By Steve Blank (Lecturer, UC Berkeley & Stanford University) Over the last two months the U.S. government has been running one of the most audacious experiments in entrepreneurship since World War II. They launched an incubator for the top scientists and engineers in the U.S.
This week we saw the results. 63 scientists and engineers in 21 teams made 2,000 customer calls in 8 weeks, turning laboratory ideas into formidable startups. 19 of the 21 teams are moving forward in commercializing their technology.
It was an extraordinary effort. In July, I got a call from Errol Arkilic, a program manager at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the $6.8B U.S. government agency that supports research in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering.
“We’ve been reading your blog about your Lean Launchpad class.”
Wow, that’s nice, I thought, a call from a fan. No, the conversation was about to get more interesting.
“Our country needs you.”
Say what? “
Part of the NSF charter is to commercialize the best of the science and engineering research we fund. We want to make a bet that your Lean Launchpad class can apply the scientific method to market-opportunity identification. We think your class can train scientists to start companies better than how we’re doing it now.”
Uh oh, where’s this heading?
“We want to select the best of our researchers, pay them $50,000 to take your class and see if we can change the outcome of their careers and their research.”