CS183C: Technology-enabled Blitzscaling: The Visible Secret of Silicon Valley’s Success

This fall I’m teaching a Stanford class on how to scale at speed — which we call ‘blitzscaling’ — with John Lilly, Allen Blue and Chris Yeh. We’ve already lined up some great speakers such as Sam Altman, Elizabeth Holmes, Jeff Weiner, Selina Tobaccowalla, Jen Pahlka and many others. The application deadline is September 18.

Silicon Valley has become a global leader in innovation, technology, and new industry creation. The nearly universal explanation for Silicon Valley’s success: entrepreneurs, venture capital, technical universities, existing technology companies — which all lead to launching great startups. So, the explanation for the creation of massive new industries is this: Silicon Valley is great because it has a unique ability to create startups.

However, Silicon Valley is no longer unique in its ability to launch startups. Today, many parts of the world are rich in all of the necessary ingredients. There are bright young technical graduates from universities around the world. Venture capital has gone global. And, technology companies have R&D centers in many areas of the world. There has even been a global expansion of some of the more subtle elements such as a culture acceptance of the potential failure of bold ventures. Through the internet (as with this article!), essential startup knowledge is now available to enterprising entrepreneurs everywhere. And, the belief in entrepreneurship is spreading everywhere in the world — creating a receptive culture in many cities.

So, why does Silicon Valley continue to produce so many industry-transforming companies? The secret has moved past startups to scaleups. As the networked age has increased the competitive importance of speed, the key secret is now scaling up at speed. Two areas of the world do this well with many companies: Silicon Valley and some cities in China.

When you scale at speed, you can capture the market quickly and also outmaneuver potentially global competition. Given the parallels with military and sports strategies, we can call this blitz-scaling.

Literally: lightning-scaling.

And to some degree, this is not a surprise. When you examine the history of iconic Silicon Valley companies, they quickly grew their customers, revenue, and organizational scale to fit a global market.  Most of the impact and value creation that Silicon Valley companies produce actually occurs during this scaleup phase.

Building great, world-changing companies requires more than just building a cool app and raising some money. It requires entrepreneurs to build massive organizations, user bases, and businesses, and to doso at a dizzyingly rapid pace. That’s how a Mark Zuckerberg can build a Facebook from garage startup to the world’s most popular Internet service in just six years.

This fall, John Lilly and I (along with my friends Allen Blue and Chris Yeh) will be teaching a class at Stanford on how founders can scale up great products into great companies. John is a fellow investment partner at Greylock and the former CEO of Mozilla, Allen and I co-founded LinkedIn; and Chris is my co-author from “The Alliance” and a long-time startup mentor. We’re calling this process "Technology-enabled Blitzscaling" (though we’re still trying out other metaphors), to capture the all-out effort that rapid scaling requires. Chris and I are also writing another book, tentatively titled Blitzscaling.

The class will meet at Stanford each Tuesday and Thursday, from 4:30 – 5:50 PM. Every two weeks, we’ll cover a different level of scale, ranging from "household" to "village" to "nation," and points in between. Each unit of the class will include an introductory lecture from one or more of the instructors, as well as conversations with three guest speakers who have personal experience with that level of scale. We’ve already lined up some great speakers such as Sam Altman, Elizabeth Holmes, Jeff Weiner, Selina Tobaccowalla, Jen Pahlka and many others.

Some of the critical questions about scaling that we’ll dig into:

• What is the role of the founder?

• What is the role of the CEO?

• What is the best approach to hiring an executive team?

• What is the proper role of middle management in the organization?

• What is the function of the Board of Directors and investors?

• What is the state of the product?

• What is the work that needs to be done on product-market fit?

• What are the roles of sustaining and disruptive innovation?

• How should you deal with competition?

• What is the appropriate financing strategy?

• How should the company make decisions about capital allocation?

• How should you think about marketing and branding?

• How do companies scale up customer acquisition?

• How do different sales models change as the business grows?

• How should you handle hiring and company culture?

• What are the major threats to the firm?

• What are the key decisions and questions?

• What role do analytics and dashboards play?

• When and how should you worry about globalization?

• How do you get the most out of partnerships and business development?

• How should your technology strategy change over time?

While the class is primarily for Stanford students, we will be saving a few spots for members of the tech entrepreneur community. Because we anticipate heavy demand for the class, we will be running an application process to select people that a) will benefit the most from the class, and b) are likely to impact the world in the future through applying blitzscale.

Stanford students can go here to apply: https://airtable.com/shrb80QDjgFhaDsCw

Community members can go here to apply: https://airtable.com/shr8W8KW44BrUeGe3

I’m announcing the class so that as many folks as possible have the chance to check their schedules and apply before the application deadline of September 18.

If you do not get a spot in the class, we are also recording all the class sessions and will be making them available to the public.

I hope this class will shed some light on one of the incredible, yet overlooked aspects of Silicon Valley, and that in the years and decades to come, it will help those who take the course or view the videos to build remarkable, world-changing companies.

This article was originally published here on September 14, 2015