About Steve

Put to a vote, I might have been chosen “least likely to succeed” in my New York City high school class. My path has taken me from repairing fighter planes in Thailand during the Vietnam War (a member of the Society of Wild Weasels), and I was lucky enough to arrive at the beginning of the boom times of Silicon Valley in 1978.steve_blank istanbul 300x284

After 21 years in 8 high technology companies, I retired in 1999. I co-founded my last company, E.piphany, in my living room in 1996. My other startups include two semiconductor companies, Zilog and MIPS Computers, a workstation company Convergent Technologies, a consulting stint for a graphics hardware/software spinout Pixar, a supercomputer firm, Ardent, a computer peripheral supplier, SuperMac, a military intelligence systems supplier, ESL and a video game company, Rocket Science Games.

Total score: two large craters (Rocket Science and Ardent), one dot.com bubble home run (E.piphany) and several base hits.

After I retired, I took some time to reflect on my experience and wrote a book (actually my class text) about building early stage companies called Four Steps to the Epiphany. It first articulated the distinction between existing companies that execute business models versus startups that search for them – search versus execution is the concept that launched modern entrepreneurship. My latest book, co-authored with Bob Dorf, The Startup Owners Manual integrates 10 years of new knowledge.

I moved from being an entrepreneur to teaching entrepreneurship to both undergraduate and graduate students at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Columbia, NYU, UCSF and Imperial College. The “Customer Development” model that I developed in my book is one of the core themes in these classes and the heart of the Lean Startup movement. In 2009, I was awarded the Stanford University Undergraduate Teaching Award in the department of Management Science and Engineering. The same year, the San Jose Mercury News listed me as one of the 10 Influencers in Silicon Valley. In 2010, I was awarded the Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award at U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business.

In 2011 at the request of the National Science Foundation I modified my Lean Launchpad class and it became the curriculum for the NSF I-Corps. 98 universities now teach the class. Science wrote an article about the I-Corps and so did Nature, the Economist, and Forbes. National Public Radio did a story on the class here and so did the San Jose Mercury. I testified in front of Congress about the success and future of the program.

In 2012 the Harvard Business Review listed me as one of the “Masters of Innovation” and I was the keynote at the National Governors Conference. My talk was on C-Span here, slides are here.

In 2013 Forbes listed me as one of the 30 most influential people in Tech. The May 2013 Harvard Business Review cover story was my article, “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything” and in June I won the 2013 Silicon Valley Visionary Forum award, and the same month my wife and I were honored with the 2013 Northern California Environmental Leadership award.

All my coursework, syllabuses, and presentations can be found here. In 2012 I put my Lean LaunchPad class on-line and over 450,000 students have taken it. The NY Times had a few things to say about my work herehere and here.

In 2013 I partnered with UCSF and the National Science Foundation to offer the Lean LaunchPad class for Life Science and Healthcare (therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health.) In 2014 the National Science Foundation and NCIIA awarded me the Outstanding Leadership Award for my work on developing the Innovation Corps curriculum.

In 2014 I took the UCSF Life Science curriculum, and in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, we developed and launched the I-Corps@NIH program. Four National Institutes of Health divisions; NCI, NHBLI, NCATS and NINDS sponsored 21 teams in therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices to accelerate how research gets from the lab bench to the bedside.

In 2015 I helped launch the Lean LaunchPad for Synthetic Biology in the UK at Imperial College in London. I began co-hosting the Entreprenuers Are Everywhere radio program on SiriusXM channel 111. My second article in Nature described the I-Corps @ NIH class.

In 2016 I co-launched two new classes at Stanford – Hacking for Defense and its sister class – Hacking for Diplomacy. Stanford, Bloomberg and the LA Times talked about the classes here,  here and here. I made the list in the Thinkers 50 global ranking of management thinkers.

In 2017 the Hacking for Defense class I co-authored became a federal program as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. I testified in front of Congress about expanding the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps. (My Stanford class is the curriculum.)  My article on startup founder behavior was in the November 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

In 2019, I hosted the first national educator conference for the I-Corps, Hacking for Defense and Lean LaunchPad educators. And I joined the board of Stanford’s Technology Venture Program board of advisors.

In 2020 I joined the Defense Business Board as well as the Applied Materials Technical Advisory board. I co-created two new classes at Stanford – Hacking for Recovery and Technology, Innovation and Modern War.

In 2021 Congresswoman Anna Eshoo had this to say about me in the Congressional Record. And I co-founded the Stanford Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation.

In 2022 I co-taught a new class at Stanford – Hacking for Climate and Sustainability.

In 2023 I taught at Imperial College in London “Wicked Problems, Systems Dynamics and Entrepreneurial Innovation” over the summer. And at Stanford University I was awarded the Graduate Teaching Award in the department of Management Science and Engineering. I was appointed to the Department of the Navy’s Science and Technology Advisory board.

I’ve guest written for several publications including the Journal of Management, Defense News, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review,  Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc, IEEE Spectrum, NikkeiBP, War On the Rocks, Proceedings, and the Peoples Daily.

I also followed my curiosity about why entrepreneurship blossomed in Silicon Valley and was stillborn elsewhere. It has led to several talks on The Secret History of Silicon Valley.

I served as a public official on the California Coastal Commission for seven years, (the agency which regulates land use and public access on the California coast,) I was on the board of the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), the Expert Advisory Panel for the California Ocean Protection Council as well as on the boards of Audubon California (and its past chair), the Audubon National Board as well as the Peninsula Open Space Land Trust (POST) and I was a trustee of the U.C. Santa Cruz foundation.

I was the commencement speaker at Philadelphia University in 2011 where I received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters. The text of the speech is here. In 2013 I was the commencement speaker at the University of Minnesota. Text of the speech is here.  In 2014 I was the commencement speaker at ESADE Business School in Barcelona. Text of the speech is here. I was the 2016 commencement speaker at NYU’s engineering school. In 2017 I was the commencement speaker at Dalhousie University where I received an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws. In 2019 I was the commencement speaker at U.C. Santa Cruz.

National Public Radio (NPR) selected the Philadelphia University speech as one of the 300 best commencement speeches in the last 300 years.

More background here and here.

More than you ever want to know – Oral History from the Computer History Museum.
Part 1: Transcript and Video

Part 2: Transcript and Video

Part 3: Transcript and Video

contact: info@kandsranch.com, @sgblank, Facebook and YouTube

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Watch Steve

3 Types of Corporate Innovation

Innovating Inside a Big Company

Continuous Disruption


The Secret History of Silicon Valley

Steve is also a frequent speaker and unofficial historian on how Silicon Valley came to be. His Secret History of Silicon Valley talk is considered the standard history of why entrepreneurship blossomed in Silicon Valley while stillborn elsewhere.