Jan 17

Steve Blank Chats with InSITE about the Importance of Being Lean

“A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”

Steve Blank

On Wednesday, January 16th, InSITE Fellows were treated to an evening with Steve Blank.

During the fireside chat hosted by InSITE chairman Paul Tumpowsky, Mr. Blank walked the fellows through his uncanny record of successes in the tech firm. In over 20 years of service, 4 of Blank’s 8 startups have gone public; leaving little room to suggest that he is anything other than an authority in the space.

In addition to highlighting some of his unique experiences working in Silicon Valley, Blank placed added emphasis on the importance of customer development and having a clear understanding of product-market fit. He urged the fellows – many of whom are budding entrepreneurs – to get out of their buildings and to start seeking out meaningful interactions with customers. And while most of us cringe at the thought of failure, Blank highlighted the importance of experimenting against hypotheses, iterating upon your product offering and/or market approach, and learning from small failures as they come. He also stressed that smaller failures can allow a company to preserve cash while seeking out a “repeatable and scalable business model.”

Blank encouraged the crowd to give pause before committing significant chunks of time to writing out robust business plans. Instead, he urged the audience to start forming hypotheses, to start testing ideas and to start failing, while using his own professional experiences as validation.

In the words of Mr. Blank, “There is only a path to fail less, not a path to success.”

Now that Blank has retired from actively working as an entrepreneur, his work has taken on a new form. As folks outside of the Valley have started to take note of Blank’s work, he has become actively involved in spreading the wisdoms of the Lean LaunchPad methodology to other sectors. Most notably, the National Science Foundation has deployed a curriculum heavily modeled Blank’s Lean LaunchPad. As the companies and organizations continue to find success using Blank’s teaching, one can only suspect that the model’s transferability will only continue to drive efficiency in new sectors that are ripe for disruption.

Fellows left the fireside chat feeling inspired. After such a rejuvenating discussion, I trust that the fellows in attendance will take heed to Blank’s advice this coming semester as they set out to aid a new set of entrepreneurs in New York looking to make their business a success!

For more on Steve, follow him on Twitter (@sgblank) or check out his personal blog ( And I’d be remiss not to encourage anyone out there that is serious about entrepreneurship to pick up Steve Blank’s book, “The Startup Owner’s Manual.”

This post was written by Dontae Rayford, NYU Stern MBA Class of 2014

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