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“Yes, and” at Stanford D. School LaunchPad

YES and Stanford laundchpad

My friend and LBC business partner, Jonathan Littman, a Bay area seasoned author and mentor with worldwide experience, Founder of SmartUp, took me to a remarkable and memorable session at the Stanford Launch Pad.

Each Spring quarter professors Perry Klebahn and Jeremy Utley work with 10 new ventures to launch a real business in just 10 weeks. Of the many things I learned or reconfirmed, I share three important take-aways which are critical for an idea to evolve successfully into market. Launchpad has a proven track record. In the last 9 years, Launchpad startups that completed this 10-week college acceleration program have raised more than $200 Million in venture capital funding, hired more than a thousand people and created more than $500,000,000 in value. Of the 100 companies launched, 65 are still in business.

YES and Stanford laundchpad v2

Yes, and…

Stanford Launchpad promotes a positive spirit of collaboration and creativity. Participant entrepreneurs learn the rule of “Yes, and…”, instead of “No”, “Yes, but …”, or similar expressions that kill ideas from the very start. No one will tell you that your idea is no good. Instead, entrepreneurs are challenged to test their ideas as early as possible. The best judge is the potential end user or paying-consumer, so entrepreneurs are challenged to test and retest and get real data right from the start. Observing, speaking and testing with the paying consumer and obtaining financial sponsors as early as possible are key success factors.

Customer needs and User centric design before Business plan

Over and over, I see entrepreneurs and especially corporate entrepreneurship programs jump too early into a traditional business plan. At Stanford Launchpad the main objective is to achieve an excellent product-market fit before starting to think of a business plan. The key is to define the customer need and to develop a user centric design. Ideas are developed following a very simple but efficient methodology:

  1. Identify the Target User – as detailed as possible, by using personas and other methods,
  2. Identify and understand the Pain to be addressed – in as much detail as possible so that you can address it and test it, the focus is the pain, not the idea.
  3. Identify and design the Key Features of the solution you are proposing – customer centric design, defining the necessary winning patterns and features necessary for the end user to be eager use and pay for the solution.
  4. Experiment and collect data – as much as possible with real customers and over and over again.
Experimental learning

The latter point of the methodology is key to success – it is essential to engage in deep experimental learning on how your initial idea should evolve in order to succeed in the market.

The sooner you test your assumptions through direct interaction with end users the better. It’s important to commission multiple experiments in parallel rather than in sequence, in order to save resources and to be as fast as possible in focusing in the right direction. Experiments should be simple and objective in order to teach you quickly. Experiments shoud also be narrow in order to provide meaningful data.

How can you participate

Above all, Stanford Launchpad provides great insights on how accelerations should be conducted.

Though only Stanford students can participate in the formal April to June Launchpad acceleration program, this year the professors created the Launchpad Venture Club, giving an opportunity for the public to participate in weekly sessions. From January through May.  And everyone can attend Night Launchpad, the public demo day at the Stanford D.School for Launchpad teams at the end of April.

Know more at D.School Stanford Launch Pad Hub.

 Carlos Miguel Vallere Oliveira