Session 4: From Idea to Opportunity I

Date: 
Thursday, January 17, 2019

Summary: This is the first of three sessions where we discuss the differences between an idea and an opportunity.

This session provides new insight into what it is that makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture. We will explore the premise that startups that survive the first few tough years do not follow the traditional product-centric launch model. Rather through trial and error, hiring and firing, successful startups invent a new parallel process to product development for sales, marketing and business development.


In particular, startups can now live by a process of customer learning and discovery called "Customer Development" By Steve Blank, which is a critical component of the "Lean Startup" philosophy. The Customer Development process for launching a new product into a new market is the antithesis of the well-honed Product Management rules observed by large companies and enterprises. Following traditional Product Management rules can a recipe for failure when it comes to a startup in a new market. Along with Ries' "Agile Development" and Osterwalder's "Business Model Canvas," the "Lean Startup" methods have become increasingly taught and used all over the world including in the NSF Innovation Corps program for university researchers and their inventions and Hacking 4 Defense and its related courses connecting entrepreneurship with solving government and NGO challenges.


Required Readings (Policy on Required Readings)
Recommended Readings
Study Questions (Policy on Study Questions)
  • How was the Rapid Equipping Force method for building and delivering products different than the traditional methods the Army was using?
  • What do you think this case has to do with technology entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley?
Online Assignment  (Policy on Case Analyses)

No submission required, but carefully examine the required readings above especially the case about the Army and Pete Newell.  Please seriously consider the study questions before coming to class. Be prepared to share your opinions in class if called upon by either Professor Blank and Pete Newell (which is a teaching technique they like to use). For more about the case method of instruction, visit the Information and Policies section of this website.