We just finished our 4th annual Hacking for Defense class at Stanford. At the end of each class we have each team give a Lessons Learned presentation. Unlike traditional demo days or Shark Tanks which are “here’s how smart I am, please give me money,” a Lessons Learned presentation tells a story of a journey of hard-won learning and discovery. For all the teams it’s a roller coaster narrative of what happens when you discover that everything you thought you knew was wrong and how they eventually got it right.
Watching each of the teams present I was left with wonder and awe about what they accomplished in 10 weeks.
- The eight teams spoke to over 820 beneficiaries, stakeholders, requirements writers, program managers, warfighters, legal, security, customers, etc.
- By the end the class all of the teams realized that the problem as given by the sponsor had morphed into something bigger, deeper and much more interesting.
If you can’t see the video of Palmer Luckey click here
Each of the eight teams presented a 2-minute video to provide context about their problem.
Followed by an 8-minute slide presentation follow their customer discovery journey over the 10-weeks. All the teams used the Mission Model Canvas, Customer Development and Agile Engineering to build Minimal Viable Products, but all of their journeys were unique.
All the presentations are worth a watch.
If you can’t see the Panacea 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the Panacea team presenting click here
If you can’t see the Panacea slides click here
This class is part of a bigger idea – Mission-Driven Entrepreneurship. Instead of students or faculty coming in with their own ideas – we now have them working on societal problems, whether they’re problems for the State Department or the Department of Defense, or non-profits/NGOs, or for the City of Oakland or for energy or the environment, or for anything they’re passionate about. And the trick is we use the same Lean LaunchPad / I-Corps curriculum – and kept the same class structure – experiential, hands-on, driven this time by amission-model not a business model.
Mission-driven entrepreneurship is the answer to students who say, “I want to give back. I want to make my community, country or world a better place, while solving some of the toughest problems.”
If you can’t see the Learn2Win 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the Leanr2Win team presenting click here
If you can’t see the Leanr2Win slides click here
It Started with an Idea
Hacking for Defense has its origins in the Lean LaunchPad class I first taught at Stanford in 2011. I observed that teaching case studies and/or how to write a business plan as a capstone entrepreneurship class didn’t match the hands-on chaos of a startup. And that there was no entrepreneurship class that combined experiential learning with the Lean methodology. Our goal was to teach both theory and practice.
The same year we started the class, it was adopted by the National Science Foundation to train Principal Investigators who wanted to get a federal grant for commercializing their science (an SBIR grant.) The NSF observed, “The class is the scientific method for entrepreneurship. Scientists understand hypothesis testing” and relabeled the class as the NSF I-Corps (Innovation Corps). The class is now taught in 9 regional locations supporting 98 universities and has trained over 1500 science teams. It was adopted by the National Institutes of Health as I-Corps at NIH in 2014 and at the National Security Agency in 2015.
If you can’t see the EmbargoNK 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the EmbargoNK team presenting click here
If you can’t see the EmbargoNK slides click here
Origins of Hacking For Defense
In 2016, brainstorming with Pete Newell of BMNT and Joe Felter at Stanford we observed that students in our research universities had little connection to the problems their government as well as the larger issues civil society was grappling with. Wondering how we could get students engaged, we realized the same Lean LaunchPad/I-Corps class would provide a framework to do so. That year Hacking for Defense and Hacking for Diplomacy (with Professor Jeremy Weinstein) with the State Department were both launched at Stanford.
If you can’t see the Common Ground 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the Common Ground team presenting click here
If you can’t see the Common Ground slides click here
Goals for the Hacking for Defense Class
Our primary goal was to teach students Lean Innovation while they engaged in a national public service. Today if college students want to give back to their country they think of Teach for America, the Peace Corps, or Americorps or perhaps the US Digital Service or the GSA’s 18F. Few consider opportunities to make the world safer with the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community or other government agencies.
Next, we wanted the students to learn about the nation’s threats and security challenges while working with innovators inside the DoD and Intelligence Community. While doing so, also teach our sponsors (the innovators inside the Department of Defense (DOD) and Intelligence Community (IC)) that there is a methodology that can help them understand and better respond to rapidly evolving asymmetric threats. That if we could get teams to rapidly discover the real problems in the field using Lean methods, and only then articulate the requirements to solve them, could defense acquisition programs operate at speed and urgency and deliver timely and needed solutions.
Finally, we wanted to familiarize students about the military as a profession, its expertise, and its proper role in society. And conversely show our sponsors in the Department of Defense and Intelligence community that civilian students can make a meaningful contribution to problem understanding and rapid prototyping of solutions to real-world problems.
If you can’t see the Deepfakes 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the Deepfakes team presenting click here
If you can’t see the Deepfakes slides click here
Mission-driven in 30 Universities
Hacking for Defense is offered in over 25 universities, but quickly following, Orin Herskowitz started Hacking for Energy at Columbia, Steve Weinstein started Hacking for Impact (Non-Profits) and Hacking for Local (Oakland) at Berkeley and will be starting Hacking for Oceans at Scripps. Hacking for Conservation and Development at Duke followed.
Instead of students or faculty coming in with their own ideas – we now have them working on societal problems, whether they’re problems for the State Department or the military or non-profits/NGOs, or for the City of Oakland or for energy or the environment, or for anything they’re passionate about. And the trick is we use the same Lean LaunchPad / I-Corps curriculum – and kept the same class structure – experiential, hands-on, driven this time by a mission-model not a business model.
If you can’t see the Intellisense 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the Intellisense team presenting click here
If you can’t see the Intellisense slides click here
If you can’t see the Gutenberg 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the Gutenberg team presenting click here
If you can’t see the Gutenberg slides click here
If you can’t see the PredictiMx 2-minute video click here
If you can’t see the video of the PredictiMX team presenting click here
If you can’t see the PredictiMx slides click here
It Takes a Village
While I authored this blog post, this classes is a team project. The teaching team consisted of:
- Pete Newell is a retired Army Colonel currently a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the National Defense University’s Center for Technology and National Security Policy and CEO of BMNT.
- Steve Weinstein a 30-year veteran of Silicon Valley technology companies and Hollywood media companies. Steve is CEO of MovieLabs the joint R&D lab of all the major motion picture studios.
- Tom Bedecarré was the founder and CEO of AKQA, the leading digital advertising agency. Four decades as part of the most successful advertising agencies in the world.
- Jeff Decker is a social science researcher at Stanford. Jeff served in the U.S. Army as a special operations light infantry squad leader in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our teaching assistants Nate Simon, Aidan Daniel McCarty, Mackenzie Burnett and Diego Cervantes. A special thanks to Rich Carlin and the Office of Naval Research for supporting the program at Stanford and across the country. And our course advisor – Tom Byers, Professor of Engineering and Faculty Director, STVP
We were lucky to get a team of mentors (VC’s and entrepreneurs) who selflessly volunteered their time to help coach the teams. Thanks to Kevin Ray, Lisa Wallace, Rafi Holtzman, Craig Seidel, Todd Basche, Don Peppers, Robert Locke, and Mark Clapper.
We were privileged to have the support of an extraordinary all volunteer team of professional senior military officers representing all branches of service attending fellowship programs at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, and Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and Asia Pacific Research Center (APARC) at the Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) as well as from the Defense Innovation Unit. These included:Tim Mungie, Tim Murphy, Matt Kent, Todd Mahar, Donnie Hasseltine, Jay Garcia, Kevin Childs.
And of course a big shout-out to our sponsors. At United Nations Command Security Battalion – CPT Justin Bingham, Air Force Air Combat Command – Mr. Steven Niewiarowski, Office of the Secretary of Defense Asian & Pacific Security Affairs – Chief of Staff Julie Sheetz, U.S. Coast Guard – Security Specialist Asad Hussain, IQT – Vishal Sandesara, Veterans Adminstration – Kristopher “Kit” Teague, Chief Operating Officer, IARPA – John Beieler, DNI – Dean Souleles
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