NIH Goes Lean with Steve Blank

Guest: Steve Blank, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator

Bio and Contact Info

Chapters: (Advance the marker)


0:59 What are you up to with the NIH?

4:39 The scientific method for entrepreneurship

8:14 Do scientists resist learning about business?

10:50 "I’m from the U.S. Government, and we need your help!"

17:55 Have you had to adapt your approach for the life sciences?

23:33 What is good for investor returns is not necessarily good for the country

27:33 You were supposed to be retired. What happened?

Steve Blank is a serial entrepreneur who has been teaching his trade at Stanford for some years now. We’ve had some of his student entrepreneurs as guests at Mendelspod.

Steve comes from the world of high tech and always told his students that his approach, dubbed the Lean LaunchPad, doesn’t apply to the life sciences. Until last year.

In a course at UCSF that began in October of 2013, Steve began adapting his ideas for startups in the areas of therapeutics, devices, and diagnostics.

After the class was over, Steve says in today’s interview, he got a call that went, “Hi, you don’t know me. I’m from the US Government, and we need your help.”

Steve is an avid blogger, and customarily puts out summaries of his teaching experiences. It turns out some folks at the National Science Foundation were reading all of his blogs about the UCSF class. They persuaded Steve to bring the class to government and see if he couldn’t help grant recipients have better results in business.

Steve laments that we’ve had no formal mechanism for teaching scientists how to turn research into commercial products.

"Essentially, in giving out these SBIR and STTR grants, we were giving out cars without requiring drivers’ ed. And we are surprised that the cars keep crashing!” he says.

Now, the NIH wants in on the training. This fall Steve will begin a pilot program called I-Corps, or Innovation Corps Team Training Program, to aid in the commercialization of new products and services from SBIR and STTR award projects.

How has Steve adapted his training program for the life sciences? And what resistance is he encountering from scientists? And hey, wait a minute, isn’t Steve supposed to be retired after selling off his eighth and last company for $329M—what happened?

Filmed at his ranch in Pescadero, California, today’s interview catches Steve relaxed and eager to share what he’s learned over the years.

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