Frequently Asked Questions

Info Sessions

There have been rare exceptions where teams had 3 or 5 students. We recommend that you assemble a team of 4 students. If you face any issues, please contact Jeff Decker. 

Each team must be comprised of matriculating Stanford students.  

** If you are not a student but are interested in providing technical advice to a team, email Jeff Decker
 ( letting him now which of the specific problems you are best suited to advise on, your company, position, LinkedIn profile, and contact information.

Please choose one or two problems for your application.  Applications will be evaluated by whether the team is capable of addressing the particular problem, so different teams will be better suited to different problems.  This will be covered in more detail at the brown bag lunches and info sessions. Please attend these events for advice on which problems your team may be best suited for.

Please contact Nick Mirda ( and Jeff Decker ( as soon as possible to see if it is possible to identify an organization to sponsor your project.

If you apply as an individual, there will be ample opportunity for you to meet individual applicants at the info sessions and mixers. We strongly recommend that you find other people interested in applying as an individual during these events as preference for admission will be given to students applying as a team. 

Once you have gained admittance into the class as an individual, the teaching team will help you create/join a team. The below FAQs address questions related to teams.


​In the existing Lean LaunchPad class taught Winter Quarter, student teams come to class with a vision of a product or service they would like to build. In this Hacking for Defense (H4D) class, student teams may either select from an existing set of problems provided by the DoD/IC community or introduce their own ideas for DoD/IC problems that need to be solved. Although teams pick a problem to solve, Hacking for Defense is not a product incubator for a specific technology solution. Instead, it provides teams with a deeper understanding of selected problems and the host of potential technological solutions that might be arrayed against them.

You should take this class ahead of the Lean Launchpad if any of the following sound familiar:

  • you want hands-on exposure to the Lean Startup methodology, but do not currently have a concrete startup idea.
  • you care about solving critical, complex problems.
  • you care deeply about our national security and the security of our warfighters

Each team will have access to resources for travel and prototyping, and will be eligible to compete for additional post-class support.

​No, all nationalities are welcome and encouraged. While the problems posed to the class are explicitly U.S. focused at the moment, we believe every student would benefit from experiencing the course.

​No prior DOD/IC experience required. The class has a set of Military Liaisons and mentors to assist the teams (see the teaching team section.) The class is a unique opportunity to gain exposure to these communities.

Team Formation & Ideas

Make sure to go to info sessions and mixers. If you cannot, reach out to a member of the teaching team and we will work with you.

The spreadsheet will allow you to search for team members. The teaching team will help match groups that seem like particularly good fits, but expect to form a team using the team formation spreadsheet or interested friends.

​Generally yes, but it is possible to come up with your own idea and the teaching team will strive to find a DOD/IC sponsor. 

Intellectual Property

If you’re working with a Stanford related-technology (i.e. either research from one of the team members or University IP), you must check with the Office of Technology, Licensing to understand Stanford ownership rights in any resulting IP. 

  1. You own what Intellectual Property (patents, hardware, algorithms, etc.) you brought to class with you. No one (other than Stanford) has claim to anything you brought to class.
  2. You all own any intellectual property developed for the class (such as code for a web-based project) developed during class. You are agreeing to open-source your class developed assets. Your DOD/IC sponsor will have access to those materials. 
  3. You and your team members need to disclose to each other and your DOD/IC sponsor what IP/Licensing rights any company you’ve worked at has to inventions you make at school.
  4. If any or you decide to start a company based on the class, you own only what was written and completed in the class. You have no claim for work done before or after the class quarter.
  5. If a subset of the team decides to start a company they do NOT “owe” anything to any other team members for work done in and during the class. All team members are free to start the same company, without permission of the others. (We would hope that a modicum of common sense and fairness would apply.)
  6. By taking this class you have agreed to these terms with your team. You may decide to modify these terms before the class by having all team members agree in writing before the team is accepted in the class. 

This is more than likely the wrong class to take. Your slides, notes and findings will be publicly shared. Your team owns everything done in class. Discuss Intellectual Property rights with your team from the beginning. If you can’t come to agreement with the team, join another team, pick another project, or drop the class. Remember anything you do and learn in the class is public. 

NO. This is an open class. There are no non-disclosures. All your presentations and Customer Discovery and Validation notes, business model canvas, blogs and slides can, and most likely will, be made public. This class is not an incubator. At times you will learn by seeing how previous classes solved the same class of problem by looking at their slides, notes and blogs.

Keep in mind that successful companies are less about the original idea and more about the learning, discovery and execution. (That’s the purpose of this class.) Therefore you must be prepared to share your ideas openly with the class. It is a forum for you to “bounce” your ideas off your peers. 

​Don’t take this class. This class is not an incubator. At times you will learn by seeing how previous classes solved the same class of problem by looking at their slides, notes and blogs. 

Resource Available

The teaching team consists of professors, experienced military professionals, and multiple Course Assistants.  Each team will be assigned two mentors and a military liaison. A mentor is an experienced defense/IC official, investor or consultant assigned to your team. They’ve volunteered to help with the class and your team because they love hard problems, love startups and appreciate the importance of addressing problems facing the DoD/IC. Their job is to guide you as you get out of the building and to interface effectively with your DoD/IC sponsors. 

In addition, teams will have access to (modest) funding that they can use to support problem discovery and rapid prototyping efforts. Admitted teams will learn more about this resource.

Your mentor is expecting to meet with you at least every week face-to-face or by Skype. You can email them or meet with them more often if they have time. 

By all means, do so. All the mentors are happy to help. However they cannot support your team full time unless your mentor decides to swap places with them. 

Mentors have day jobs. Asking them to meet or reply to you ASAP is not acceptable. So plan ahead to allow for a reasonable amount of time for a reply or meeting. Be concise with your request and be respectful of their time. 

You first stop is your TAs. Email or sit down with them during the week if you have a problem. Your professors have office hours every Wednesday at 4:30-5:30pm. If you need something resolved sooner, email us. 

Team Dynamics

​Traditionally, each team member is part of the “customer development team”. You have to figure out how to allocate the work. 

Prepare to work through difficult issues. If the situation continues, approach the teaching team. Do not wait until the end of the quarter to raise the issue. 

Try to resolve it within your team. If the situation continues longer than a week, please approach the teaching team. Final grades will also reflect individual participation and contribution. 

Continual feedback weekly. Substandard quality work will be immediately brought to your attention