HIA TV Episode 4: Steve Blank

Jerry Engel, Eeva Kiuru and Steve Blank in New York, Sept. 2013

Jerry Engel, Eeva Kiuru and Steve Blank in New York, Sept. 2013

The fourth episode of HIA TV dates back to 2013. This particular interview was my first early test drive and an essential building block on my personal road towards my own venture.

Can you imagine a better way to build your minimum viable product than doing that by interviewing Steve Blank?

Steve Blank is one of the most influential global thinkers on entrepreneurship. He is an 8-time serial entrepreneur and the best selling author of Startup Owner’ s Manual.

Steve Blank has affected the entrepreneurial path of thousands of people – myself included. Not only through his methodology of Customer Development but also through the whole ideology and attitude of starting a new business.

In this episode Steve Blank shares insights about the biggest challenges in the search of scalable and profitable business, why it is so difficult to meet customers early and how to apply Lean methods Life Science vertical.

He also has a special message for health tech entrepreneurs in Finland.

I hope you enjoy this episode of HIA TV.



If you prefer reading, here you can find the transcript of the interview:


Eeva Kiuru: Steve Blank is 8-time serial entrepreneur and creator of Business Model Development method for early-stage startups. Steve, you have trained hundreds of entrepreneurs. People all over the world use your method in building successful startups. What is the most challenging part in the search of scalable and profitable business? 

Steve Blank: The toughest part is that entrepreneurs typically believe that they understand the customer problem and implicitly believe they understand the customer solution. And therefore most entrepreneurs think the only problem they have is how quickly they can build the product. Trying to get entrepreneurs outside of the building and test the series of faith based hypothesis is actually the hardest thing. Not physically but just mentally.

And believing that perhaps what you believe as the fact actually might be a series of untested hypothesis.

Eeva: Why is so difficult to “get out of the building” to see the customers ?

Steve: Again, getting out of the building is not physically difficult but it is psychologically really tough. Because to be an entrepreneur to be a founder of a company you have to believe with almost a 100% certainty that you are right because you have to convince yourself, you have to convince sceptical employees, and sceptical investors and your spouses and significant others.

So there has to be a 100 % focus on you are a true believer. And here I am asking you that in the back of your head I want you to have tenderons dedicated to kind of whispering that what if you are wrong.

And that is such a cognitive dissonance. Because again to push forward against all odds you need this passion and vision.

And so what I’m actually asking entrepreneurs to do is kind of reserve about half of 1 % of their passion for a little sceptisim of their own ideas and so what I want them to do is to figure out is how to get themselves motivated to test and fail fast and find the facts as quickly as they can.

Eeva: You are starting the first industry specific Lean Launch Pad curriculum and you have chosen Life Science as the industry. Can you tell us more about it and why did you choose Life Science ?

Steve: So I chose Life Science as the first vertical specific Lean Launch Pad class because it was the one vertical I said that would not work for years Lean Launch Pad and Customer Development. In fact for years I said Customer Development works everywhere except in Life Sciences.

And the irony is that UCSF which focuses in biotechnology in the US, was chasing me for the last 2 years saying no, no, no. We believe it will work here. And I was incredibly sceptical. Until I started talking about to venture capitalists in therapeutics and diagnostics, devices and digital health. And not only did they say it was a good idea, they said they wanted to co-teach the class for me.

So what I ended up doing was getting four Life Sciences venture capitalists to do advanced lectures using the same business model canvas and customer development framework and do value added lectures on top of the standard framework. We’re going to see if we can make it the standard for entrepreneurship in these domains.

Eeva: Finally, we have a very active healthcare developer community in Finland. What is your most important message to our community ?

Steve: So one of the things I ask entrepreneurs in every country, particularly one as small as Finland is: Are you building your startups for a local market, a regional market like the EU or global market which might include the US and China.

And if so that is if you are going for a global market the issues in healthcare are actually magnified. Every country has specific regulatory issues that you need to understand, and specific reimbursement issues that are radically different from country to country. And in fact Finland is a great place to start but if you want to go global you need to be thinking going global from day one.

Eeva: Excellent. Thank you very much, Steve.

Steve: Thank you.

End of interview.


Did you miss our previous episodes of HIA TV? No worries. You can find:

– HIA TV Episode 1 with Health Tech Investor Timo Ahopelto here

– HIA TV Episode 2 with Mikko Kauppinen, Head of Health Innovation Village by GE Healthcare, here.

– HIA TV Episode 3 with Haig A. Peter, Executive Briefing Manager at IBM Research – Zurich, here.