Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

The Secret History of Silicon Valley, by Steve Blank

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I consider attending the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum to be one of the high points of each month during the academic year. The Forum is the premier event developed and hosted by the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. I’m a member of the Advisory Council for the Entrepreneurs Forum, and I’ve enjoyed participating very much.

The draw for the evening is the speaker or panel on a subtopic of entrepreneurship. The action though is in the networking during the cocktail hour prior to the formal program and immediately after the program when there’s an opportunity to meet the speakers. I’ve shaken hands with more billionaires at the Entrepreneurs Forum than at any other single place.

The most recent program was by an individual speaker, my favorite format. The speaker was Steve Blank, the same Steve Blank I saw at the Commonwealth Club of California last month.

Blank delivered his talk entitled ‘The secret history of Silicon Valley’, which I had already watched on YouTube from an earlier presentation elsewhere. This talk is rich with colorful information about how Silicon Valley was formed. It’s a fascinating story tightly intertwined with Stanford University and World War II, of all things. I didn’t know this, I’m embarrassed to admit. But I would guess 99% of people don’t know this history.

I shot high definition video of Blank’s talk, but I have decided to link instead to the official version, which is edited with clear views of his slides. I’m not a fan of speaker slides generally, but these slides really do help tell the remarkable story more effectively.

I’ve heard Blank is an exceptionally engaging and likeable teacher, which probably explains why he won the Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Berkeley-Columbia MBA Program last year 2010. Jerry Engel, the Faculty Director of the Lester Center, said in his opening remarks to Blank’s talk that he’s envious of Blank, since Engel hasn’t received this award.

Here’s the YouTube video of Blank’s talk, which happened February 24, 2011 in the Anderson Auditorium at the Haas School of Business on the UC Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California, USA.

Engel was a member of the board of advisors for my first company, Hotpaper.com, Inc. and is a member of the board of advisors for my current company, Silveroffice, Inc., the makers of gOffice, the first true online office suite, launched in 2004.

Steve Blank wrote what I consider to be the best book I’ve read on how to start a successful technology company — The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Successful Strategies for Products that Win.

The four steps to the Epiphany book cover

The four steps to the Epiphany book cover

If you consider yourself an entrepreneur, even if you’ve been successful for years, you need to own this book and read it multiple times, because you’ve probably just been lucky. Seriously.

Written by Kevin Warnock

March 21st, 2011 at 5:00 am

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