bob Dorf, I would like to reflect back what first drew me to this book and offer Steve’s worldwide readers a look at the progress of Customer Development and the Lean LaunchPad class in Japan.

The Crater in my rookie days
Back in 1990’s, I was working for one of the leading sogo shohsa (trading company) in Japan, building data communications startups. After helping build the first Ethernet switch startup, I was attracted by Asynchronous Transfer Mode 25Mbit/sec technology, (ATM25) which was 2.5x faster than Ethernet and ran data but plus voice and video. Leveraging my marketing skills, I successfully made what Steve calls an “onslaught launch”, generating a lot of press coverage and apparent early success. But customers didn’t agree. After many sales calls, early prospects showed little rush to buy it! I got comments like, “Well, ATM25 is interesting technology, but I have no need to rush to buy it” or “I like ATM25 very much, but we need to replace my existing infrastructure to appreciate multimedia features, which I do not think that important.” I discovered my product was a “nice to have,” not a “must have,” and we shut the company down a year a later.

This made me believe deeply in the extreme importance of talking to customers before investing time and money, something I took to my next startup. The result: great success of my third startup, a load balancing technology for web servers back in the late 1990’s.

Finding a repeatable process for startups
Despite my success based on talking to customers upfront, however, I wasn’t confident I could replicate startup success consistently without a clear, and repeatable process to talk to customers. By then, I had become a venture capitalist at Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance and found myself talking to a lot of entrepreneurs who were proclaiming their great technology yet were struggling with little revenue, and claiming they were “crossing the chasm”. However, when I looked into the detail, most of them did not have even early adaptors and the problem wasn’t “chasm crossing,” it was that almost nobody wanted their products.

In 2004, Googling terms like “high tech marketing” and “startup” I discovered “The Four Steps to The Epiphany” at Cafépress.com. Amazon did not carry it yet, and I was nervous spending money at a website known mostly for cups and t-shirts, completely irrelevant to business books. After waiting for a week or so for the book to make it to Japan, I was very much shocked how impressed I was by the Customer Development Model detailed in the book. A few of the many quotations that struck me:

  • “Most startups fail due not to the failure of product development but due to the lack of customers”
  • “Learning and discovering who a company’s initial customers will be and what market they are in, requires a process separate and distinct from product development”
  • “All a startup has are mere hypotheses,” and
  • “in a startup no facts exist inside the building, get out of the building to talk to customers”

This was exactly what I was searching for.

The first meeting with Steve
After my reading The Four Steps to The Epiphany several times, my Customer Development conviction got stronger. I wanted this book not only as my “secret weapon,” but also for all entrepreneurs in Japan.

I sent Steve a cold email to allow me to translate the book into Japanese and evangelize Customer Development in Japan. Steve responded to my email in ten minutes, saying “come meet with me!” Soon we had our first meeting Steve’s favorite spot, Café Borrone on El Camino Real.

After listening to me for fifteen minutes, Steve said “Go ahead. I will support you”.  It was very, very happy moment for me.

I was extremely surprised that he gave a huge trust on completely unknown and strange Japanese VC who suddenly contacted him by email. We kept talking, with Steve asking “How long are you staying in Silicon Valley?” When I told him, “two more days,” he asked, “Are you interested in meeting with venture firms in the Valley?”  When I said of course, but who would meet with me with two days notice, he picked up his mobile phone and, surprisingly for me, started dialing … and I actually had a great meeting with one of them the very next day. More “pay it forward” culture in action.

Evangelizing Customer Development in Japan
After that meeting, I started working on the translation word by word over a number of weekends and published the Japanese edition of “The Four Steps Epiphany” in May 2009 (now in its third printing.)  Since then, I have been teaching Customer Development and running Lean LaunchPad style classes at variety of universities, national research laboratories, incubators, and startup communities throughout Japan.

After three years of evangelizing, I am very pleased to see success cases emerging in Japan by following Customer Development Model. For example, Maysee, a business card cloud services startup, got out of the building and then developed an MVP, avoiding costly UI development that customers in fact found no need for. They pivoted the product by implementing Google like wide-open search windows requested time and again in customer interviews. Maysee now enjoys hockey stick revenue growth.

Goryo Chemical, new fluorescent probe for Chemical biology startups (leveraging a technology from a university), found early in Customer Discovery that the original value proposition hypothesis was wrong, but one other feature was in fact very valuable. Their pivot resulted in great deal of customer tractions.

These kinds of success cases continue to happen in Japan’s startup community and in corporations that have to innovate to remain competitive in the global market.

Customer Development Education
Customer Development is growing fast here in Japan, with Lean LaunchPad programs in great demand among entrepreneurs and “wanabees” learning to build hypothesis and test them by getting out of the building. Some have actually established new startups with tested business model hypotheses under their belt. Lean LaunchPad teaches entrepreneurs, to test their business model until they find customers who are eager to buy, and a business model that scales profitably and repeatedly. I am confident we will see real startups and business emerge soon.

Lean LaunchPad class at Hosei University business school

Much more is happening with collaborative learning and tools, and I am looking forward to more Customer Development success ahead as more entrepreneurs, investors, and educators read the new book, The Startup Owner’s Manual.

In fact, I recently started my Customer Development blog with my partner, Masato Iino, to accumulate the learning and discovery of Customer Development and Lean LaunchPad in Japan, and to update readers with more concepts and tools to do Customer Development in their startups.

Lessons Learned – Japanese Style

  • Failure comes often, but failure is mother of success.  To appreciate a “mother,” it is important to improve from the failure and to look for a solution continuously to do a better job with a solution, hopefully resulting in a great success.
  • Pushing the boundaries collaboratively is really powerful.  Try collaborative learning by leveraging global intelligence and passion of entrepreneurs.
  • Pay-it-forward culture actually exists.  But, the key is for me to transfer the same culture to my next generation by giving them an opportunity like the one I appreciated.

Takashi Tsutsumi
ttutumi@gmail.com

本ブログ記事の内容は、堤孝志個人の見解に基づいており、所属する組織の見解を示すものではありません。
Listen to the post here:


Download the Podcast here

Entrepreneurs as Dissidents

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.


If you can’t see the video above click here.

Countries that put their artists and protesters in jail will never succeed in building a successful culture of entrepreneurship.  They will be relegated to creating better mousetraps or cloning other countries’ business models.

Entrepreneurs as Dissidents
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he ran the Think Different ads, a brilliant marketing campaign to make Apple’s core customers believe that Apple was still fighting for the brand.

But in hindsight, the ad captured something much more profound.

The crazy ones? The misfits? The rebels? The troublemakers? To celebrate those people as heroes requires a country and culture that tolerates and encourages dissent.

Because without dissent there is no creativity.

Countries that stifle dissent while attempting to encourage entrepreneurship will end up at a competitive disadvantage.

Pushing the boundaries
Most startups solve problems in existing markets – making something better than what existed before. Some startups choose to resegment a market – finding an underserved niche in an existing market or providing a good-enough low cost solution.  These are all good businesses, and there’s nothing wrong with founding one of these.

But some small segment of founders are truly artiststhey see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change “what is” and turn it into “what can be.“ These founders create new ideas and new markets by pushing the boundaries. This concept of creating something that few others see – and the reality distortion field necessary to recruit the team to build it – is at the heart of what these founders do.

The founders that make a dent in the universe are dissidents. They are not afraid to tell their bosses they are idiots or tell their schools they been teaching the wrong thing or to tell an entire industry to think different. And more importantly they are not afraid to tell their country it’s mistaken.

Freedom of Speech, Expression and Thought
Entrepreneurs in the United States take for granted our freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought. It’s enshrined in our constitution as the first amendment.

In the last few years I’ve traveled to lots of countries that understand that the rise of entrepreneurship will be an economic engine for the 21st century. In several of these countries, the government is pouring enormous sums into building entrepreneurship programs, faculties and even cities. Yet time and again when I ask the local entrepreneurs themselves what questions they have, most often the first question is, “How do I get a visa to the United States?’

For years I thought the reason hands were raised was simply an economic one. The same countries that repress dissent tend to have institutionalized corruption, meaning the quality of your idea isn’t sufficient enough to succeed by itself, you now need new “friends in the right places.” But I now see that these are all part of the same package. It’s hard to focus on being creative when a good part of your creative energies are spent trying to figure out how to work within a system that doesn’t tolerate dissent.

Lessons Learned

  • Entrepreneurs require the same creative freedom as artists and dissidents
  • Without that freedom, countries will be relegated to cloning others’ business models or creating better versions of existing products
  • History has shown that the most creative people leave repressive regimes and create elsewhere

Listen to the post here:


Download the Podcast here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 137,446 other followers