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Mentor and Advisor Handbook
Stanford University Graduate School of Engineering
2015 Winter Term
Classes meet 4:15 – 7:05 pm Tuesday
Littlefield Room 103
Jennifer TsauAkaash Nanda
Stanford Mentor Handbook Revision 4.4 2015 page 2 of 6
Welcome as a team mentor or advisor in the Lean LaunchPad course at Stanford.
Mentors play an active role in weekly coaching of a specific team.
Advisors are on-call resources for the entire class.
The Role of Mentors
As a mentor, you are an extension of the Teaching Team responsible for the success or
failure of one team with four or five students. The role of the mentors is to help their
teams test their business model hypotheses. Here’s what they do:
In ten very short weeks your team has to 1) get outside the classroom and test all their
business model hypotheses and 2) if it’s a web-based business get it up and running
and if it’s a physical product – build a prototype.
Here’s what you are signing up for:
Offering your team strategic guidance and wisdom:
• Offer business model suggestions
• Identify and correct gaps in the teams business knowledge
Providing your team with tactical guidance every week:
• Meet with your team each week (by phone, skype or in person)
• Review your team’s weekly presentation before they present
• Comment weekly on your team’s Customer Discovery progress via Launchpad
(this is hard to do unless you’re watching the Udacity videos as well.)
• Respond to the teaching team’s critique of your team
Stanford Mentor Handbook Revision 4.4 2015 page 3 of 6
• Rolodex help - “why don’t you call x? Let me connect you.”
• Push your team to make 10 - 15 customer contacts each week
• Meet one-on-one with your team in person at least twice during the quarter;
Skype/Google Hangout etc. and conference calls are OK for other meetings
• Check in with teaching team at class 3 and 7 to discuss student progress
• Help your team focus, and guide to possibly pivot when the data points for the
need to change
• Attend your team’s final presentation
The Mentor Briefing is Tuesday January 6th from 3:00 – 3:45 pm at, ADD ROOM (we
need the room name here)
The first class follows from 4:15 -7:05pm.
The Role of Advisors
As an advisor, you are a class resource for your particular domain expertise.
Here’s what you are signing up for:
• Respond to student emails/phone calls within 24-hours
• Skype calls with one/two teams a week, as needed
Invitations to both Mentors/Advisors
• You are welcome to attend any and all lectures and weekly student
• Your instructor for your specific cohort may invite you to speak at a class for
10 minutes on a subject of general interest
Course Goal: Lean Startups
Provide an experiential learning opportunity to see how entrepreneurs really build
companies. In ten weeks, each team transforms a technology idea into a venture-scale
business opportunity. Do it by having them get outside the classroom and test each
element of their business model.
The goal is not a business plan, revenue plan, 5 year forecast, etc.
BTW, this is the class that the National Science Foundation has standardized on to
teach their best scientists and engineers. See:
Mentors and Getting Out of the Building
The class is about teaching the students that the 9 building blocks of a business model
are simply hypotheses until they actually validate them with customers and partners;
and since there are “no facts inside the building, they need to get outside.” This means
as part of this class they need to talk to customers, channel partners, and domain
experts and gather real-world data – for each part of their plan.
Stanford Mentor Handbook Revision 4.4 2015 page 4 of 6
This can be a daunting and formidable task. To the best of your ability, help them
network, teach them how to send email and make phone calls and run customer
surveys. Open your rolodex to whatever level you feel comfortable with.
Your role is to help the teams figure out how to test their hypotheses about their
Questions that are helpful are, “have you considered x?” “why don’t you look at
company z and see what their business model is and compare it to yours,” or “here are
some names of domain experts in the field, you should talk to them.” Try to avoid
specifically telling them what to do.
Remember: The class is not trying to be an incubator or accelerator. We are trying to
give students models, heuristics and experience they can apply when they leave
Stanford. The class is about what they learn on the journey.
Mentors and Web-based Startups
If your team is building a web-based business they need to get the site up and running
during the semester. The goal is not a finished or polished site but a vehicle so they
can test their assumptions about minimum viable product, demand creation, virality,
Admission to the class was by interviews of pre-formed teams that can come from
anyplace in the Stanford graduate community (faculty, residents, post docs, PhD
students, Masters students).
The teams will self-organize and establish individual roles on their own. There are no
formal CEO/VP’s. Just the constant parsing and allocating of the tasks that need to be
Teams that select a web-based product will have to build the website for the class.
Teams that select a physical product must have a bill of material and if possible a
The teams will be blogging their progress in-between classes using LaunchPad Central.
It is an integral part of their deliverables. It’s how we measure their progress (along
with their in-class Powerpoint presentations.) Each time they post they you will get
notified. Your commitment as a mentor is to look at their posts in-between class and
give them written feedback.
Stanford Mentor Handbook Revision 4.4 2015 page 5 of 6
Lean Launchpad Course Organization
The course is organized around Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas and
Steve Blank’s Customer Development process. (See the syllabus for details)
Each week’s class is organized around:
a lecture on one of the 9 building blocks of a business model.
teams present their “lessons learned” from getting out of the building and
iterating or pivoting their business model.
The Eight (3 hour) Class Sessions:
Session 1: Jan 6th – Course Introduction, Business Models, Customer
Session 2: Jan 13th – Value Proposition
Session 3: Jan 20th – Customer Segment
Session 4: Jan 27th – Channels
Session 5: Feb 3rd – Customer Relationships
Session 6: Feb 10th – Revenue Model
Session 7: Feb 17th – Activities/Resources/Partners
Session 8: Feb 24th – Costs/Op Plan/Funding
Session 9: March 3rd – Presentation workshop
Classes meet Tuesday at 4:15-7:05pm Littlefield Hall Room 103
Office hours with faculty are held before class or at other times during the week
• Market Type
• Pricing Model / Pricing
• Size of Opportunity/Market
• Validate Business Model
Stanford Mentor Handbook Revision 4.4 2015 page 6 of 6
Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation
Steven Blank, Four Steps to the Epiphany http://www.stevenblank.com/books.html
Talking to Humans: Constable & Rimalovski
The students, faculty and TA’s are all using a software program called LaunchPad
Central to track the students progress in and out of the building.
At a minimum you should be using it to look at their week-by-week customer discovery
interactions. (We make them keep a narrative of every customer interview.)
Your TA will help you get up to speed on LaunchPad Central and you can help by
watching this short tutorial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26Y8ZkF1Wk0
The best way for you to get a feel of the course is to:
1. Read the blogs about the previous class.
If you can’t read all of the posts at least read this one:
a-management-science/ and this one:
2. Download and breeze through the explanation of the Business Model Canvas
3. Look at the students’ weekly and final presentations:
and the National Science Foundation presentations:
4. Read the class syllabus
Thanks once again for your support and participation,
The Teaching Team