The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank

lean startup customer development steve blak feedback loop

tl;dr Steve Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build Lean Startup. The Lean Launchpad classes offer entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn how to apply customer development and lean startup concepts to testing and building their business ideas.

The History of Lean Startup

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur who now spends his time teaching entrepreneurship to students. His early writings on customer development (The Four Steps to the Epiphany) have evolved into the Lean Launchpad. The Lean Launchpad provides entrepenuers with an online, interactive envrionment to learn all that is needed to understand and apply the lean startup methodologies.

In Blank’s most recent blog post he reiterates his discovery and journey.

The Journey

Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build lean startup. They found that the traditional business tools did not apply to startups.

+ Startups are different – Ten years ago he started thinking about why startups are different from existing companies. He questioned: Are business plans suitable for startups? Is execution all that matters?

+ Business models first, business plans later – Blank thought that startups needed business models before business plans. This lead him to come up with “customer development” – the formal methodology to search for a business model.

+ Business models before execution – He believed that Customer Development needed traditional product management. This process is documented in Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany.

+ Lean Startup and Eric Ries – In 2003 Blank was approached to teach a class in Customer Development at Haas Business School. He insisted that Eric Ries be in the class. (Blank had an investment in Ries’s IMVU business.) Ries argued that the traditional product management and waterfall development should be replaced by agile development. This approach was named “Lean Startup”.

+ Standardising the Business Model – Until now the structure of the business model remained vague. However Alexander Osterwalder wrote Business Model Generation that allowed entrepreneurs to build an operating plan around their search for a business. The business model canvas simplified the planning process and pressed entrepreneurs for real answers to tough questions.

+ Testing the theory – The startup methodology remained scientific theory until the National Science Foundation approached Blank to teach the concepts to a group of scientists. They wanted to apply the theory to commercialising their basic research. This triggered the rollout of the Lean Launchpad course. Now real entrepreneurs are applying the theory to real startup scenarios.


Blank has turned building a startup into a science. His publications and theories have encouraged many entrepreneurs to think more about their business before leaping into the abyss. While some may argue entrepreneurship is not a science that can be taught, the Lean Launchpad provides an intelligent framework for those looking for some direction and stability in their search for the next big business.

+ Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business
+ Extracts from The Four Steps to the Epiphany (pdf)

Image Credit: The Lean Startup


You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

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One response to “The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank”

  1. richardbutler28 says :

    I really love to read your blog as well as the examples that you’ve mention. Thank you so much for this helpful contents. I am looking forward to see more example contents like this.

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