TEDCO and the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) are excited to host this Regional I-Corps cohort at our corporate offices in Columbia, for the first time! TEDCO is a convenient location and it will allow the teams and TEDCO staff to engage with one another during the kick-off and closing sessions.
“TEDCO and the Maryland Innovation Initiative have been strong supporters of the I-Corps program. We have seen a marked improvement in commercialization progress by entrepreneurs who proactively engage with the I-Corps instructors and advisors, and who get outside their lab or office to interact with potential customers. I-Corps cohort graduates increase their odds of funding in the MII program with the skills they learn in this process.”
– Jennifer Hammaker, Director, TEDCO’s Maryland Innovation Initiative
To apply, click here.
Download brochure here.
This course introduces participants to the key concepts and methodologies used in I-Corps, which is the rigorous market assessment and validation program pioneered by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Teams that successfully complete this course will be eligible to apply for the NSF I-Corps program. Both programs use a similar curriculum, largely based on current “Lean Startup” methodologies, and focus on early customer discovery and business model generation. Teams that participate in this course will not receive additional funding; however, teams that are ultimately accepted into the NSF I-Corps program will receive a $50K grant to continue their discovery and business model development. (Please note that acceptance into the national NSF I-Corps program is completely at the discretion of NSF and requires an additional application process.)
Teams that enter this unique regional cohort will work with leading NSF-certified national instructors and a network of regional advisors, which includes access to a regional accelerator program and venture mentoring service. The vast majority of I-Corps participants walk away with significant, unexpected findings that change the direction of their work. This course is a perfect introduction to I-Corps methodologies and the instructors will help assess what subsequent program makes the most sense for your team. Come find out how the I-Corps process can help you!
What makes a team?
Preference will be given to MII awardee teams (current and past) as well as potential applicants to MII. Teams indicating they are potential MII applicants will need to submit a signed support letter from their Tech Transfer Office, and a letter indicating the target date for MII submission during the application process.
Teams can be made up of one to three members. Each team must have a Principal Investigator (PI), who is the primary researcher or inventor behind the technology. We also highly encourage teams to have an Entrepreneurial Lead (EL). The EL is often a graduate student, post-doc, or highly motivated undergraduate student committed to the project. In some cases, the PI and EL roles are filled by the same person. Both the PI and EL will be expected to conduct customer discovery interviews, and each participant should plan to commit a minimum of 10-15 hours per week to the course.
Teams may also include an Industry Mentor (IM), who should be an experienced entrepreneur or business executive. Teams should bring an IM to this short course if they have one, but this role is not required for participation.
What will you do?
Teams will create detailed customer profiles that clearly identify and distinguish between beneficiaries, users, decision makers, influencers, and payers in their target markets. More importantly, teams will have to understand and clearly articulate why each of these customer types would value the product or service from the customer’s perspective (i.e., determine the value proposition for each customer type). While seemingly straightforward, the process of validating your assumptions through customer discovery inevitably leads to critical insights that cannot be gained in any other way.
Why should you enroll?
Most researchers, technologists, and startup founders in all industries make a similar assumption – they presume that what they are working on has inherent value in the market. Sometimes this turns out to be true, but often it does not. Even for technologies with obvious benefits (e.g., a therapeutic drug), founders often misunderstand the market they are entering. They focus on technical risk while neglecting customer risk, which is a general way of saying that they do not identify clear product-market fit or viable business models necessary for commercializing their technology. The I-Corps program is specifically designed to help teams get outside the classroom and lab, engage with potential customers, reduce customer risk, and therefore increase the odds of your success. Again, this program will act as a qualifier for teams to be considered for enrollment in the full national I-Corps cohorts.
The program is free for participants, but requires a significant effort over the course duration. The program is immersive and experiential, as the experience reflects the chaos, uncertainty, and demands of a startup company. Each participant should expect to put in 10-15 hours per week on the project. The program is designed to generate a maximum impact over a relatively short duration, and should be considered a required first step for anyone interested in commercializing a technology or product, whether through a startup or licensing arrangement.
The teaching team for this unique TEDCO/MII cohort is a talented group of national instructors:
For program dates, click here.
To apply, click here.