Silicon Valley entrepreneur returns to his Queens high school alma mater to inspire students

Steve Blank
Photo courtesy of BTECH

Queens native and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank addressed students at his alma mater, Martin Van Buren High School, on Tuesday morning about the importance of an education and a budding career in entrepreneurship.

Blank, a graduate of Martin Van Buren — located at 230-17 Hillside Ave. in Queens Village  returned after 50 years to chat with students in a packed auditorium Jan. 8 from the Business Technology Early College High School (BTECH).

BTECH is an innovative six-year education program that was developed through the partnership of Queensborough Community College, multinational technology software corporation SAP, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and CUNY.

The visionary innovator shared three key advice tips to BTECH students on becoming a successful entrepreneur: communication, a college education and obtaining resilience and tenacity.

“The word ‘resilience’ is a key part of being an entrepreneur because you get knocked down a lot,” Blank said. “First you’ll discover whether you have it in you naturally or if you don’t, you need to learn how to do it because it’ll get you through life.”

Blank, who resides in Pescadero, California, is a sought-after speaker, best-selling author, distinguished professor and founder of several successful companies.

Voted “less likely to succeed” in high school, Blank has become the “father of modern entrepreneurship.” He changed how startups are built; how entrepreneurship is taught worldwide; how science is commercialized in the U.S.; and how companies and the government innovate.

Blank created the NFS Innovation Corps Program, which includes the Lean LaunchPad and the CUNY Innovation Challenge. It provides students with real-world, hands-on learning experiences and pathways to successfully transfer that knowledge into products and services that benefit society. The initiatives dovetail with Queensborough programs that showcase student creativity and commitment, allowing them to bring their ideas to life and effectively communicate those ideas to an audience of peers and judges.

When asked about his success after dropping out of college, Blank said, “You have to care about something. If you don’t care, whether it’s school, a job, or something, you’ll be floating around in life.”

Blank encouraged students to continue their education and to believe in themselves, even during times of failure.

“Practice being an entrepreneur in school. I wish I would’ve went to a four-year college rather than having to learn it by myself,” Blank said. “I paid for that every year when I didn’t know something.”

Blank added, “All of you are going to fail in your life and that’s the nature of life, but how you deal with those failures and those screw-ups is what is going to affect you as a person. You have to own it, and once you’re able to own it, you have to fix it.”

Blank said he remains humbled by his failures learning lessons not just about himself but the nature of failure and success in Silicon Valley.

“There is no limit on what you could do in this country,” Blank said. “You can do anything you want. You just have to be passionate about it.”