The most common two questions you’ll hear at the start of a new I-Corps cohort are:
(1) How do I find people to interview?
(2) What should I ask them?
Because the Customer Discovery process is new to most people who taken up the challenge of I-Corps, these questions are at the crux of everything we’re asking Teams to do. Try as the Teaching Team might, most of our advice boils down to “just try stuf, and eventually you’ll find a way that works for you.” We try to be more helpful than that, but if we’re honest that’s the advice from the “experts.” Steve Pittard is a research faculty at Emery University, and he recently led an I-Corps Team through the national program (which we often recommend to Teams that have gone through the WSU Site). As a recount I-Corps participant, he offers the following advice to new and struggling I-Corps Teams. Hopefully his experience can help you make the most of your time in I-Corps.
I just concluded participation in the NSF’s I-Corps program as part of Bay Area Cohort Number 2 which started in mid July and ended on August 29th. It was an exciting non stop 7 weeks with lots of turns and twists. While I’m exhausted I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a great deal which, after all, was the goal. There were some really talented people at the Cohort and I benefited just from interacting with them. It helped reignite some of my dormant social skills which I now intend to put to good use in developing our technology further. It will more likely be a significant variation of what we originally took to I-Corps but that’s really the point of the program (in my opinion). What you come out with can be totally different in a surprising way.
Business to Customer?
The approach you employ to get interviews is contingent upon the nature of your technology in that if you have a “B2C” Business to Customer solution then you don’t necessarily need high tech interview candidates – you can simply engage laymen who might have an interest in your technology. For example, in my cohort there was a team with a solution to snoring and they were able to get over 50 interviews in one day just by setting up in a busy area and asking couples if they could spare a few minutes to talk about snoring. » More …
WSU has partnered with the Element 8 Angels to create the Deal Flow and Due Diligence Fellowship. This opportunity is available for WSU undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers who are interested in experience assessing business opportunities with venture partners making investment decisions. Participation is available from any WSU location and will involve a commitment of 5 hours/week.
Jan 25, 6-8PM in the Frank Innovation Zone (basement of Dana Hall) *note the updated DATE!
Join your fellow Cougs and the Palouse entreprenurial community for an evening of networking, partnerships, new ideas, and pizza!
The Center for Entreprenurial Studies and WSU I-Corps invite you to join us to hear about new business and technology ideas your Cougar colleagues are pursuing as potential new startup businesses. Hear brief presentations about the resources available at WSU and the Palouse area which can help you create a startup company, find mentorship, or compete for $50,000 in business plan competition prize money!
Representatives from the Palouse Knowledge Corridor and WSU Entreprenurial Faculty Ambassadors will also be attending to provide support and ideas to Teams.
6PM Food Arrives
6:15 Short presentation on resources available and upcoming application deadlines for buiness plan competitions
6:30 Hear 1min pitches from Teams with new startup and technology ideas
Until 8PM, Networking and a chance to join WSU I-Corps and Business Plan Competition teams
Please RSVP so we can be sure to have enough food for all the attendees.
These Cougs have been hard at work making their entrepreneurial dreams come true. With a little help from WSU I-Corps, they are now on their way to starting a business based on their research. Could you be next?
“Being part of I-Corps put us in front of our customers to get valuable feedback about what our prototype device should be – essential information that enabled us to get our SBIR.”
Being an outsider can give you a perspective that others simply don’t have. You can question the status quo and identify opportunities that insiders just don’t see. This is true whether you are coming to a new industry or a new country.
Immigrants* to America start 28% percent of all Main Street businesses (restaurants, clothing stores, laundry, grocery stores, general stores).
Proctor and Gamble, Budweiser, Clorox, Nordstrom, Google, ebay, Yahoo – all founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. In fact, 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
Clearly immigrants to America see benefits to starting their own companies, and some have found good fortune doing so. In fact, between 1995-2005, 52% of Silicon Valley startups had immigrant founders.
BUT immigrants only make up about 13% of the total population of America. Why the disparity?
Teams often wonder what they will have to do if chosen as a WSU I-Corps Team, and more importantly:
“What will I get out of I-Corps?”
The short answer is: you will learn a new way of finding how to match innovations from research to real-world customer needs through a process called customer discovery. It will make you a better researcher, a better proposal writer, a better mentor, a better student, and more employable in industry. If this is all you achieve, your participation in I-Corps is a win, a BIG win.
For some Teams, you will find product/market fit at the end of the 8-week program – in this case, you will have discovered a the starting point to developing a viable business and the Teaching Team will support your Team if you want to take the next steps to down the road to starting your own business.
So that’s short answer, which begs the question: What’s the long answer? (And also, what is “Product/Market Fit?”
Innovative podcast creation studio Gimlet Media has another entrepreneurship-related podcast hot off the press. It’s called Open for Business. Only the first episode of the series has been published, but it sounds like a great series for those who want to learn valuable lessons by hearing stories about the successes and heartaches of the entrepreneur’s lifestyle.