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Entrepreneurship Class Essentials with Steve Blank

Entrepreneurship Class Essentials with Steve Blank

Here is part 2 of our interview with entrepreneurship innovator and educator Steve Blank, where he shares his thoughts on what is essential for an entrepreneurship class and an entrepreneurship curriculum. If you missed part 1, you can catch up here.

Steve Blank is an icon in entrepreneurship education. He is known for developing the customer development method that launched the Lean Startup movement.  A serial entrepreneur turned educator, Steve continues to elevate the field of entrepreneurship and greatly influences how we teach entrepreneurship principals. 

Steve Blank on What is Essential to Teach in an Entrepreneurship Class

Increasing numbers of universities require students to take entrepreneurship courses. While Steve doesn’t believe these courses should be mandatory, he had very clear ideas on what the goal should be for entrepreneurship courses.

The truth is we will have students in our classes that are not interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Whether it’s because they’re taking the class because it’s required or whether they have a true interest in becoming an entrepreneur, we have a commitment to helping our students actualize their potential. 

“How do we make a well-rounded individual in the 21st century?”

Steve shared that, at the core, entrepreneurship courses, build skills in tenacity, resilience, and agility in hypothesis testing. These skills are valid for all students, whether they want to be an entrepreneur or not. And it is his belief that these skills should be the foundation of a liberal arts education in the 21st century. 

Particularly since the evolution of society and technology have created a shorter lifespan for most companies. By building up these skills, students will be able to access them as they go about building their careers. In addition, entrepreneurship classes will help identify future entrepreneurs.

However, these skills shouldn’t be limited to college learning.  Steve envisions these methods being taught as part of a K-12 curriculum as well. Similar to the Korda Institute for Teaching, entrepreneurship can be integrated into classroom learning to bolster student skills, knowledge, and community impact. By designing educational experiences that utilize entrepreneurship principles, students can start learning early to solve problems that impact or involve their community. 

Steve Blank’s 4 Essential Courses for Entrepreneurship Curriculum

We liked the idea of narrowing the focus of an entrepreneurship curriculum, but we also asked Steve if there were courses he deemed essential when designing a curriculum. Here are the four core entrepreneurial classes or concepts Steve believes should be included:

  1. Creativity: This course includes customer discovery and helps students isolate the problems they want to solve.
  2. Lean Launchpad Lite: This is a stripped-down version of Lean Launchpad which Steve believes can sometimes be bogged down with jargon. This class includes the framework and practical questions every entrepreneur needs to ask without a large focus on terminology.
  3. Core Skills (or as Steve likes to put it “Fucking with your head”): This is a skill-building class focused on improving student’s resilience, tenacity, and agility. Lesson plans focus on hypothesis testing and fact-checking. In this class, students become more comfortable with chaos, uncertainty, and even failure.
  4. Capstone: The capstone centers around the specific domain of expertise. For each university, it will vary with the region and the focus of the institution.

Designing Entrepreneurship Curriculum for the Students You Want to Attract

One of the questions we’re often asked is how to build a comprehensive curriculum. When put to Steve, he recommends keeping students top of mind when designing an entrepreneurship curriculum. 

If I was in a university the first question I would ask for an educator is, am I building a curriculum for the students I have, or am I building a curriculum for the students I want to attract? 

He shared the example of talking with some educators in Lincoln, Nebraska who work with farmers. The teachers were interested in putting together a class for farmers. The opportunity this presented for the university, in Steve’s words, “is they could become the Lean expert for farm entrepreneurship rather than replicating the other 7,000 versions of a general Lean Startup curriculum”. The question Steve encourages institutions and entrepreneurship professors to ask when designing curriculum are:

  • Is there a domain of expertise we can or should focus on?
  • Can we create a vertical version of Lean Startup for this area?

Teaching Minimum Viable Product 

On the topic of buzzwords and jargon found in Lean Start-up, the idea of an MVP is one of the most often misunderstood concepts taught in entrepreneurship. Particularly, it can be difficult to teach. 

One of the mistakes Steve discussed regarding the idea of a Minimum Viable Product or (MVP) is that businesses may understand finding a product to fit a certain market, but they stop there. Students and entrepreneurs alike need to understand that all components of the business model need to be tested and some of them need to be re-tested. 

Therefore, when teaching MVP to students, finding customers who want particular features of a product or want the product is just Step 1 of a robust class. For example, we could also design a class around MVP’s for pricing. Students can test whether a product could sell for $20,000 rather than $9.99.  

From customer discovery to learning how to pivot, an effective MVP course teaches students to run experiments across all components of commercialization.

Key Takeaway

Finishing out our discussion, Steve expressed the key takeaway he wants educators and universities alike to realize is that one-size-fits-all does not fit all for an entrepreneurship class. Whether we’re teaching tech, corporate, or social entrepreneurship, he encourages us to take our expertise and adjust our curriculums to get the right impedance match for the right students. In other words, treat our students like customers. 

Our classes are our own little start-up.


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Want More Engagement?

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Whether you’re teaching online, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two, we built our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) to provide award-winning engagement and excitement for your students

  • in any course structure
  • on all major learning management system

Preview ExEC Now

We’ve taken the guesswork out of creating an engaging approach that works both online or in-person. ExEC has a comprehensive entrepreneurship syllabus template complete with 15 weeks of award-winning lesson plans that can be easily adapted to your needs.


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

Steve Blank on How to Teach Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank on How to Teach Entrepreneurship

Want to improve how you teach entrepreneurship? Steve has some ideas.


Steve Blank Talking about How to Teach Entrepreneurship

Before we get there though, with the fires raging along the West Coast of the US, one of which is stunningly close to Steve’s home, we wanted to send him, his family, and everyone affected by the fires, our best wishes.


Steve and I sat down, pre-pandemic, for an in-depth discussion on the state of entrepreneurship education and ways to improve it going forward.

Below I’ve written up a summary of half of our conversation: thoughts on how to teach entrepreneurship.

In an upcoming part two, I’ll summarize some of Steve’s ideas on creating a comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculum, including:

  • The skills professors should teach their students, and 
  • Four courses Steve thinks are core to a robust entrepreneurship program

First, for anyone unfamiliar: Who is Steve Blank?

Forefather of Lean Startup

Entrepreneur, author, professor, an originator of evidence-based entrepreneurship, Steve Blank has developed or made famous some of the most recognizable approaches to entrepreneurship including: 

In addition, Steve has reimagined the way entrepreneurship is taught throughout the world with his Lean LaunchPad, NSF I-Corps, and Hacking for X (e.g. Recovery, Defense, Diplomacy, Impact, Energy, etc.) programs. 

In short, Steve has dramatically improved the way we practice and teach entrepreneurship.

Why Teaching Entrepreneurship is Hard

One of the very first topics that came up during our conversation was how we all can become more effective instructors.

Roughly 75% of college faculty are adjunct or non-tenure-track professors. Steve shared that as a practitioner, one of the challenges he faced was not what to teach, but how to teach:

There is usually very little onboarding in place to train professors in the most effective way to teach entrepreneurial lessons.”

While most of us are successful entrepreneurs or successful professors, very few of us are equally great at both.

Compounding the problem, Steve mentioned that there are so many kinds of entrepreneurship – small business, high tech, corporate, social, family business, etc.

With these challenges in mind, I asked Steve for recommendations to overcome them.

Steve’s Teaching Tips

Tip #1: Accept You Don’t Know Everything

“I see my mentors and other adjuncts and coaches make this mistake, in thinking your domain expertise is the expertise of entrepreneurship rather than a very narrow slice.”

When Steve first began teaching at UC Berkeley, he was paired with professor John Freeman who recommended he sit in on other instructors’ entrepreneurship courses. Steve mentioned, “the shock to my system, the discovery…there are different types of entrepreneurship.” 

Steve was a successful entrepreneur, but he wasn’t a successful small business, high tech, corporate, social, and lifestyle entrepreneur.

Each type of entrepreneurship has different goals and to be taught most effectively, requires a different approach and expertise. To illustrate his point, Steve mentioned that in high tech entrepreneurship, the first goal is to have a seed round that raises millions of dollars. In small business entrepreneurship, however, the first goal may be to make enough to fund a lifestyle and family.

It’s this diversity in objectives that can make effectively teaching innovation difficult and it was his realization that he didn’t know everything about every type of entrepreneurship that led Steve to increase his breadth of knowledge. 

Tip #2: Get a Mentor

Luckily, Berkely had a semi-formal onboarding process in place which sped up the learning process for new faculty. For other educators who do not have access to that kind of program, Steve recommends:

  • Attending other entrepreneurship instructor’s classes
  • If you’re an entrepreneur first, get another educator to mentor you
  • If you’re an academic first, pair with an entrepreneur to teach

Like we teach our students, teams with aligned goals and diverse skills have better outcomes; the same applies to our teaching. To improve your classes, find people who have a different set of skills and experiences than you and collaborate with them.

When in Doubt: Experiences Teach Skills

“If you’ve never started a company and you’re teaching entrepreneurship, it’s like teaching a med school class and never having cracked a chest.”

Entrepreneurship is a combination of theory and practice and our students learn it best when they are offered by perspectives.

Steve Blank Talking about How to Teach Entrepreneurship

Steve further explained his point by saying, “Startups are essentially years of chaos, uncertainty, and terror. That’s not what a typical academic career is like. And so it’s kind of hard to teach tenacity, resilience, and agility and maybe curiosity, which are the key skills for early-stage entrepreneurs without having lived with that uncertainty.”

Students Learn Best By Doing

How do we teach customer empathy, customer development, and customer discovery effectively?

The answer is learning by doing. When Steve teaches his Lean LaunchPad classes, he insists his students talk to 10 customers each week. And he always follows up to ensure they actually made contact. 

For students who have difficulty performing customer interviews, he recommends students practice interviewing. Steve recommends the book, Talking to Humans: Success Starts with Understanding Your Customers.

For an engaging way to help your students understand exactly what questions they should and shouldn’t ask customers, you can also use our free experiential Customer Interviewing Cards lesson plan.

The same goes for every topic in entrepreneurship:

  • Idea generation
  • Solution ideation
  • Finance
  • Pitching

Every entrepreneurship skill must be practiced to be internalized.

The Future of Entrepreneurship Education

Key skills for early-stage entrepreneurs can be taught with the right combination of theory and experiential exercises.

In class, Steve looks to create a feeling that there is no “right” answer that can be found in a book. It is this approach that encourages students to figure things out for themselves and inspires outside-the-box thinking. The Lean LaunchPad methodology Steve created is great for stimulating the chaos of entrepreneurship. It is this chaos that identifies those students ready for the pursuit of entrepreneurship.

Steve conceptualizes his classes as the Juilliard of entrepreneurship; when the way to train artists was with an experiential, hands-on apprenticeship. With this in mind, Steve thinks successful entrepreneurship curricula should include entrepreneurial appreciation.

“These core [entrepreneurship] courses will be the new liberal arts courses of the 21st century.”


Takeaways

Here are my takeaways from the first part of our conversation:

  1. Get a mentor. If your background is in academia, find an entrepreneur to mentor you in real-world realities. If you’re an entrepreneur, find an academic mentor who can teach you about teaching. Teaching entrepreneurship requires both.
  2. Train entrepreneurs like artists. Just like are no “right” answers in art, there are no right answers in entrepreneurship. Instead of focusing on teaching answers, we should focus on teaching skills.
  3. Students learn skills by practicing them. Experiences, not textbooks, are the best way to teach skills.

Don’t Miss Part 2

Subscribe here to get notified of the second part of my interview with Steve where we discuss:

  • The necessary skills professors should teach their students, and 
  • Four courses he thinks are essential to a robust entrepreneurship program

Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!


Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:


Want More Engaged Students?

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum.

Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum Logo

Whether you’re teaching online, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two, we built our Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) to provide award-winning engagement and excitement for your students

  • in any course structure
  • on all major learning management system

Preview ExEC Now

We’ve taken the guesswork out of creating an engaging approach that works both online or in-person. ExEC has a comprehensive entrepreneurship syllabus template complete with 15 weeks of award-winning lesson plans that can be easily adapted to your needs.

60 Minute MVP [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

60 Minute MVP [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

We’ve fast-tracked the development of new online-ready exercises which you can use individually or as a set, called the ExEC Online: Express pack, available free through June!

Our final lesson, 60 Minute MVP, is ready!

60 Minute MVP ExEC Online image Free Lesson

Based on the extremely popular in-person version of this exercise, the online version of the 60 Minute MVP will have your students designing experiments to test demand just like they would if they weren’t under lockdown. They will:

  1. Create a landing page
  2. Add an explainer video and then
  3. Start accepting pre-orders

The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. With that in mind, this exercise will show your students how to quickly reduce the uncertainty of their business model by helping them launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services.

Almost more important though…

This exercise is a ton of fun!

Students are excited because they’re doing something they didn’t know they had the skills to do, and it’s a great time for you because students are engaged in creating and sharing something with you and the rest of the class.

Get the 60 Minute MVP Lesson

Get All Four Free Lessons

The ExEC Online: Express Pack is a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class individually or as a set.

In addition to the 60 Minute MVP lesson plan, we’re releasing three other exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of uncertainty:

  1. Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that is particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
  2. Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
  3. How to Interview Customers on Lockdown: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.

If you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please click here.

Due to the accelerated pace at which we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration of the ExEC Online: Express Pack is designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get All the ExEC Online: Express Pack Lesson Plans (Free)

Know an Entrepreneurship Instructor?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might help, please invite them to participate! You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching and supporting young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!

Interviewing Customers Remotely [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

Interviewing Customers Remotely [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

We’ve fast-tracked the development of new online-ready exercises which you can use individually or as a set, called the ExEC Online: Express pack, available free through June!

Our third lesson, Interviewing Customers Remotely, is ready!

Express Pack Entrepreneurship Lessons Online: Interviewing Customers

Teach Interviewing Customers in an Engaging Way

Based on our Customer Interviewing Cards, this exercise has been adapted to teach students how to interview customers under the unique circumstances that COVID-19 has presented. Hopefully, this lesson will only be applicable this term, but…

…it may be helpful in the Fall too!

This lesson is a fun way to teach your students:

  1. Where to find customers to interview during a quarantine
  2. How to ask those customers for an interview
  3. What to ask during the interview

Below is a quick overview. For full details, be sure to register for the ExEC Online: Express Pack.

Easy to Integrate

We’ve made this exercise as easy to integrate as possible.

Interviewing Customers Step 1


Have your students watch this video:

If you’re teaching a synchronous class, feel free to skip showing the video and simply teach the principles yourself.

Step 2

Students complete the Digital Customer Interviewing Cards spreadsheet where they learn what their “objectives” (i.e. goals) for conducting customer interviews are, as well as the best and worst questions to ask during those interviews.

Here’s a quick look at what the spreadsheet looks like:

Step 3

Students get access to a robust interview script they can use for both remote, and in-person, problem discovery videos.

Interviewing customers ExEC online script

Get the Customer Interviewing Lesson

Get All Four Free Lessons

The ExEC Online: Express Pack is a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class individually or as a set.

In addition to the Customer Interview lesson plan, we’re releasing three other exercises that are not only engaging but particularly relevant in this time of uncertainty:

  1. Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that are particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
  2. Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
  3. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

ExEC Online Express Pack

We’ll make each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished. So if you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please click here.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration of the ExEC Online: Express Pack is designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get All the ExEC Online: Express Pack Lesson Plans (Free)

Know an Entrepreneurship Instructor?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might help, please invite them to participate! You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing, teaching and supporting young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!




Financial Projection Simulator [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

Financial Projection Simulator [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

To help with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve fast-tracked the development of new online-ready exercises – which you can use individually or as a set – called the ExEC Online: Express pack, available free through June.

Our second lesson, Financial Projection Simulator (FPS), is ready for you to use!

Making Finance Fun

Even in the best of times, students struggle to engage with and understand the financial elements of entrepreneurship. Of course, this topic is critically important, especially during times of economic uncertainty like we’re facing now.

To help make entrepreneurial finance more accessible to all students, we designed our Financial Projection Simulator to teach financial modeling, with a fun, game-like experience.

Encourage Experimentation

The Financial Projection Simulator leads students through an experimentation process where they make different assumptions about their financial model, including their:

  • Product price
  • Cost of Customer Acquisition
  • Employee salaries (including benefits & taxes)
  • Initial capital investments
  • Etc.

And as they enter their assumptions, the simulator automatically calculates the financial sustainability of their business, giving students a Red, Yellow or Green assessment:

teaching finance in entrepreneurship

This question-based approach forces students to think through the major elements of a financial model in an approachable way. Plus, the real-time feedback encourages students to get creative, iterating their business model until they find one that’s profitable.

Engage Your Students

Like all of our lessons, the Financial Projection Simulator uses several resources to create an experiential, interactive experience for students online, including:

  • Step-by-step videos for students
  • Overview videos for you, like this:


When combined, these tools create an engaging experience for your students (even when they’re learning about finance ;).

Get the Financial Projection Simulator

Get All Four Free Lessons

The ExEC Online: Express Pack is a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class individually or as a set.

In addition to Financial Projection Simulator, we’re releasing three other exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of uncertainty:

  1. Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that is particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
  2. How to Interview Customers: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
  3. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished, so if you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration of the ExEC Online: Express Pack is designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get All the ExEC Online: Express Pack Lesson Plans (Free)

Know an Entrepreneurship Instructor?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might help, please invite them to participate! You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!




Problem-Inspired Idea Generation [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

Problem-Inspired Idea Generation [ExEC Online: Express Pack]

To help with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve fast-tracked the development of new online-ready exercises – which you can use individually or as a set – called the ExEC Online: Express pack, available free through June.

Our first lesson, Problem-Inspired Idea Generation, is ready for you to use!

Idea Generation is a Skill

Customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and during this crisis, people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a repeatable way to generate business ideas, inspired by their customer’s problems, that will become the foundation for opportunity identification skills they can use throughout their careers.

3 Steps to Better Ideas

Problem-Inspired Idea Generation creates an experience where students:

  1. Learn why great business ideas come from problems.
  2. Brainstorm people they’re passionate about solving problems for.
  3. Hypothesize, and prioritize, those peoples’ problems.

Those hypothesized problems kickstart your students’ customer discovery and/or solution ideation processes, resulting in more meaningful, and more feasible business ideas.

Engage Your Students

Our goal is to create highly interactive, experiential exercises. You can review this lesson to see how it can help you engage your students online with tools like:

  • Interactive Digital Worksheets your students can fill out and turn into you online
  • Video overviews for students
  • Sample slides for you to use with any live, or recorded, videos overviews you’d like to (optionally) produce for you students
  • Assessment recommendations

Get the ExEC Online: Express Pack

Get All Four Free Lessons

The ExEC Online: Express Pack is a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class individually or as a set.

In addition to Problem-Inspired Idea Generation, we’re releasing three other exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of uncertainty:

  1. How to Interview Customers: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
  2. Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
  3. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished, so if you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration will be designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get All the ExEC Online: Express Pack Lesson Plans (Free)

Know an Entrepreneurship Instructor?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might be help, we welcome you to invite them to participate. You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!




Free Online Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Free Online Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

We know the transition to teaching online can be overwhelming. We want to help.

We’ve fast-tracked a subset of the ExEC Online exercises you’ll be able to use free through June 2020!

The ExEC Online: Express Pack will be a collection of free, interactive, online entrepreneurship lessons available through the rest of this term that you can easily plug into your class.

We’re specifically releasing exercises that are not only engaging, but particularly relevant in this time of dramatic uncertainty:

  1. Problem-Inspired Idea Generation: We know customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to problems – and right now people’s problems have changed dramatically. This exercise will show your students a systematic way to identify new opportunities inspired by their customer’s real-world problems that is particularly helpful during times of disruption like we’re experiencing right now.
  2. How to Interview Customers on Lockdown: Now that business model assumptions have been flipped on their head, it’s more critical than ever that students learn how to effectively talk to customers to discover what problems they’re facing. A person with the skills to learn about how this new world will effect people individually, is a person that will thrive during this, and any future dramatic changes. This lesson will help students understand how to find customers to talk to, what questions to ask, and most importantly, why asking them will form the basis of a successful business model.
  3. Financial Projection Simulator: With a global recession looming, it’s essential our students understand the elements of a robust financial model, and how to develop a sustainable one. This exercise makes finance approachable by turning what would normally be an overwhelming series of numbers, into a game-like experience that enables students to experiment with many different financial models.
  4. 60 Minute MVP: The key to thriving in the face of high uncertainty and limited resources is efficient experimentation. This exercise will show your students how to quickly launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to measure demand for their products/services. Plus, even outside the entrepreneurial context, in a future where online, remote-enabled work will likely be in demand, this is a great opportunity for students to learn how to build websites and create animated videos.

We’ll be making each lesson plan available as soon as it’s finished. If you’re interested in using any of the exercises from the ExEC Online: Express Pack, please fill out the form below.

Due to the accelerated pace we’re releasing these lessons, the first iteration will be designed for use in colleges/universities in the US and Canada. Future iterations will be accessible to students across a wider range of environments.

Regardless of who or where you teach, we welcome you to request access and we’ll notify you if, and as soon as, we’re able to bring your students on board!

Get the ExEC Online: Express Pack

Know a Teacher?

If you know anyone who these new lessons might be help, we welcome you to invite them to participate. You can:

Thank you for all the work you’re doing teaching, and supporting, young people during this challenging time – we’re grateful to have an opportunity to support you, and look forward to helping you however we can!


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USASBE 3E Winner: Lottery Ticket Dilemma

USASBE 3E Winner: Lottery Ticket Dilemma

It is our pleasure to share with you the lesson plan that won the prestigious Experiential Entrepreneurship Exercises (3E) competition at USASBE this past January!
Entrepreneurship Education

If your students focus more on their products than their customers’ problems, this lesson plan is for you.!

Through this exercise, students will discover how important emotions are in the decision-making process, and the importance of understanding and fulfilling other people’s emotional needs.


Specifically, students will learn:

  • Why the majority of businesses that start end in failure, & how to avoid those failures
  • Customer decisions are driven by their emotions
  • To create products customers want to buy, we need to understand the emotional journey they want to take

Here’s how the lesson plan works…

Step 1: Set Context in Your Class

Use this exercise when students are beginning to think of ideas to develop – see the High Quality Idea Generation module in the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC) for explicit instructions to guide students to develop high quality ideas they are uniquely qualified to pursue.

Let students know there is a specific perspective that can help them develop powerful ideas that they will enjoy working on, and that today they will learn that perspective.

Step 2: Why Businesses Fail

Ask students to describe what they think the difference is between an inventor and an entrepreneur.

Inventors vs. Entrepreneurs

Walk students through the two comparisons to highlight this difference:

  • Segway vs. Razor scooters. Explain that Segway is an incredible invention, estimated to have a value of $2.5 billion, and that it was a colossal failure that reached only 1% of its market valuation. Then explain that Razor scooters (and now Bird and Lime electric scooters) are similar, but these far less “innovative” transportation options have generated far more market value – nearly $15 billion market. Point out that the Segway creator is an inventor because he focused on his emotional needs (building something technologically innovative, whereas the creator of the Razor scooter are entrepreneurs because they focused on creating products people actually decide to buy and use.
  • Google Glass vs. Warby Paker. Explain that Google Glass, like Segway, was invented as a revolutionary technology, but ended up being the butt of many jokes. Warby Parker, on the other hand, sells glasses that actually solve a problem for customers, so customers want to buy and use them.

Step 3: Setting Up the Game

Tell your students that to understand what people decide to buy, they must first understand how people make decisions. Explain they will play a game to figure that out, and the team that wins a game will get to pick their prize.

Explain that to play the game, your students will:

  • Form teams of two
  • Listen to a recording
  • Answer one question about the recording
  • The team that answers the question the best gets the prize

Let students know they will pick between a real lottery ticket worth up to $40 million, or a dime. Be sure to emphasize the potential value of the lottery ticket (e.g., a chance at $40 million) as opposed to simply describing it as a lottery ticket. Even if the jackpot is more than $40 million, tell them it’s worth $40 million to keep the math consistent for this exercise.

Tell your students that, based on the odds of winning the lottery, and the taxes they’d have to pay on any winnings, the dime is, strictly speaking, more valuable than the lottery ticket. Students should talk in their dyads and decided which prize they want.

Step 4: Lottery Ticket vs. Dime

Ask students to raise their hand if they want the dime. Then ask them to raise their hand if they want to lottery ticket.

The majority will pick the lottery ticket. Ask them

Why do you want a prize that is objectively worth less?

Probe them with questions that highlight any emotions associated with your students’ choices as you begin to hand out copies of the Emotional Palette Canvas

NOTE: Some students will indicate they want the dime instead of the lottery ticket. Be sure to dive in to understand why they want the dime. Ultimately, their preference for the dime will have an emotional component as well, even if it appears to be based entirely on logic (e.g. they want to feel confident, smart, etc.).

Step 5: Emotional Palette Canvas

Explain that this canvas is a tool to help them visualize and compare the intensity of different emotions.

Emotional Palette Canvas - Federico Mammano

Ask students to find the emotions they would feel if they won the lottery ticket. Scores should be in the +3 or +4 range. Ask your students to discuss in their dyad the following question:

Using the Emotional Palette Canvas, how can you explain why most people prefer the shot at $40 million, as opposed to an objectively more valuable dime.

NOTE: The correct answer is that while the objective value of the dime is higher than the lottery ticket, the emotional value (e.g. hope, excitement, fun, etc.) of the ticket is much higher than the dime. Teams should use the Emotional Palette Canvas to illustrate that the lottery ticket emotions “score” higher than the dime emotions.

Step 6: The Man Who Couldn’t Feel

Switch now to the questions that will determine the winning dyad. Tell students to listen carefully to the podcast you will play and think about this question:

What role do emotions play in decision making?

Play this podcast listed in the lesson plan.

Step 7: How Humans Make Decisions

After the podcast, have students answer the following to determine the prize winner:

  • They must link all of the concepts covered today:
    • The difference between inventors and entrepreneurs
    • The majority of the class wants the objectively less valuable, but emotionally more valuable, lottery ticket as a prize
    • What you learned from the podcast
  • To describe:
    • What role do emotions play in decision making?
    • Why did we, like most entrepreneurs, failed in our first experiment?
    • What we should do different next time to avoid repeating our mistakes?

For a sample answer, download the lesson plan!

It may take a few attempts for teams to get all the elements of this answer correct. After a team guesses, provide them feedback and then let another team answer. Continue until all of the elements above have been spoken to.

NOTE: So many people, including the majority of our students, think our decisions are based on logic, reason, and rational thinking. This is an opportunity to highlight that’s not the case. Drive this point home, especially if you’re teaching a large number of logically-oriented students, like engineers or scientists.

Step 8: Recap

This is your chance to drive home the main points of this lesson.

  • There’s no such thing as a human making a purely logical decision. Without emotions, we can’t make decisions.
  • Emotions influence every decision we make including what products are successful and who gets what jobs.
  • Whether one become an entrepreneur, or get a job, how much money one makes depends on how well they understand and fulfill other people’s emotional needs.

Get the “Lottery Ticket Dilemma” Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed “Lottery Ticket Dilemma” lesson plan. This exercise walks you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

This lesson is part of our fully experiential curriculum. If you’d like to see the entire curriculum, click to learn more.

 

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Missed Our Recent Articles?

Whether you are new to our community of entrepreneurship educators, or you’ve been contributing for years, we wanted to give you a list of the posts our community finds most valuable:

  • “The best class I’ve taken!”  We all want a Dead Poets Society moment in our entrepreneurship class. One professor using the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum got hers!
  • Improving Student Idea Generation. Help students build ideas around the customers they are most passionate about helping, and the problems they are most excited to help them resolve.
  • Teachers Need Tools.  Our curriculum makes prepping your entrepreneurship classes a breeze, and makes teaching the classes a powerful experience for students.
Technology Tools to Increase Engagement

Technology Tools to Increase Engagement

It’s no question: technology is shaping how or students engage (or don’t) with us.

From the apps nagging our students for attention during class to the learning management systems (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, etc.) we and our students are asked to wrestle with, technology is absolutely altering how we interact with our students.

That said, when leveraged the right way,

Technology can be a way to increase engagement in the classroom.

In this post, we share some of our favorite tech tools you can use to flip the script on technology and use it to re-engage your students.

Active Learning vs Passive Listening

The first thing to know is that lectures are the antithesis of engagement. If your class is full of:

  • Glazed eyes
  • Distracted fidgeting
  • Lethargic discussions

Remember that it’s not that disengaged students don’t like to learn, the truth is most students love learning. They just hate listening.

Ask yourself, what do Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Netflix all have in common? They are all visual-based technologies that our students have grown up with and spend far more time “learning from” than they do lectures.

Now ask yourself, are your bullet points genuinely more compelling than their latest Instagram story?

If the answer is no, the next question to answer is:

How do you create an active learning experience for your students?

If you’re looking to shift from a “sage on the stage” class to an active learning environment, Kahoot! is a great tool to use.

How to Leverage Kahoot! In Your Entrepreneurship Lesson

Gamification is a great way to increase engagement in class. Using technology like Kahoot! you can create multiple-choice competitions that foster engagement or as an assessment tool. 

Here’s what we love about Kahoot! in the classroom:

  • Produces real-time competition 
  • Encourages instant collaboration
  • Boosts energy with a real-time leader board that students love seeing their names on
  • Inspires discussion among all students

Kahoot! works by showing students a series of multiple-choice questions on your projector and each student (or team of students) uses their smartphone to quickly answer each question. Teams are awarded points for correct answers, and the faster they answer, the more points they get and after each question, they can see how well their team is doing compared to other teams in the class.

If you want to easily try Kahoot!, we’ve actually integrated it into our free Customer Interviewing Cards Exercise. This lesson plan was presented at USASBE 2020 and teaches valuable customer discovery skills.

Give it a shot and you’ll not only teach your students what questions to ask (and questions avoid) during customer interviews, you’ll do it in an engaging way with full class participation.

Nothing Compares to Learning by Doing

Another way to engage students is to have them teach themselves by creating a “learn by doing” experience. For example, if you want to teach students about the power of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), why not use Wix and Powtoon to have your students create their own during class?

Wix: Launch Websites (No Student Experience Required)

Wix is a free and user-friendly website creator. Some of the features we’ve found helpful when using in our lesson plans include:

  • Drag and drop editing
  • Pre-built templates
  • No technical skills required

Powtoon: Your Students Can Create Explainer Videos

Powtoon is an incredibly useful tool to make simple explainer videos fast. Here are some of the features that make Powtoon a useful teaching tool:

  • Wide-variety of templates
  • Change elements with a simple click
  • Animate a video in minutes

While you can plan an entrepreneurial lesson using Wix and Powtoon, we’ve found they can be combined for a powerful lesson. You can try our 60-Minute MVP this semester to introduce your students to Wix and Powtoon so they can see how quickly and easily they can start testing demand for new products, even if they have no tech or video editing skills.

This lesson plan was a finalist in the USASBE 3E competition, and it’s one of the most popular on our site. We hope you give it a shot – not only will it use technology to teach your students new skills, they’ll be completely engaged while they do it.

Design an App Prototype Without Technical Skills

So many of our students want to build apps, but most of them will lack the technical skills to even prototype their apps. Marvel changes that. 

Marvel is an easy to use app that lets your students quickly prototype their app designs by first drawing them on paper, and then simply taking pictures of their designs with their phone, but that’s not all!

Here are some of the exciting features you can leverage in the classroom:

  • Design easily with Marvel’s UI builder
  • Perform usability testing with a simple link
  • Get customer/usability feedback immediately

Marvel is free to use and is perfect to encourage design thinking and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. We created our Marvel App Lesson Plan below to introduce you to this new entrepreneurial teaching tool.

 

Click Here for Our Marvel App Lesson Plan

 

 

 

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.

 

 

 

Incorporate Technology in Your Entrepreneurship Class

When used well, technology can transform your classroom into an experiential, fully-engaged experience for your students. If you’d like to learn more about the technologies we use in our entrepreneurship lesson plans, click to learn more. We hope that it supports the work you do in the classroom, and if you and your students enjoy, check out the full Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum (ExEC).

Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

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2019 Most Popular Lesson Plans

2019 Most Popular Lesson Plans

“This approach to learning is just what students need.” – Eric Liguori, Rowan University

From enabling students to discover ideas that are meaningful to them to improving customer interviews, we design lesson plans to enhance engagement and improve skill-building. The following are our 5 most popular lesson plans from 2019 to transform your students’ experience as they practice generating ideas, interviewing customers, identifying early adopters, and validating assumptions.

5. Increase the Quality of Your Student’s Ideas

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurship professors tell us is inspiring students to come up with ideas that are impactful or solution-centered. 

How do you get your students to focus on problems, not products?

So often, students are attracted to low-impact products without a clear idea of who their customer is, much less why they would want to buy into the idea. We want them to understand that customers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.

Student Idea Generation Lesson

The Student Idea Generation lesson plan sparks your student’s idea generation so they can identify what problems they want to solve. 

Rather than leading a brainstorming session in which students develop business ideas on their own (which can result in unactionable ideas), the Student Idea Generation lesson plan:

  • Instructs students how to pinpoint the customers they’re passionate about helping
  • Leads the students to identify the biggest challenges or problems they want to solve for these groups

In this lesson plan, students first discover the customers they are passionate about helping and the problems/emotions they want to help them with. Students then determine solutions they can use to create a successful business.

After this lesson, your students’ ideas will be:

  • More focused because they’ve identified the specific group they want to help
  • More practical because they’ll be solution-focused
  • More innovative because they’re inspired to solve problems

View Idea Generation Lesson Plan

4. Transform Your Student’s Customer Interviews

Nothing can make some students more uncomfortable than not knowing what to ask during customer interviews.

A number of factors make a student wary of conducting customer interviews, including:

  • Talking to strangers gives them anxiety
  • They’re nervous because they’ve never conducted an interview and want to get it right
  • They don’t understand the benefit of interviews in the first place

Because customer interviewing is so critical to building solutions people want, customer interviews are an integral part of the entrepreneurship curriculum. We designed the Customer Interview lesson plan to eliminate the barriers students have around performing customer interviews.

This comprehensive lesson plan includes materials to prep before class, and step-by-step instructions for leading the lesson. After the lesson, students will walk away understanding:

  • Their role in the interview
  • What makes a successful interview
  • Preparation for real customer interviews
  • Specific interview questions

The benefits of this lesson plan are two-fold:

  • Takes the guesswork out of customer interviews for the students 
  • Minimizes preparation for the instructor

Get the “How to Interview Customers” Lesson Plan

3. Experiential Exercise for Teaching About Early Adopters

Another problem professors shared is teaching students how to identify early adopters. Early adopters are vital for the success of any product or service, but students often struggle in understanding the concept of an early adopter.

Students understand the definition of Early Adopters easier if they’re led through this experiential exercise.
Identifying Early Adopters Experiential Exercise

The Finding Early Adopters lesson plan features a mechanical pencil challenge that introduces the concept of an early adopter and contrasts it with early majority and late majority customers. This exercise also demonstrates where and how to find early adopters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAcSLvRGb-o&feature=youtu.be

This exercise was a finalist in the prestigious 2019 USASBE 3E Competition, which recognizes the best experiential entrepreneurship exercises at the USASBE Annual Conference.

After this lesson plan, students will be able to answer:

  • Who is the target for customer interviews?
  • How and where to find the best prospects for customer interviews?

View the Finding Early Adopters Lesson Plan

2. Coaching for Entrepreneurship Students

While valuable, team projects can be a source of great anxiety for students. Many students working in teams:

  • Worry about their final grade
  • Fall behind with the coursework or understanding of the content
  • Are bored because their team has surpassed other teams’ progress

Team projects can be problematic for professors to successfully meet students’ diverse needs. The How to Coach Your Students lesson plan provides a differentiated learning experience using individual team coaching sessions that provides a positive and productive team experience for all students.

Popular Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans
Individual coaching sessions allow students to quantify the skills they’ve built and identify next steps.

Similar to a daily stand-up approach to scrum meetings, this lesson walks you step-by-step through a process to perform a Stand-Up Coaching session in 1 of 2 ways and discusses the pros and cons of each technique:

  • Coaching through simulation
  • Private team coaching

After this lesson, students will:

  • Shift from searching for the right answer to asking the right questions
  • Focus on learning rather than earning a specific grade
  • Feel better equipped to prepare for their final presentation

View the “Coach Your Students” Lesson Plan

1. The True Meaning of Minimum Viable Product

The 60 Minute MVP remains one of our most popular lesson plans. During this hour-long experience, students launch an MVP website, with an animated video and a way to take pre-orders, without any prior coding experience. 

“One student described it as like a Navy Seal mental training exercise. Not sure it was that intense, but they were amazed and proud that they got it done.” –  ExEC Curriculum Professor
Minimum Viable Product Experiential Exercise

This class is the ultimate combination of engagement and skill-building as the students navigate each task. On the lesson plan page, you can view an example of a video students created based on actual customer problems in about 20 minutes.

After this class, your students will understand:

  • The true meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • It’s easier to launch a product than they assume
  • Launching a product lays the foundation for their entire business

View 60 Minute MVP Lesson Plan

Bonus: The Power of Customer Observations

In addition to teaching customer interviewing techniques, we developed a Teaching Customer Observations lesson plan because it helps solidify the student’s understanding of the importance of understanding their customer’s problems. In this lesson plan, students experience first-hand the value of seeing how their customers experience problems rather than just imagining certain scenarios.

Customer Observations Lesson Plan

The goal of this lesson is to teach students to have a clear picture of their customer’s problems before they try to come up with a solution. 

After this class, students will understand

  • The value of observing customer behavior rather than trying to predict it
  • How to listen with their eyes to improve empathy for what their customers value and care about

In addition to the positive feedback we’ve received from the community using this exercise,

this lesson won first place in the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Exercises Awards at the USASBE 2019 Annual Conference!

View Teaching Customer Observations Lesson Plan

Want an Experiential + Structured Curriculum?

If you’re looking for a comprehensive, tested, experiential entrepreneurship curriculum to use next semester, that fully engages your students, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Check out the Experiential Entrepreneurship Curriculum and we’ll get you set up!

Entrepreneurship Lesson Plans

Get our Next Free Lesson Plan

We email new experiential entrepreneurship lesson plans regularly.

Subscribe here to get our next lesson plan in your inbox!

Join 10,000+ instructors and get new entrepreneurship lesson plans and exercises via email!