It’s an exciting time to be a graduate… Steve Blank’s commencement speech

When I graduated college, I don’t even recall there was a commencement speech. Presumably there was. But I don’t recall a single nanosecond of it. Nothing was said to kick me into the world, all fired up and ready to change it when I got there. So, not having anything better planned and no better offers, I left London for America, and ended up in Silicon Valley in the mid 1980s, working on software for the newly launched Apple Macintosh.

Lucky me.

Steve Blank’s commencement speech to ESADE speaks to global business leaders of tomorrow, but could just as well be spoken to anyone starting out in the world today.  To those who don’t have the wherewithal, or the courage (yet) to start their own company. Or to those who are joining companies that are started by those who do have that wherewithal and courage. Or to those who are working inside the stodgy organizations of yesterday and wondering why they feel so unempowered. Or even to those who just don’t know where they are going next.

The message is the same: be an optimist. There’s opportunity absolutely everywhere.

When the taxicab or hotel business lobbyists run to the politicians to get laws passed that will save their business, you know Uber and AirBNB are onto something. It’s sad when a local bookstore closes down, but exciting when you can borrow any book at any time from your library on your Kindle, because Mr Bezos figured out something before anyone else.

These technology innovations are changing the rules of businesses that have for decades enjoyed market dominance. And there are many more begging for change. Because as consumers, we are becoming more demanding, and we won’t settle for the status quo any more. And we’re not afraid of change.

I asked someone yesterday “when was the last time you browsed live TV channels?” His response? “Probably about five years ago.” Same for me — apart from occasional, miserable experiments with “I’m bored, what’s on?…” that last maybe 10 minutes before the TV goes off and Amazon or Netflix goes on. Because live TV pisses me off.  The absolute unadulterated rubbish, interspersed by absolutely ghastly advertisements, on 500 channels that I don’t want to ever see. Ever. Ever. No love lost for me there.

The last time I went into the AT&T store to sort out my complicated mobile phone bill for a family of five, I came out thinking that I was being shafted at every turn. Every possible dime was being squeezed out of me for things I don’t think I need or know about. No love lost for me there either.

After both experiences, I know that the moment I can switch to a new, disruptive technology to replace my TV and my mobile phone, I will. Cable, AT&T and Comcast? You’re next.

It’s a truly exciting time to be a newly minted graduate.

Lucky you.