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Steve Blank on small startups, big execution & Steve Jobs

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When Steve Blank talks about entrepreneurship, people listen. When he writes a book on the subject, like his latest effort with co-author Bob Dorf titled The Startup Owner’s Manual, it’s a good bet it will be on many founders’ bookshelves.

Blank co-founded the CRM software company E.piphany and the video game business Rocket Science. His current gigs as an entrepreneurship professor at Stanford, UC Berkeley and Columbia give him a unique insight that combines a historical perspective with a look at the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I sat down with Blank at his ranch in Pescadero, where we talked about his book and his take on the state of startups and entrepreneurship. Some key takeaways:

  • Startups are not smaller versions of big companies, so don’t try to be like them
  • Startups are about searching for a business model, not executing a business plan
  • Contrary to the myth, Steve Jobs interacted with consumers more than you think
  • Amazon has been hugely important to the boom in startups
  • Today’s students have a “wonderful entrepreneurial arrogance”

Watch the videos below or listen to the audio only of the entire interview.

PART 1: Startups are not small versions of big companies

PART 2: Forget a “business plan”

PART 3: The myth of Steve Jobs and customer interaction

PART 4: The overlooked importance of Amazon

PART 5: A sneak-peek at the next generation of entrepreneurs

14 Responses to “Steve Blank on small startups, big execution & Steve Jobs”

  1. Matt A.

    Great lessons from Steve Blank, as always!

    If only he would embellish less in his practical examples of other companies, and maybe tell a few more personal war stories from his own successes, it would be more enjoyable to listen to him.

  2. Eddie

    Great interviews, Steve Blank is a world class citizen and a true gem. All of his comments were quite insightful. Regarding the comments about Amazon, I think its true that most people still don’t realize what Jeff Bezos et al have done for the world. However, if a startup (whilst searching) builds something and needs to pivot, and then later scale and bring in a VC like Fred Wilson, there still is some risk regarding using AWS (the vendor lock-in notion still exists), such that when the startup changes from a search-oriented temporary company to a business that fills roles (jobs) in the process of scaling, what happens if the world changes by that time and the business (as an artificial person) needs to have the option to switch out of Amazon to something else? At that time it might be very expensive to switch. At the same time, what entrepreneur wants to sit around waiting for the ideological open cloud / intra cloud ala Vint Cerf to emerge? By the way, it would be cool for GigaOm to interview Hal Varian about the topic of startups and “micro multinationals” again (we haven’t heard from Hal in a while)!

  3. I like his definition of “designed for search” organization. :)
    The key question really is to find somebody, who can fund your “search” and learning and fully support your execution strategy…

    And one very bad thing about this book is that it yet doesn’t have Kindle edition… :(

  4. I love that he’s focusing more on experiencing in his classes and students are basically starting up businesses rather that digesting countless number of books and studies. That’s a true entrepreneurship course.

  5. Enough said Quickly into part 1: Important today, due to many aspects of the web, is Marketing. Should be 1st priority to any business. So CONSUMER and CUSTOMER interest and feedback
    Essential to shaping Business at every level of its growth, and must evolve or keep pace with change to survive.

  6. thebeeobee

    I just added “The Startup Owner’s Manual” to my “Books to buy” notebook on Evernote. I need as much guidance as I can get.