Steve Blank is recognized for developing the customer development method that launched the lean startup movement, a methodology which recognized that startups are not smaller versions of large companies, but require their own set of processes and tools to be successful. His Lean Launchpad class (taught as the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps) has become the standard for commercialization for all federal research.
Blank writes and teaches about customer development and the lean startup method. He is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford; lectures at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and is a senior fellow at Columbia University. He has written four books: The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, The Startup Owner's Manual and Holding a Cat by the Tail.
Blank arrived in Silicon Valley at the start of the business boom in 1978. His first job in the region was with ESL, a startup that was a pioneering company for National Reconnaissance. The company helped the government understand the Soviets' technological and arms developments during the Cold War.
Some of his ventures include Zilog and MIPS Computers, Convergent Technologies, Ardent, SuperMac Technologies, ESL and Rocket Science Games.
Blank co-founded his 8th and last startup, the Customer Relationship Management provider E.piphany, in 1996 and retired the day before its IPO in September 1999.
Blank's customer development methodology is a cornerstone of the lean startup movement, popularized by Eric Ries whom Blank states was "the best student I ever had." The lean startup approach relies on validated learning, scientific experimentation, and iterative product releases to shorten product development cycles, measure progress, and gain valuable customer feedback. Blank and Ries developed the ideas beginning around 2004 when Blank was an investor and advisor to the company, IMVU, that Ries co-founded. The lean startup has been adopted by entrepreneurs worldwide as a constructive way to try out ideas and gain customers. Ries has integrated the customer development methodology into the lean startup practices and considers it to be one of the lean startup movement's pillars.