We have just completed the 11th annual Lean LaunchPad class at Stanford – our first version to focus on deep science and technology.
I've always viewed the class as a minimally viable product – testing new ideas and changing the class as we study. This year was no exception as we made some important changes that we will all push forward.
A focus on scientists and engineers. We have created an additional Spring section of the course that focuses on commercializing inventions by Stanford's scientists and engineers. The class’s existing winter quarter remains the same as we have been teaching for the past 10 years – including all student projects – e-commerce, social media, web and mobile apps. This newly created spring section is focused on scientists and engineers who want to learn how to commercialize deep science and technology – life sciences (medical devices, diagnostics, digital health, therapeutics), semiconductors, healthcare, sensors, materials, artificial intelligence / deep learning, et al.
This allowed us to highlight how to distinguish a technical specification from a value proposition, and expand on the parts of the business model that are unique to science and technology start-ups. For example, life sciences and commercial applications have radically different reimbursements, regulatory, clinical studies, scientific advisory boards, demand generation, etc. We also found we needed to add new intellectual property material, how to license inventions from the university, and discussions about team dynamics. In the future, we will continue to offer the course in two sections, with the second course focused on science and technology.
Remote Discovery – When the pandemic forced distance learning, we learned that customer discovery using video conferencing is actually more efficient. This increased the number of interviews students could conduct each week. When the Covid restrictions are over, we plan to add remote customer discovery to the students' toolkit. It remains to be seen whether customers on Zoom will continue to be available as they were during the pandemic. (For more information on remote customer discovery, see here.) Remote discovery also enabled a larger pool of potential interviews that are not tied to geographic location. The quality of the interviewees seemed to improve with this larger pool.
Class Size / Configuration – Over the past decade, our class size has been 8 teams of 4 people. This year we accepted 12 teams of 4 people. Previously, all teams had to complete all 8 weekly presentations. That was tough personally and not sustainable through Zoom. This year we halved the number of presentations each team went through by moving into two breakout areas. The new format enabled students and teachers to pay more attention to each presentation.
Adopt a team – In the past few years, all lecturers had office hours with all teams. That year, each instructor took on three teams and saw them for half an hour a week. The students really appreciated building a closer working relationship with a faculty member.
Alumni as guest speakers – most of the weeks we invited a former student to talk about his or her way through the course, highlighting “what I would like to know” and “what to look out for”.
Below are the Lessons Learned presentations from the Lean LaunchPad for deep science and technology, as well as additional insights from the course.
During the quarter, the teams spoke to 1,237 prospects, beneficiaries, and regulators – all about Zoom. Most students spent 15-20 hours a week with lessons, about twice as much as in a normal class.
Started as pathology slide digitizing service in week 1.
Ended in week 10 as response prediction for cancer treatments.
If you cannot see the Gloflow video, click here
If you cannot see the Gloflow foils, click here
Started in week 1 as a flexible e-textile cycle in search of a problem.
Ended in week 10 as easy-to-integrate components for automotive suppliers.
If you can't see the Loomia video, click here
If you cannot see the Loomia foils, click here
Started in week 1 as a portable gesture control device for real and virtual worlds.
Ended in week 10 as a future-proof gesture control solution for AR headsets and the Ministry of Defense.
If you cannot see the Skywalk video, click here
If you cannot see the Skywalk slides, click here
Started in week 1 as a custom silicon chip with embedded memories and a machine learning accelerator targeting low power, high throughput, and low latency applications. Next generation battery powered surveillance cameras.
If you cannot see the EdgeAI video, click here
If you cannot see the EdgeAI slides, click here
Started in week 1 as drone pollination of crops.
Ended in week 10 as an autonomous mushroom harvest.
If you can't see the MushroomX video, watch it here
If you cannot see the MushroomX slides, click here
Started in week 1 as a biomimetic sheath as a left ventricular assist device.
Ended in week 10 as a platform technology as a right heart failure device.
If you cannot see the RVEX video, click here
If you cannot see the RVEX foils, click here
Started in week 1 as a digital menopause health platform connecting women with providers and other women.
Ending in week 10 as a D2C menopause symptom tracking app and on-demand telemedicine platform that unites women offers a personalized and integrative approach to menopause care.
If you cannot see the pause video, click here
If you cannot see the tracing slides, click here
Started in week 1 as an IOT hardware sensor for environmental quality and human presence.
Finished in week 10 as a hybrid work collaboration + employee engagement.
If you cannot see the Celsius video, click here
If you cannot see the Celsius slides, click here
Started in week 1 as a platform for finding and managing elderly care at home.
Ended in week 10 as a B2C platform for planning needs-based care for the elderly at home.
If you cannot see the TakeCare video, click here
If, as a precaution, you cannot see the slides, click here
Started in week 1 as an AI to adapt patients to post-acute care.
Finished in week 10 as a qualified home care facility for wound care.
If you cannot see the CareMatch video, click here
If you cannot see the CareMatch slides, click here
Started in week 1 as a Tableau-like tool for unstructured data.
Ended in week 10 as a cloud-based pandas data frame.
If you cannot see the NeuroDB video, click here
If you cannot see the NeuroDB slides, click here
Start in week 1 as a provider of autonomous drone delivery for restaurants and grocery stores.
End in week 10 as fleet management software for autonomous drone delivery.
If you cannot see the Drova video, click here
If you cannot see the Drova slides, click here
I don't usually include student comments in these summaries, but this year summarizes why – after a decade – we are still teaching the class. Students find the lessons tough and stressful and say their teachers are tough and demanding. But in the end the class and the work in which they invest is very rewarding for them.
“Great course – one of the best I've been to so far. You will get what you put into it, but find a team you enjoy working with, get ready to work hard and trust the process. A must for entrepreneurs! "
“Absolutely crucial to starting a company for a first-time founder. Couldn't imagine a better teaching team or a better learning environment. "
"Very worthwhile, regardless of whether you want to set up your own start-up or not."
"Recommend anyone considering or learning about entrepreneurship."
"Great course if you want to get to know the Customer Discovery Model but need a lot of time and work."
“Intensive course in which you learn through experience how to build a startup. I came up with a product and learned how to find a solution and build from there. "
"Incredible experience – really glad I attended the course and satisfied with the result."
"Steve Blank tells you your slides are ugly"
“Take this course when you get the chance, especially if you are a PhD student. Super useful and a different way of learning than most case based classes. Extremely experience-oriented. "
“A great course to learn more about customer discovery methods and entrepreneurship! The teaching team is incredibly experienced and very honest in their feedback. It's quite time consuming and highly dependent on your team. Clarify the expectations with your team beforehand and communicate. "
"You can definitely recommend this course, it's a great experience and gives you tools to make your idea come true."
“A really excellent course to learn about entrepreneurship! An invaluable opportunity that you may not find anywhere else. The trainers are extremely knowledgeable experienced entrepreneurs who give all the support and encouragement needed. "
In the past few years the students in the class were predominantly male, which reflects the composition of the applicants. While Ann Miura-Ko was part of the original teaching team, having all male teachers for the past five years didn't help. Mar Hershenson joined the teaching team in 2018 and worked hard to get women to apply. In this new spring section of the class, Heidi Roizen and Jennifer Carolan supported us as instructors. Mar, Heidi and Jennifer are all successful VCs. They sponsored lunch sessions, mixers, and meetings with entrepreneurs and alumni for female students interested in the class and for students who wanted to work on a more diverse team. I am happy to report that the gender balance in the class has changed significantly due to the hard work of many people. Our spring cohort, which focused on deep science and technology, had 51 students – 25 were women.
The lessons for me were: 1) the class had inadvertently signaled a boys-only environment, 2) these unconscious biases were easily dismissed by assuming that the class composition simply reflected the applicant pipeline, and 3) if in fact is that it took active contact by a woman to change that perception and bring more women into the pipeline and teams.
Teaching assistants (TAs)
Our teaching assistants keep all moving parts of the class running. This year their task was to lead the class virtually, and they let it run like clockwork.
The TAs each year continued to improve the teaching (although I must admit it was interesting to see how the TAs remove student uncertainty about what to do from week to week by moving towards a more authoritative one Skip curriculum. I had some uncertainty built into the course to mimic what a startup feels like in the real world.) However, the art of teaching this course is to remember that it was not from a focus group was designed.
A great class lasts beyond its author
I have always believed that great classes will continue to thrive even after the original teacher has changed. While I was developing the Lean LaunchPad methodology and pedagogy (how the class is taught), over the past decade the Stanford class has had ten additional instructors, thirty-three wonderful TAs, and ninety volunteer mentors.
In addition to me, the teaching team was:
2011 Teacher: Ann Miura-ko, Jon Feiber
Leader TA: Thomas Haymore, TAs: Felix Huber, Christina Cacioppo
2012 Teacher: Ann Miura-ko, Jon Feiber
Head TA: Thomas Haymore, TA :, Stephanie Glass
2013 Teacher: Ann Miura-ko, Jon Feiber
Leader TA: Rick Barber, TA: Stephanie Glass
2014 Teachers: Jeff Epstein, Jim Hornthal
Leader TA: Soumya Mohan, TA: Stephanie Zhan, Asst: Gabriel Garza, Jennifer Tsau
2015 Teachers: Jeff Epstein, Steve Weinstein
TAs: Stephanie Zhan, Gabriel Garza TAs: Jennifer Tsau, Akaash Nanda, Asst: Nick Hershey
2016 Teachers: Jeff Epstein, Steve Weinstein
Lead TA: Jose Ignacio del Villar TAs: Akaash Nanda, Nick Hershey, Zabreen Khan, Asst: Eric Peter
2017 Lecturers: Jeff Epstein, Steve Weinstein
Lead TA: Eric Peter TAs: Nick Hershey, Lorel Sim Karan Singhal Asst: Jenny Xia
2018 Lecturers: Jeff Epstein, Steve Weinstein, Mar Hershenson, George John
Lead TA: Jenny Xia TAs: Anand Upender, Marco Lorenzon, Lorel Sim Asst: Parker Ence, Trent Hazy, Sigalit Perelson
2019 Lecturers: Jeff Epstein, Steve Weinstein, Mar Hershenson, George John, Tom Bedecarre
Lead TA: Parker Ence, Trent Hazy TAs: Marco Lorenzon, Sigalit Perelson , Lorel Sim Asst :, Ashley Wu
2020 Lecturers: Jeff Epstein, Steve Weinstein, Mar Hershenson, George John, Tom Bedecarre
Lead TA: Marco Lorenzon, Ashley Wu TA: Sigalit Perelson, Gopal Raman
2021 – Winter Lecturers: Jeff Epstein, Mar Hershenson, George John, Tom Bedecarre
Lead TA: Erica Meehan, Anand Lalwani, TAs: Gopal Raman, Andrew Hojel
2021 – Spring Lecturers: Steve Weinstein, Heidi Roizen, Jennifer Carolan, Tom Bedecarre
Lead TAs: Sandra Ha, Lorenz Pallhuber TA: Manan Rai
Our Decade of Mentors
The volunteer mentors (industry experts) were supported and coordinated by Tom Bedecarre and Todd Basche. The contribution of each mentor is graded by the student team they coach.
Bryan Stolle, Charles Hudson, Dan Martell, David Feinlab, David Stewart, Doug Camplejohn, Eric Carr, George Zachary, Gina Bianchini, Heiko Hubertz, Hiten Shah, Jason Davies, Jim Greer, Jim Smith, Jonathan Ebinger, Josh Schwarzapel , Joshua Reeves, Justin Schaffer, Karen Richardson, Marianne Wu, Masheesh Jain, Ravi Belani, Rowan Chapman, Shawn Carolan, Steve Turner, Sven Strohbad, Thomas Hessler, Will Harvey, Ashton Udall, Ethan Bloch, Jonathan Abrams, Nick O & # 39 ; Connor, Pete Vlastellica, Steve Weinstein, Adi Bittan, Alan Chiu, George Zachary, Jeff Epstein, Kat Barr, Konstantin Guericke, Michael Borrus, Scott Harley, Jorge Heraud, Bob Garrow, Eyal Shavit, Ethan Kurzweil, Jim Anderson, George John , Dan Manian, Lee Redden, Steve King, Sunil Nagaraj, Evan Rapoport, Haydi Danielson, Nicholas O & # 39; Connor, Jake Seid, Tom Bedecarre, Lucy Lu, Adam Smith, Justin Wickett, Allan May, Craig Seidel, Rafi Holtzman, Roger Ross, Danielle Fong, Mar Hershenson, Heather Richman, Jim Cai, Siqi Mou, Vera Kenehan, Phil Dillard, Susan Golden, Todd Basche, Robert Locke, Maria Amundson, Freddy Dopfel, Don Peppers, Rekha Pai, Radhika Malpani, Michael Heinrich, MariaLena Popo, Jordan Segall, Mike Dorsey, Katie Connor, Anmol Madan, Kira Makagon, Andrew Westergren, Wendy Tsu, Teresa Briggs, Pradeep Jotwani.
And thanks to the continued support of Tom Byers, Tina Seelig, Kathy Eisenhardt, Ritta Katilla, Bob Sutton, and Chuck Eesly in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (the Stanford Engineering School's Entrepreneurship Center).
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