Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

New Lessons Learned from Berkeley and Stanford Lean LaunchPad Classes

By Steve Blank

Our Stanford and Berkeley Lean LaunchPad classes are over for this year, and as usual we learned as much from teaching the teams as the teams did from us.

Here are a few of the Lessons Learned from these two classes.

Have each team talk to 10 customersbeforethe class starts

Each year we learn how to move more of the Lean LaunchPad class logistics outside our classroom so teams have more time for in-class learning.

A few years ago, we moved the formation of teams tobeforethe class started and in doing so, saved a week of what normally be an in-class time activity. To make this happen, we hold three information sessions two weeks apart before the class starts. In these info sessions we describe the purpose of the class, and then let students mix, meet and form teams. During this pre-class time weshare a Google doc where students who have ideas canfind other team members, and studentswithout an idea can find a team that matches their skills and interests. Application and admission to the class is by interview with a fully formed team.

Info session announcement

The next thing we learned is to make applying to the class an integral part of the learning process. Teams apply by filling out both abusiness model canvasand acompetitive petal slide. Having the teams do this accomplishes three things. First it forces the students to read and understand whats a business model canvasbeforethey even come to class.

Freewire application

Second, the competitive slide enforces a modicum of due diligence on the product and market. (We got tired of knowing more about each teams market by doing a Google search as they presented. Now its their job.)

Farmsense competive slide

Finally, having teamsspend time on thecanvas and competition as part of the application process saves weeks of what would normally be an in-class activity (and as a bonus gives the team a heads-up about the difficulty of the class and shows whether theyreserious about the class or just shopping.)

This year we learned toraise the bar once again. Could we get the teams to come into class having already talked to 10 customers? Instead of using the first class to haveteams just present their business model canvas, this time the teams first presentation would beabout what they learned outside the building about their value proposition.(We pointed them toour tutorials on customer discoveryand how to conduct customer interviews but didnt expect them to be experts on week 1.)

SignUP week 1

We did an A/B test by requiring our teams in oneschool do this while not requiringit for theteams in the other school. The result? Teams that had to talk to customers before the class hit the ground running.There was a substantive difference in team trajectory and velocitythat continuedthroughout the quarter. The amount of learning between the two felt quite different. While there may have been other factors (team selection bias, team make up, etc.), well nowmake this an integral part of all the classes.

Have each team put the number of Mentor interactions on their weekly title slide

The second innovation this year involved mentors. Each team is assigned a mentor as a coach. Weve been trying to figure out how to make mentor engagements with their teams a regular rather an adhoc activity. While we have required the teams to add a summary of any mentor interaction to theirLaunchPad Centralnarrative, we felt we didnt have sufficient high-level visibility for these essential interactions.

GiveModo Class 8

But this year, a seemingly minor change to the teams weekly cover slide had an important impact. Asteams present each week, their cover slides showthe number of customers interviewed for that week (>10) along with the cumulative customers interviewed. This yearwe added one more metric for their cover slides the number of mentor interactions for that week (>1) along with the cumulative number of mentor interactions.

This enhanced the visibility of the teams interaction (or lack of) with their mentors and allowed us to proactively intervene early if there wasnt sufficient interaction.

Clickherefor a few of the Final Presentations.