Steve Blank is a startup "whisperer"--the guy that entrepreneurs turn to when they have questions about how to start or energize their business. He's been through it all: Across 21 years, he helped start eight high tech companies. He kicked off his last company,
E.piphany, in his living room. Later, he wrote books (Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owners Manual) and began teaching about entrepreneurship at places including U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and Columbia University.
I know all this about Steve both
because I read his blog and because I met him during one of those earlier incarnations--when he was helping run a supercomputer firm, Ardent, and I was a technology reporter. Years later, as my cofounders and I were getting EdSurge off the ground, Steve was one of the people I was most thrilled to re-meet. This time, my questions were all about the joys and agonies of starting a company. (And I'm proud to say that Steve found the ideas behind EdSurge compelling enough that he became an investor.)
More recently, I got a note from Steve with yet another twist: He wanted to do the interviewing.
Beginning this autumn, Steve has aired a radio show on Sirius XM (and related podcasts), teasing out the stories of entrepreneurs. (The program is broadcast on Thursdays at 1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111.) He says he wants to trace the stories of founders building everything from restaurants to rockets -- to examine "the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas" as well as the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
Recently, Steve interviewed two edtech entrepreneurs:
Miriam Altman, co-founder of Kinvolved, which aims to improve high school graduation rates by increasing student attendance and me.
Altman points out that entrepreneurship does not involve keeping an idea "within your own head but talking to people in a variety of different areas." Contributions from school leaders, teachers, researchers and others led her and cofounder, Alexandra Meis, to build Kinvolved to boost family engagement in education and to tackle the problem of student absenteeism.
"No matter how you think things are going to go, they never go that way, so being flexible and comfortable with uncertainty is necessary," Altman says.
And me? Well, I tell a few stories from my life as a journalist and what motivated me and my cofounders to start EdSurge. I also share the single biggest piece of career advice I ever got. (Sorry, no spoilers! You've got to check out the interviews.)
The full interviews are available from SoundCloud--
Altman here and Corcoran here. And past interviews that Steve's done with other entrepreneurs are here.)
I'm betting Steve finds another book in all this. In the meantime, enjoy the tales.
Editor's note: Steve Blank is an investor in EdSurge.