Welcome to the blog of the inaugural Hacking for Energy class! Hacking for Energy is a new semester-long course for grad students to solve real-world challenges facing the energy industry by using the “Lean LaunchPad” approach to entrepreneurship. Based on Steve Blank’s Hacking for Defense class (first taught in Spring 2016 at Stanford), Hacking for Energy features problem statements supplied by Industry Hosts for energy issues that need immediate solutions. Hacking for Energy is taught at Columbia University, and is open to students at Columbia, NYU, and CUNY.
Prior to the class start, we worked with 10 companies with major energy challenges to submit 13 problem statements for the class. Students then independently formed 4-person teams and applied to participate in the course by proposing solutions to the supplied problem statements. We ended up get 23 applications and invited 6 to participate in the course. These 6 four-person teams will now have 14 weeks to evolve their solution through customer discovery. They will be required to interview 100 customers (not an easy task), modify their business idea and potential solution based on what they learn from those interviews, and keep on top of the rest of their coursework for grad school. To help them with this, we are requiring them to participate in office hours with the teaching team and entrepreneurship instructors, and providing them a mentor for additional advice and guidance.
Much like how Hacking for Defense was an experiment to see if Lean LaunchPad could be used to help innovate and solve problems in the national security and defense industries, our class is a similar experiment for the multi-faceted (and somewhat bureaucratic) energy sector. In an industry dominated by old infrastructure, extensive regulation, and long procurement timelines, what opportunities exist for innovation using Lean LaunchPad? With this course, we hope to find out.