This story is adapted from Steve Blank s commencement speech to the NYU Tandon School of Engineering earlier this week.
And there are more to come: your first job, getting married, buying a house, having a child, becoming a manager, starting a company, retirement – and eventually commencement speaker.In 33% of the commencement speeches this year, 2.8 million graduates are going to hear advice about follow your own path.
Soon I began to pester the head of the department about this new idea I had … that startups are not smaller versions of large companies.Actually they re entirely different.Established businesses execute business models, while startups search for them.Yet everyone – investors, entrepreneurs, academics — expected new startups to follow the same practices that worked for large companies: Write a business plan, forecast five-year sales projections, and build the product without ever talking to customers.I was a lone voice inside one of the country s leading business schools challenging the conventional wisdom of the last 40 years, proposing that everything we were teaching about starting companies was wrong.I can t tell you the number of very smart professors and venture capitalists who laughed in my face.
Because I knew the clock was running and I was determined to make every day count.I saw something that they didn t and to their credit, Berkeley s Business School and then Stanford s Engineering School let me write and teach a new course based on my ideas.Five years later, the U.S. National Science Foundation adopted this class, now called the Innovation Corps, as the basis of commercializing science in the Unites States.
Innovation comes from those who see things that others don t. It comes from people who not only question the status quo but keep persisting in the face of all the naysayers.Because your time here is limited.
And VCs expect entrepreneurs to talk about not just their technology but their customer development findings.It was amazing to see the movement I started grow and thrive.Just recently, serendipity sent me down a new road that connected dots from 40 years ago to today.When I was 18, I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.After hanging up my uniform I had little interaction with the military until four decades later, when a group in the Department of Defense invited me to give a talk about Lean methods.