Eleven UGA teams recently embarked on a six-week journey to discover the commercial viability of their ideas and innovations. UGA I-Corps, the STEM-focused accelerator program funded by the National Science Foundation that helps researchers transition their technologies into the marketplace, welcomed its ninth cohort on Monday. Since UGA I-Corps launched in 2017, this will be the first cohort to receive the educational curriculum entirely online.
Tim Martin, associate director of the startup program, kicked off the afternoon by introducing the instructional team and “free agents.” Free agents are typically undergraduate or graduate students, post-docs, technicians, university staff or community members who are motivated and interested in learning more about entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. Free agents are each paired with a different project in the cohort and assist them in conducting customer discovery interviews required during I-Corps. Customer discovery forces both free agents and technical teams to interview potential industry customers, allowing them to expand their business knowledge and build their network. Seven free agents are in the summer 2020 UGA I-Corps cohort.
Following the free agent introductions, each of the eleven I-Corps teams briefly introduced themselves and presented their first attempt at a partial business model canvas and customer discovery interviews scheduled for the upcoming weeks. Refining the business model canvas through customer discovery, in particular the value proposition and customer segment, is the first step in discovering whether a potential idea has commercial potential. Dan Geller, assistant director of the startup program, and Kevin Wu, engineering catalyst, then guided the cohort through focused curriculum explaining the reasoning for the Lean Startup methodology and how to start thinking like an entrepreneur.
Week two will feature updates from each cohort team on their customer discovery process and an interactive session on customer segments and interview techniques. Each team will also spend time with the coaches during their weekly office hours.