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Startup guru Steve Blank speaks at an Alliance of Angels event in Seattle.
Startup guru Steve Blank speaks at an Alliance of Angels event in Seattle.

Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley thought leader on the lean startup concept, admits he’s a little conflicted on the debate over the value of higher education for the modern entrepreneur.

He holds faculty cards at Stanford, UC Berkley, Columbia and NYU and wrote the curriculum for the National Science Foundation’s entrepreneurship class taught at universities across the country.

He’s also a college dropout.

That puts Blank — co-author of the book The Startup Owner’s Manual — right at intersection of two conflicting schools of thought. There are the ardent educators who still believe in a classic business school education, and those like billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel who has been paying students to drop out of school for years.

Startup guru Steve Blank
Startup guru Steve Blank

“Here’s where I think both Thiel is wrong and university educators are wrong,” Blank said in an interview before speaking at Alliance of Angels event in Seattle earlier this month. “They’re thinking it’s one size fits all. I think the real question is who are you and how can you maximize your learning?”

Apprenticeship turned out to be the way Blank learned best. Thats where he got all the training he needed to start three companies, including one that went public in 1999.

So instead of getting tangled in the debate over whether or not a college education is worthwhile, Blank said he wants to see more entrepreneurs look at themselves and what it’s going to take for them to find the skills they’ll need.

“Are you going to do it just partying on for four years? Then just buy all the dope you want and save the tuition money,” Blank said.

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