Five Days to Change the World – The Columbia Lean LaunchPad Class

We’ve taught our Lean LaunchPad entrepreneurship class at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia and the National Science Foundation in 8 week, 10 week and 12 week versions.  We decided to find out what was the Minimum Viable Product for our Lean LaunchPad class.

Could students get value out of a 5-day version of the class?

The Setup
At the invitation of Murray Low at the Entrepreneurship Center in the Columbia Business School, we went to New York to find out.  We were going to teach the Lean LaunchPad class in 5-days.   I was joined by my Startup Owners Manual co-author Bob Dorf, Alexander Osterwalder (author of Business Model Generation) and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures.

As we’ve done in previous classes, the students form teams and come up with an idea before the class.

Potential students watched an on-line video of Osterwalder explaining the Business Model Canvas and then applied for admission to the class with a fully completed business model canvas. Here are two examples:

If you can’t see the presentation above, click here.

If you can’t see the presentation above, click here.

The Class
We had 69 students in 13 teams. Instead of going around the room introducing themselves, each group hit the ground running by presenting their canvas.

The class organization was pretty simple:

  • textbooks were The Startup Owners Manual and Business Model Generation
  • team presentations 9-12:30 (with continual instructor critiques)
  • working lunch 12:30-1:30 (with office hours)
  • lecture 1:30-3:00
  • get out of the building 3:00-on
  • repeat for 5-days

The 5-day syllabus is here.

All 13 teams Day 1 presentations are here.
Day 2 presentations here.
Day 3 presentations here.
Day 4 presentations here.
Day 5 presentations here.

The Outcome
After 5 days the teams collectively had ~1,200 face-to-face customer interviews, with another 1,000+ potential customers surveyed on-line.

Take a look at the same two teams presentations (compare it to their slides above):

If you can’t see the presentation above, click here.

If you can’t see the presentation above, click here.

Lessons Learned:

  • A five day Lean Launchpad Class is definitely worth doing.
  • The Business Model Canvas + Customer Development works even in this short amount of time
    • However we were in NYC where customer density was high.
  • As we’ve already found, this class needs to be taught as a joint engineering/mba class
  • Next time we teach we will complete the transition to a flipped classroom:
    • Have no lectures during class. We’ll offer video lectures, and use the time for class labs built around detailed analysis of 2 or 3 canvas pivots
    • Make teams use Salesforce, or some similar package, to track all contacts/customer calls

Listen to the post here: Download the Podcast here

17 Responses

  1. Is the Lean LaunchPad class available online? If yes, when?

  2. This looks easy! When are you going to offer a Lean Lanchpad MOOC on Coursera?

  3. Hi Steve,
    Are all your students post-grads or do you also teach undergrads?

  4. Steve,

    Been following you for a long time, bought 4 Steps Years Ago. I use some of your insights in consulting to my clients.

    With my years, would still love to take a formal course with you. Would you consider setting up a one-semester online course for experienced non-students? Same structure, but require people working in the real world, set up teams, the whole thing.


  5. Hi Steve

    your mention of using is interesting… do you foresee any meaningful customization of the default CRM to better suit the needs of customer discovery?

    • Tamas,
      Yes. I already see two tools built for Customer Discovery:
      Osterwalders Business Model Toolbox App for the iPad
      And the Lean LaunchLab

      But none of these tools capture customer detail information (name, email, phone, etc.) along with the narrative.


      • Tracking customer discovery in CRM – where you keep your customers contacts, interactions etc. anyways -is a good idea… hypothesis 😉

        I’ll build it. Will they come?

        Seriously… I’d like to build it. Your guidance would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  6. Steve, if you want to try this at Olin College, we’re ready to go.

  7. Steve,
    I would also love to take the week long class if it were offered as an online class. I think your work is very informative and it has helped me frame my thinking as I begin to explore entrepreneurship in addition to my full time gig as a post doc at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Might you consider having successful entrepreneurs work as mentors for each team?
    thanks much,

  8. Since my earlier comment didn’t get posted for some reason:

    I second Jordan’s comment. But not a week; I have too many real-world professional responsibilities to do it in a week like the CBS students. Do it over a semester, but do it online.

  9. Steve – we are avid fans of your methodologies and books here at Collaborize. We test like crazy and if you have a class like this for non-students (like others mentioned above) you would be able to get a class full of eager learners and do’ers.

    But to get to the point! Our CTO came across this post and you spoke of using the flipped classroom model in the future for these 5 day courses. We actually have been using your methodologies to build and develop a product that supports flipped classrooms over the past 2 years.

    We’ve had some great success in the education market and the price point is good – as its free – you may want to use Collaborize Classroom for the flipped classroom portion as it allows embeds of video. But our real value proposition lies in the ability to have deep discussions about the content and get to actionable conclusions and outcomes.

    Let us know how we can support you in upcoming LuanchPad Classes.

  10. Steve,
    I searched for a youtube (or similar) source of the on-line video of Osterwalder explaining the Business Model Canvas you mention here. Is there any? I think it is so good it should be dubbed or at least subtitled in other languages. I can help with spanish translations, perhaps some swedish, french and portuguese too (with some help).
    Let me know if it can get uploaded to youtube, don’t want to get in trouble by doing it myself.
    Thanks! Such an admirable job you are doing here!

    • Osterwalder business model video is here.

      • Thanks. I saw it already from that same source. I was even able to download it, but as a mov file itself, it’s not possible to choose subtitles on demand as you can with youtube (if available). I would love to chip in and translate it into other languages, if possible.
        On a side note: have you seen or heard of attempts to teach this in high-schools? I think there might be some young entrepreneurs out there who can get started in all this before going into college because they could already have some good knowledge in business, design or programming.

  11. It appears like many of the presentations pivoted without statistical significance for the hypothesis from their interviews.

  12. […] may have read my previous posts about the Lean LaunchPad class taught at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, Caltech, and for the National Science […]

  13. […] may have read my previous posts about the Lean LaunchPad class taught at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, Caltech and for the National Science […]

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