Steve Blank

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Steve Blank
Blank, Steven Gary
Born 1953 (age 63–64)
Lower East Side, New York City
Alma mater University of Michigan (dropped out)
Occupation Author and Entrepreneur
Known for The Customer Development Methodology

Steve Blank (born 1953) is a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and academician who is based in Pescadero, California.[1]

Blank is recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement.[2] Blank is also the co-founder of E.piphany.[3][4]

Blank has spent over thirty years in the high technology industry. He has founded or worked within eight startup companies, four of which have gone public.[3][5]

Blank's Google Tech talk, "The Secret History of Silicon Valley", offers a widely regarded insider's perspective on the emerging Silicon Valley's start-up innovation. Blank has published three books: The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost and The Startup Owner's Manual.[6][7]

Blank teaches and writes about Customer Development and is a consulting associate professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford.[8][9] He currently lectures at the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley, Columbia University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Together with the Entrepreneurship Center at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), he created a version of Lean Launchpad for Life Sciences and Healthcare which he taught there in the fall 2013.

Early life[edit]

Blank was born to immigrant parents who ran a grocery in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City.[10] He grew up with a sister who was 12 years older than him and both siblings were raised by his mother after his father left home when he was aged 6.[10] His mother and father had never been to college and wished for their son to graduate.[11] He attended the University of Michigan, but disliked being in school and dropped out after one semester.[10][11][12]

Blank hitchhiked to Miami, where he found work at the Miami International Airport, loading racehorses onto aircraft.[10][11] At the airport, Blank developed an interest in avionics, which he nurtured until the early 1970s when he joined the Air Force.[11]

His military career took him to Thailand during the Vietnam War, where he was managing a team of 15 electronics technicians within a year and a half.[10][11] He was 20 years old.[11]

Blank left the military and moved to Palo Alto, a town in an area which would ultimately become known as Silicon Valley.[11]


Steve Blank arrived in Silicon Valley at the start of the business boom in 1978.[3][7] His first job within the region was with ESL, a startup that was a primary US intelligence company for National Means of Technical Verification.[12] The company helped the government understand the Soviets' technological and arms developments during the Cold War.[12]

During his 34-year career, Blank founded or worked with a wide range of high-tech companies.[13] Four of his companies went public.[10] Some of his ventures include Zilog and MIPS Computers, Convergent Technologies, Ardent, SuperMac Technologies, ESL and Rocket Science Games.[8][13]

Blank has since served on the boards of the public entities Macrovision/Rovi and Immersion as well as several private companies. He continues to invest in and advise Silicon Valley startups including Udacity,[10] Votizen[1] and venture capital firm Engineering Capital.[14]

In August 2015, Steve Blank began hosting a weekly radio show on Sirius XM radio called "Entrepreneurs are Everywhere." The show is aimed at helping startups and features interviews with successful entrepreneurs.[15]


Main article: E.piphany

Blank co-founded his 8th and last startup, the Customer Relationship Management provider E.piphany, in 1996 and retired the day before its IPO in September 1999. In 2005, E.piphany was acquired by SSA Global Technologies for $329 million.[3][16][17][18]

The software package was designed to scrape customer information from databases and deposit the data into a web browser.[19]

Notable members of the company include Roger Siboni and Karen Richardson.[19][20]

Customer Development Methodology[edit]

Blank created the Customer Development methodology in the mid 1990s.[12] The concept details a scientific approach that can be applied by startups and entrepreneurs to improve their products success by developing a better understanding of their consumers.[2][3][12] Primary to the concept is a balanced relationship between developing a product and understanding the customer.[21]

Lean Startup Movement[edit]

Blank's Customer Development methodology is a cornerstone of the Lean Startup Movement, popularized by Eric Ries[22][23] whom Blank states was “the best student I ever had.”[3] The Lean Startup approach relies on validated learning, scientific experimentation, and iterative product releases to shorten product development cycles, measure progress, and gain valuable customer feedback. Blank and Ries developed the ideas beginning around 2004 when Blank was an investor and advisor to the company, IMVU, that Ries co-founded.[24] It has attracted attention among entrepreneurs world-wide as a constructive way to try out ideas and gain customers.[16] Ries has integrated the Customer Development methodology into the Lean Startup practices and considers it to be one of the Lean Startup Movement's pillars.[21][25][26]

Blank's academic teaching largely focuses on the Customer Development methodology and the application of scientific methodologies to the startup process.[4][16][22]


The Four Steps to the Epiphany[edit]

In 2005, Blank published The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win, (K&S Ranch Press) which details his approach to the Customer Development process.[7] In the book, Blank outlines his views about how entrepreneurship is a practice that can be actively managed rather than an art which must be passively experienced.[12] The book is viewed in entrepreneurship circles as the definitive source on the Customer Development methodology.[12]

Not All Who Wander Are Lost[edit]

Blank released a second book in 2010, Not All Who Wander Are Lost which relates stories from his life as an entrepreneur.[7] The collection of material develops a narrative about how to live life amid the fast-paced world of Silicon Valley startups.[27]

The Startup Owner's Manual[edit]

Steve Blank and Bob Dorf co-authored The Startup Owner's Manual, which was released in March 2012.[28][29] The 608-page reference manual details a scientific approach to entrepreneurship and emphasizes the importance of "rigorous and repeated testing."[6][10] The work draws on ideas from The Business Model Generation and The Four Steps to the Epiphany.[6] According to Blank, the book was designed to be used as an "encyclopedia and a blueprint" for startups.[30]


Blank authors a personal blog that addresses issues of entrepreneurship.[4] In 2012, his blog was ranked one of the "10 Must-Read Blogs for Any Lean Startup" by[31] The blog is considered a must-read for entrepreneurs and is often syndicated by UC Berkeley, VentureBeat, Huffington Post, is available as an audio podcast (produced by Clearshore and featuring the voice of HP Lewis) on the blog itself or through iTunes, and translated into Spanish (by Alberto Peralta). He also writes weekly for the Wall Street Journal Accelerators blog and occasionally for Forbes, the Huffington Post and in Japan for NikkeiBP."[5][30][32]

Academic Teaching Career[edit]

Blank has taught entrepreneurship to both undergraduate and graduate students. His courses are available at a variety of institutions, including Stanford, the Haas School of Business, the University of California Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, and Columbia.[8][9][33] His curricula commonly focus on the Customer Development methodology that he developed throughout his career as a serial-entrepreneur and conservationist.[10] Blank actively lectures at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and the joint Berkeley/Columbia MBA program.[34]

In 2009 Blank won the Stanford University Undergraduate Teaching Award in Management Science and Engineering.[5] That same year he was also named one of the Top 10 Influencers in Silicon Valley by the Silicon Valley Mercury News.[35] In 2010, Blank was a recipient of the Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award at U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Blank was the commencement speaker at Philadelphia University in 2011, and in 2012 The Harvard Business Review named him one of 12 Masters of Innovation and CNBC recognized him as one of the "11 Notable Entrepreneurs Teaching the Next Generation."[34][36] In 2013, Blank was the commencement speaker at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering.[37]

In May 2013, Blank wrote the cover story in the Harvard Business Review.[38]

The Lean LaunchPad[edit]

At the start of 2011, Blank launched the Lean LaunchPad class at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. The class teaches founders how to reduce their failure rate through the combination of business model design, customer development and agile development. In July 2011 he was asked by the National Science Foundation to adapt the class to be the curriculum for its Innovation Corps which develops and nurtures a national innovation ecosystem by helping discoveries from fundamental research to become new companies. The NSF teachers will teach 150 science and engineering teams in 2012 and will expand to 350 teams in 2013.[1][3][39][40]

In the fall of 2012, an online version of the Lean LaunchPad was developed with help from Udacity.[41] It incorporates learning aides such as videos, quizzes, and homework assignments to teach Blank's principles of entrepreneurship.[42][43]

Public service[edit]

Blank was a past Chairman of Audubon California and[13] has also served on the board of the Peninsula Open Space Trust[44] and was a trustee of U.C. Santa Cruz.[8][13] Blank currently sits on the board of the California League of Conservation Voters, or CLCV.[45] In 2007 he was appointed to the California Coastal Commission.[46] He has made philanthropic gifts to preserve the California Coast and has contributed funds to support the visitors' center at Año Nuevo State Reserve and to the Peninsula Open Space Trust.[3][44]


Blank is known amongst entrepreneurs and students as one of the "The Godfathers of Silicon Valley".[30] His books, blog, and interviews are often referred to or featured in world news publications such as Reuters, the New York Times, Forbes, Inc, TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal.[1][2][4][10][30][47] Blank has hosted numerous sold-out speaking events and conferences about entrepreneurship and the Customer Development methodology.[48][49][49][50][51]


  1. ^ a b c d J.J. Colao (1 August 2012). "Steve Blank Introduces Scientists to a new Variable: Customers". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Steve Lohr (24 April 2010). "The Rise of the Fleet-Footed Start-Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Steve Blank (2012). "About Steve". Steve Blank. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d "The Lean Launchpad". Inc. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Steve Blank". The Huffington Post. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Kia Davis (1 October 2012). "Struggling to Find a Business Model for Your Idea? Read the Startup Owner's Manual". Wamda. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d Steve Blank. "Steven Gary Blank". Amazon. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Faculty and Executive Leadership Directory: Steve G. Blank". University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Steve Blank: Serial Entrepreneur". Ecorner: Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner. 1 October 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Derek Andersen (15 April 2012). "Steve Blank Teaches Entrepreneurs How to Fail Less". Tech Crunch. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Steve Blank (17 May 2011). "Philadelphia University Commencement Speech". Steve Blank. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Andy (8 April 2011). "Steve Blank". Founder LY. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Steve Blank". Stanford Engineering. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Gage, Deborah (February 24, 2015). "Venture Firm Engineering Capital Emerges With $32 Million Fund". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  15. ^ Link, Monica. "SiriusXM Launches Show For Startups Hosted By Silicon Valley Expert Steve Blank". iDigitalTimes. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c Steve Lohr (24 April 2010). "The Rise of the Fleet-Footed Start-Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  17. ^ Christina Farr (2 August 2012). "30 Minutes Inside the Mind of 8-time Entrepreneur Steve Blank". Venture Beat. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  18. ^ Alan Alper (4 August 2005). [ SSA_Global_To_Buy_Epiphany_For__329M_8923 "SSA Global to Buy Epiphany for $329M"] Check |url= value (help). Managing Automation. Retrieved 2 November 2012.  line feed character in |url= at position 54 (help)
  19. ^ a b Tom Abate (2 July 1998). "An Epiphany Brings Former Top KPMG Exec to Silicon Valley/Roger Siboni Trades Trappings of Power for Startup Equity". SFGate. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  20. ^ "Karen Richardson". Stanford University. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Cindy Alvarez (18 March 2010). "FAQ: Customer Development for Product Managers". Cindy Alvarez. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Startup Lessons Learned:Eric Ries". Slideshare. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  23. ^ Eric Ries (5 July 2010). "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development". Startup Lessons Learned. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Ries, Eric. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Crown Publishing. 2011, p. 103. ISBN†978-0-307-88791-7
  25. ^ Eric Ries (8 November 2008). "What is Customer Development". Startup Lessons Learned. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  26. ^ Patrick Vlaskovits (7 July 2010). "Recent Posts on the Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development". Patrick Vlaskovits. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  27. ^ "Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost". Amazon. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  28. ^ Liyan Chen (30 September 2012). "Live Blog: Entrepreneurs Boot Camp". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  29. ^ Liyan Chen (30 September 2012). "Live Blog: Entrepreneurs Boot Camp". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  30. ^ a b c d Jon Cook (9 October 2012). "Q&A with Silicon Valley "Godfather" Steve Blank". Reuters. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  31. ^ Laurence McCahill (February 2012). "10 Must-Read Blogs for Any Lean Startup". We Love Lean. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  32. ^ "Steve Blank, Lecturer, Haas School of Business". The Berkeley Blog. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  33. ^ Nivi (3 March 2009). "Take a Course From the King of Customer Development". Venture Hacks. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  34. ^ a b "11 Entrepreneurs Teaching the Next Generation". The New Entrepreneurs. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  35. ^ Chris O'Brien (1 December 2010). "O'Brien: The Influencers of Silicon Valley". Mercury News. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  36. ^ Scott Anthony (2012). "The Masters of Innovation". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  37. ^
  38. ^ Steve Blank (2013). "Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything". 
  39. ^ "I-Corps 245: The Lean LaunchPad". Slideshare. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  40. ^ "NSF Innovation Corps". National Science Foundation. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  41. ^ online version
  42. ^ "EGR 495: The Lean Launchpad". Keller Center. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  43. ^ Steve Blank (6 September 2012). "The Lean LaunchPad Online". Small Business America. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  44. ^ a b "Landscapes" (PDF). Peninsula Open Space Trust. 2009. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  45. ^ Sarah Rose (3 April 2012). "California Coast Loses a Champion". California League of Conservation Voters. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  46. ^ "Commissioners and Alternates". California Coastal Commission. 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  47. ^ Demetria (25 April 2012). "Live Chat: When to Pivot, When to Persevere With Your Business Idea". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  48. ^ "Steve Blank: How to Build a Great Company, Step by Step". The Commonwealth Club of California. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  49. ^ a b "Steve Blank meets San Diego". Meetup. 9 February 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  50. ^ "[TEC-PaloAlto] Legendary Steve Blank Presents His New Book!". Eventbrite. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  51. ^ "Steve Blank Presentation at Rockstart Accelerator, Amsterdam". Eventbrite. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 

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