What Makes a Team?

A traditional I-Corps team consists of three individuals: an Entrepreneurial Lead (EL), a Principal Investigator (PI), and an Industry Mentor (IM). This three-person team has proven very successful in most cases. However, in some cases, it may not be possible for the inventor (PI) to participate in the program. In other cases, it may be possible for the inventor to act as an EL. So the DC I-Corps program will accept teams with two or three participants, as long as each team has a designated EL and IM. The program will also accept teams with up to four members with prior approval of the teaching team.

Required Team Roles:

The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) acts as the team leader and spokesperson. Regardless of whether this person comes from a university, federal lab/agency, or community at large, this individual must have a strong desire to explore the commercial potential of the innovation brought by the team. Ideally, this person will have intimate knowledge of the technology even if he or she is not the original inventor. For university and federal lab/agency teams, a graduate student or post-doc will often fill this role.

In some cases, the inventor or principal investigator may act as the EL for two-person teams. For community-based teams (those that do not come from a university or federal lab/agency), the EL may be any team member other than the Industry Mentor. Any team may choose to have more than one EL with prior approval from the teaching team.

The I-Corps Mentor (IM) will typically be an experienced entrepreneur or business executive. The IM is a third-party resource and sounding board. Mentors guide teams forward, help them interpret customer comments, assist the team in contacting relevant people, and keep the team honest about what they are hearing from the marketplace. If you do not have an appropriate mentor, we can help you find a suitable match. Teams may also have more than one mentor with prior approval from the teaching team.

Mentors can review the DC I-Corps Mentor Handbook here.

The PI, the EL, and I worked together on every aspect of the process and we learned from each other every step of the way. I could go on about how our canvas changed from the beginning to the end of the course, but I think that was the norm for almost everyone.  Getting out of the building and talking to real customers, real partners, real competitors,…..is the lesson that will live on long after the initial process.  We will certainly continue the habits developed as we march as rapidly as possible to our MVP and first customer trials. I, as a Mentor in Residence, have already applied the principles learned to the other projects I am currently working.
Ken Spenser, Mentor in Residence, Office of Technology Transfer, University of Michigan