Becoming the father of modern entrepreneurship—Steve Blank

Part of the business owner to business owner series, ‘Flight paths’

Steve Blank

Serial Entrepreneur, Silicon Valley
Co-founder of E.piphany
Educator & Author

Be aware of the impact a mentor can make.

Steve Blank’s career took off with the help of his first mentor—a “shop chief” in the US Air Force noticed Steve’s work and promoted him. By age 19, Steve was supervising 11 electronics technicians and gaining skills that would help him become a successful entrepreneur.

After the military, Steve worked at a start-up in Michigan. Client work took him to a small town in California, in the late 70s, where he discovered 45 pages of want ads devoted to professionals like him, scientists and engineers. Soon, he made a move to this small town, now part of what we know as Silicon Valley.

Working in the tech-focused environment fueled Steve’s idea of what was possible. It wasn't long before he started E.piphany, a software company that revolutionized how companies build relationships with customers.

Career milestones

Leaves college to join Air Force

Having a knack for electronics repair helps him advance

Begins career at a start-up in Michigan

Service call in San Jose reveals opportunity

20-year career in Silicon Valley

“Two large craters, one home run, several base hits”

E.piphany goes public in 1999

Pioneering customer relationship software is in demand

Teaches at top universities

Notes from first course become a book, The Four Steps to an Epiphany

Develops Lean Launchpad courses

Begins influencing large companies and government organizations

The ability to operate in chaos can help you succeed in start-ups.

In his 20 years in Silicon Valley, Steve launched eight start-ups with the help of venture capitalists.

Today, Steve lives by the mantra “Get out of the building”—an order a CEO gave him, after a sales presentation that didn’t go so well. The CEO wanted Steve to be in the field, asking customers about what they wanted, instead of sitting behind a desk and guessing. Quickly, Steve learned that understanding customers is the key to success.

Steve’s first book lit the fuse for an explosion in new thinking about entrepreneurship1

When E.piphany IPO’d, Steve retired. He was just 45, and not ready to completely walk away from his 20 years in Silicon Valley. He began to blog about his experience. Before long, UC Berkeley invited Steve to help teach business students. Since then, Steve has transformed how universities teach entrepreneurship.

He replaced stale course material with activities that he knows contribute to start-up success, and it's caught on. Today, hundreds of universities worldwide teach Steve’s Lean Launchpad course, and his Lean Startup playbook now influences government agencies and large organizations, too.

Steve’s focus is on mission-driven entrepreneurship and using his innovation tools and processes to make the world a better place. Steve believes an entrepreneur’s edge is to “live ‘carpe diem’ and seize the day, every day.”

Learn more from the entrepreneurs of ‘Flight paths’

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