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First Asian Lean LaunchPad kicks off at NUS

13 Sep 2013

Mr Blank (left) and moderator Prof Wong selecting the best questions at the fireside chat

The audience responding enthusiastically to a candid answer during the chat
The inaugural Lean LaunchPad@Singapore programme, organised by NUS Enterprise in partnership with serial entrepreneur Mr Steve Blank and University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) Professor Jerome Engel, saw 10 teams comprising NUS students, researchers and alumni come together for the last class on 10 September 2013 where they presented their final business model canvas.

Kicked off at NUS in June this year, Director NUS Entrepreneurship Centre Professor Wong Poh Kam and Prof Engel, Founding Executive Director Emeritus, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley, spearheaded a boot-camp for the 60 pioneering participants who were organised into teams with a mentor each to facilitate the learning process. They sought to bring different technologies developed within NUS laboratories closer to market in the form of a patented technology, a licensed innovation or a start-up company.

Over 10 weeks, the teams alternated between attending lectures, conducting interviews and updating their business model canvas. Both Prof Engel and Mr Blank provided useful insights and advice to all the participants.

Listed by the Harvard Business Review as one of the “Masters of Innovation”, Mr Blank introduced the Lean LaunchPad programme in 2011 at Stanford University. Employing a methodology specially tailored for entrepreneurs and start-ups, it focuses on getting participants to understand the customer, validate their ideas and search for the right business model.

Participants are urged to “get out of the building” to test hypotheses in the real world by interviewing potential customers, partners, competitors and investors. This experiential learning proves invaluable as participants obtain real feedback on their ideas and product.

Nguyen Vu Thanh, a Research Fellow at the NUS-Tsinghua Extreme Search Centre and part of a team that developed a mobile application for zoomable interactive videos, said: “The Lean LaunchPad programme helped us focus on users of our technologies, our core value propositions, and time/activities management. We learned and unlearned many things by talking with potential end users and related industries, as well as getting honest feedback from instructors and mentors.”

Other technologies participants aimed to commercialise included a coronary artery disease risk assessment tool, a test for checking water quality and a medical device to assist liver surgery.

At an NUS fireside chat later, more than 150 invited guests from NUS and the industry listened to Mr Blank’s insights on entrepreneurship. On the question of whether an entrepreneur is born or created, he observed that entrepreneurship can be taught “to those who volunteer”.

“Entrepreneurs are actually more like artists than accountants. For the past 500 years, when we teach artists, we teach both theory and practice. And this is what the Lean LaunchPad programme does – it teaches founders the theory as well as the tools to practise,” explained Mr Blank, who captivated the crowd with his personal anecdotes and candid sharing.

”Entrepreneurs also need to have some craziness which is why individuals from dysfunctional families often make great entrepreneurs, since they thrive in uncertainty, chaos and conflicts. So when the accountant says: ‘The company is going out of business on Tuesday’, the founding CEO will reply: ‘I need to raise $1 million by Monday night!’”

Lean LaunchPad@Singapore will be conducted again in 2014. Those interested in participating can contact for more details.

By NUS Enterprise

View interview with Mr Blank here.