Entrepreneur, author, educator, Steve Blank, changed how founders launch startups. Globally, entrepreneurs benefit from his customer development method which became the Lean Startup movement. Now Blank’s Lean LaunchPad class has become the standard for commercialization for federal research.

Steve Blank is seen as one of Silicon Valley’s Godfathers, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford and is a senior fellow at Columbia University.

impactmania’s Paksy Plackis-Cheng spoke with Steve Blank on March 23, 2021 for her partners at UC Santa BarbaraMessaggero Veneto Scuola, and startup accelerators.

Part 4 of 4.


For Elon

Who would you interview, if you would have to interview someone, and what would you ask?

That’s a great question. It’s just for a personal reason. Everybody talks about Elon Musk as today’s Steve Jobs, Bill Gates.

Elon Musk had only one boss in Silicon Valley, you know who he was?

Me!  [Laughter] He was my intern, in his first job in the Valley. I was reading his biography and they were describing this crazy video game company he worked for.

And I said, well, I was the CEO of a crazy…and I went, my God, he was my intern.

Here’s the only reason I would want to interview him. It turns out when you’re in your 20s and you’re in your first or second job, you imprint like a baby chick, the culture of that first or second company.

It sticks with you for the rest of your career, either consciously or unconsciously. Whatever good behaviors or bad behaviors, until you get later in your life where you start actually thinking about the behaviors you’re doing. A lot of it came from your first couple of bosses. I think every one of Elon’s bad behaviors came from me and the bad company!


Because that was terrible…that was one of my worst…that company left a crater so deep it has its own Iridium layer! I was on the cover of Wired and 90 days later, I was going out of business. I’m afraid I might have imprinted some of that bad behavior on him.

Because when I see some of the things he does, I’m like, I know where that came from! So if you ask me, who would I want to interview? That would be the conversation I want to have: help me understand some of these things you’re doing. Where exactly did this come from?

I think Elon has moved the world in a positive direction. In a way that makes the excesses of private capital almost seem reasonable. The world’s a better place for both SpaceX and Tesla and some of the other things he’s doing. Everybody has ideas but his ability to actually turn those into dollars, and then ultimately deliver, (long past when he said he would,) but ultimately delivering on those is unmatched by anybody, probably since the Industrial Revolution. I think the bad parts of mine might have been printed early on. On the other hand, it’s done him well. I won’t take credit for all of it.

That’s a specific set of questions I’d want to ask him, “Elon, how much of this behavior, unconsciously, rubbed off in the wrong way from your early experience at Rocket Science?”

Part 1 of 4: Steve Blank on Making Meaningful Research Matter in the Marketplace

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