Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1 – Intro

Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1 – Intro

When we ran a workshop with Dr. Alex Osterwalder about how he teaches his Business Model Canvas, attendees were so excited about what he was sharing, 98% of them voted to change our schedule on the fly and extend his session from 60 to 90 minutes.

The exercises he was sharing were too engaging to let him stop.

In this article, the first in a 3-part series, we’ll structure Osterwalder’s exercises into easy-to-implement lesson plans you can use with your students.


Exercise #1: Business Model Matching

To introduce students to the 9 components of the BMC, Dr. Osterwalder starts by giving students a set of business model hypotheses and asking them to place each one in the appropriate box of the BMC.

Prepping Before Class

To make the most efficient use of class time, assign students to watch these videos before class:

Then you’ll want to print out the worksheets linked in the lesson plan below. Digital worksheets are also in the lesson plan if you’re teaching remotely.


Step 1: Fill the Boxes

Alex uses Airbnb in his first exercise because:

  1. Students are familiar with Airbnb
  2. As a two-sided marketplace, Airbnb is a great example of how one business model may need to fulfill the needs of multiple customer segments to be successful

Starting with the “Airbnb BMC: Travelers” worksheet, ask students to write each of the provided business model hypotheses in their appropriate boxes:

Copies of this worksheet are available in the lesson plan below.

We recommend each student complete this individually. While students will work in pairs for the next step, to help increase engagement and discussion, we like using Think. Pair. Share. with this type of exercise, which starts by having students work on their own.


Step 2: Pair

Next, ask students to pair up (if necessary, create breakout rooms for virtual students), and compare their answers. If there’s anything they disagree on, ask them to try to discuss and come to a consensus.

Note: this is an important part of the Think. Pair. Share. process. Talking with a peer helps them organize their thoughts better and practice vocalizing them. If your students are reluctant to speak in class, pairing students up like this before asking for a class-wide discussion can help inspire more interaction.


Step 3: Share

Reconvene the class. Go one by one through the boxes and ask a pair to share what they wrote for a particular box. Go through each of the boxes in this order:

  1. Customer Segments
  2. Value Proposition
  3. Channels
  4. Customer Relationship
  5. Revenue Streams
  6. Cost Structure
  7. Key Activities
  8. Key Resources
  9. Key Partners

Ask a new pair to report out what they wrote for each box and then ask the rest of the class if they had anything else different for that box. If student pairs disagree on what should be in a particular box, use that as an opportunity to increase discussion and, before you reveal the correct answer, have your students vote on which answer they think will be right.

Business Model Canvas for Airbnb Travelers

Slides with the correct answers, like the one above, are available in the lesson plan below.


Step 4: Repeat with Airbnb Hosts

Now ask students to fill out the AirBnB BMC: Hosts worksheet using the same Think-Pair-Share technique. 

Take time to explain that many businesses don’t have just one business model as a part of their success. Instead, many businesses, like Airbnb, are a multi-sided market. In this business model, the needs of two parties must be met.

You can highlight the popularity of this business model by pointing out that Uber, Doordash, Amazon all have this multi-sided market where the business has to keep multiple customers happy.

Business Model Canvas for Airbnb Hosts


Summary & Next Steps

Alex prefers simple matching exercises like these as a quick way to introduce the BMC. For more details on how to use it, including worksheets and slides, check out the free lesson plan below.

Next up, Alex provides students with BMCs that are partially filled out and asks students to fill in the rest – which we’ll detail in the next article in this series! We’ll share two more steps in the process Dr. Osterwalder uses to teach the business model canvas:

  • How to use fill in the blank exercises to help students create their own canvases
  • How to use prioritization exercises to teach how to use the BMC to test business model assumptions

Want More from Dr. Osterwalder?

If you like this exercise, Alex also has two new books that are great resources for the classroom:

Find more about Alex’s work at Strategyzer.com.

Watch Alex Teach

If you’d like to see Alex teach the Business Model Canvas himself, just enter your email below to watch his full workshop on Teaching the BMC:

Get the Teaching the Business Model Canvas Lesson Plan

We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Teaching the Business Model Canvas: Part 1” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.

Get the Lesson Plan

It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers so share it with another instructor you know.


Read Part 2 In This Series of Teaching the Business Model Canvas

Check out the second post in this series, focused on using a fill-in-the-blank exercise to help students develop their own hypotheses.


What’s Next?

In upcoming posts, we will share two more steps in the process Dr. Osterwalder uses to teach the business model canvas.

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