Event Recaps

[VIDEO] Steve Blank, Avril Haines on Hacking for Defense and Diplomacy

On January 10th, Lean Startup pioneer Steve Blank, creator of the “Hacking for X” series of classes, joined in conversation with Avril Haines, former White House Deputy National Security Advisor and former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, for a provocative discussion of how proven tools for innovation can be successfully applied to complex problems inside our national defense structure.

  • [Excerpt] Introductions (2:07)
  • [Excerpt] A Bit About Avril (5:48)
  • [Excerpt] A Bit About Steve (2:51)
  • [Excerpt] Big Idea: Startups Aren’t Small Big Companies (3:56)
  • [Excerpt] Disruption is Constant (:51)
  • [Excerpt] Tactical vs Strategic Innovation (2:07)


Can university students keep our country safe and secure? Can they solve refugee problems, make energy solutions better, and make nonprofits work better to improve the social good?

Hacking for X classes are doing just that with the Department of Defense, State Department, Department of Energy, and nonprofits.

The courses, such as Hacking for Defense, Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Energy, and Hacking for Impact, are a series of classes adopted by universities across the nation to solve critical real-world problems and give students a new platform for participating in national service.



Columbia University Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship Steve Blank is a retired eight-time serial entrepreneur-turned-educator and author. He has changed the way entrepreneurs around the world build their startups. His bestselling The Startup Owner’s Manual, and his earlier seminal work, The Four Steps to the Epiphany are both credited with launching the Lean Startup movement. His Lean LaunchPad class at Stanford, Berkeley, and Columbia has redefined how Universities approach entrepreneurship. His Innovation Corps class for the National Science Foundation forever changed how the U.S. commercializes science.

Avril D. Haines is currently a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University and a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. She served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, was the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and served as the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council. Before joining the NSC, she led the Treaty office at the Department of State, was the Deputy Chief Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, worked for The Hague Conference on Private International Law, and served as a law clerk for Judge Danny Boggs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Avril received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Chicago, a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, and founded and ran a bookstore café for five years while engaged in community service in Baltimore.

Justin Fox is a columnist for Bloomberg View, writing about business. He started there in January 2015, after serving as editorial director and executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. He is the author of The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, which was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2009, and the Amazon.com editors’ choice as the best business book of that year. Before joining HBR in 2010, he wrote a weekly column for Time and created the Curious Capitalist blog for Time.com. Previously, Fox spent more than a decade as a writer and editor at Fortune magazine, and worked at several newspapers. He has appeared frequently on radio and TV, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and written for The Atlantic and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. He has been a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, son, and dog.

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