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Class Info

Class Title: EARTHSYS 213 - Hacking for Climate and Sustainability: Solving climate and sustainability issues with the Lean Launchpad methodology.

Class Schedule:  Winter Quarter 2024, Thursdays 3:00-5:50pm

Class Acceptance:  By application, limited slots. Admission by teams.

Application Deadline for 2024 class:  Friday, 11/10, 5:00 PM. 


Hacking for Climate and Sustainability provides students the opportunity to learn how to work with city government, state and federal agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations to better address climate and sustainability challenges. This 10-week course forgoes traditional practices which slow decision making and impede rapid innovation and provides a proven platform to develop testable solution prototypes in weeks, not months or years. Governments, nonprofits, and other organizations may provide follow-on funding to student teams for further refinement and development of these solutions.

This course moves fast! Student teams arrive on their first day having read the pre course materials and met with their sponsor. To be clear: Hacking 4 Climate and Sustainability is not a product incubator for a specific solution. The course instead provides teams with a deep understanding of selected problems and potential solutions which might be arrayed against them. Using the Lean LaunchPad methodology the course encourages student teams to:

  1. Solve complex real-world problems
  2. Rapidly iterate solutions while searching for product-market fit
  3. Understand all stakeholders, roll-out issues, costs, resources, and ultimate mission value
  4. Deliver minimum viable products matching customer needs in a narrow window.
  5. Produce a repeatable model which can launch other potential solutions

This is an in person class with attendance mandatory (as it is a reverse classroom where your team presents each week)


This 10-week course is team-based and has limited enrollment by permission of the instructors.

Working and studying will be done in teams.

Join the course as an individual or as a team.

​The teams will self-organize and establish individual roles on their own. In addition to the instructors, each team will be assigned a mentor (an experienced entrepreneur, service provider, consultant, or investor) and a Point of Contact from the problem sponsor.


This is a team-based course and has limited enrollment by permission only. Admission is by individual or teams of four students from any school, department, or program. Working and studying will be done in teams. There are three ways to join the course: as an individual, as a team, or as a team/individual with your own problem.


  • Only Stanford Students can apply
  • Non students can serve as advisors to problem teams.
  • Exceptions for team size and external members will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • ​There are no remote options for this course – you must take the course on campus.
  • This is very intense course with a very high workload. We expect you to invest at least 10-15 hours per week.


Meaningful customer discovery requires the development of a minimum viable product (MVP). Therefore, each team should have the applicable goal of the following:

  1. Your weekly online narrative is an integral part of your deliverables. It’s how we measure your progress.
  2. Your team will present a weekly in-class presentation to show your progress.

Attendance & Participation

  • All classes will be held in person
  • You cannot miss a class without prior approval
  • This is very intense course with a very high workload. If you cannot commit to 10-15 hours a week outside the classroom, this course is not for you.
  • The startup culture at times can feel brusque and impersonal, but in reality is focused and oriented to create immediate action in time- and cash-constrained environments.
  • If during the quarter you find you cannot continue to commit the time, immediately notify your team members and teaching team.
  • If you expect to miss a class, please let the teaching team and your team members know ahead of time via email.
  • ​We expect your attention during our presentations and those of your fellow students. If you’re getting bored, tired or inattentive step outside for some air. If we see you reading email or browsing the web we will ask you to leave the class.
  • We ask that you use a name card during every session of the quarter.
  • ​During your classmates’ presentations you will be required to give feedback online via ​the LaunchPad Central system. Please bring a laptop to every class and be prepared to give your undivided attention to the team at the front of the room.

Intro to Lean Launchpad

This course is not about how to write a business plan. It’s not an exercise in how smart you are in a classroom, or how well you use the research library to size markets. And the end result is not a PowerPoint slide deck for a VC presentation or a Y-Combinator Demo Day. And it is most definitely not an incubator where you come to build the “hot-idea” that you have in mind.

This course combines Lean Startup theory with a ton of hands-on practice. Our goal, within the constraints of a classroom and a limited amount of time, is to give you a framework to test the business model of a startup while creating all of the pressures and demands of the real world in an early stage startup. The course is designed to give you the experience of how to work as a team and turn an idea into a solution for a real world problem facing the climate-minded organizations and the wider international community.

You will be talking to "customers" - city government, business, non-profit, competitor, stakeholders and end users as you encounter the chaos and uncertainty of how a startup actually works. You’ll practice evidence-based entrepreneurship as you learn how to use a business model to brainstorm each part of a company and customer development to get out of the classroom to see whether anyone other than you would want/use your product. Finally, based on the customer and market feedback you gathered, you will use agile development to rapidly iterate your product or concept to build/design something customers would actually buy and use. Each block will be a new adventure outside the classroom as you test each part of your business model and then share the hard earned knowledge with the rest of your classmates, mentors, partners and the teaching team.

We teach Lean Startup Theory + hands-on practice

You will learn urgency, Evidence-based entrepreneurship, Customer Development, and "good-enough" decision making

You will do this by talking to customers and presenting the results in class every week.

Lean Launchpad Resources

How You'll Learn

Flipped Class​room

Unlike a traditional classroom where the instructor presents lecture material, you will watch our lectures online as part of your weekly homework. The information in them is essential for you to complete your weekly interviews and present the insights the teaching team will expect in your presentation for that week. We expect you to watch the assigned lectures for the upcoming week before class and we will use time in class to discuss questions about the lecture material and to provide supplemental material. You need to come prepared with questions or comments about the material for in-class discussion. We will cold-call students to answer questions about the online lecture material.

Experiential Learning

You will be spending a significant amount of time in between each of the lectures outside the class talking to customers. Each week your team will conduct a minimum of 10 customer interviews focused on a specific part of the mission model canvas. To meet your customers, you will need to truly get out of the building which means getting off-campus and going into the real-world. This course is a simulation of what startups and entrepreneurship is like in the real world: chaos, uncertainty, impossible deadlines in insufficient time, conflicting input, etc.

Inverted Lecture Hall

Sitting in the back of the classroom are experienced instructors and professionals who have built and/or funded world-class startups as well as seasoned professionals with significant experience working both with and inside entities across a range of sectors. We won’t be lecturing in the traditional sense, instead we comment and critique on each team’s progress. While the comments may be specific for each team, the insights and concepts expressed are almost always applicable to all teams. Pay attention.

P2P Culture

While other teams are presenting the results of their weekly experiments, the rest of the class is expected to attentively listen, engage, and react to what they see and hear. Sharing insights, experience, and contacts with each other is a key way that this unique laboratory achieves results.

Course Culture

Startups communicate in a dramatically different style from the university or large company culture. This course simulates decision-making at startup speed. At times this can feel brusque and impersonal, and advice at times will be contradictory, but in reality the course is focused to create immediate action in time- and cash-constrained environments. We have limited time and we push, challenge, and question you in the hope you will quickly learn. We will be direct, open, and tough just like the real world. This approach may seem harsh or abrupt, but it is all part of our wanting you to learn to challenge yourselves quickly and objectively, and to appreciate that as entrepreneurs you need to learn and evolve faster than you ever imagined possible.

This course pushes many people past their comfort zone. If you believe that the role of your instructors is to praise in public and criticize in private, you’re in the wrong course. Do not take this course. You will be receiving critiques in front of your peers weekly. The pace and the uncertainty pick up as the course proceeds.


Course Prep

This course hits the ground running. It assumes you have come into the course having read the assigned reading, viewed the online lectures, and started learning about the problem you will work on.

Choosing Problems

We suggest that you should choose something for which you have passion, enthusiasm, and hopefully some expertise. Do not select this type of project unless you are prepared to see it through.

Shared Material

Given the amount of work this course entails, there is no way you can do the work while participating in multiple startups. A condition of admission to the course is that this is the only startup you are working on this quarter.

Our History

​Your weekly presentations and final Lessons Learned presentations will be shared and visible to others. We may be video taping and sharing many of the class sessions.


This course is team-based and the majority of your grade will come from your team progress and final project. Your peers will also grade your contribution to your team. The grading criteria are broken down as follows:

  • Individual participation in the course. You will be giving feedback to your peers.
  • Out-of-the-building progress as measured by blog write-ups and presentations each week. Team members must:
    1. Update mission model canvas weekly
    2. Identify which team member did which portion of the work.
    3. Detailed report on what the team did each week
    4. Weekly email of team member participation
  • The team weekly “lesson learned” presentation
  • Team final presentation

This total is multiplied by a “peer grading multiplier” as assigned to you by your team at the end of the quarter.