Good news! WPI has been has been funded by the National Science Foundation to conduct the NSF I-Corps™ Site program.

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WPI will be selecting 10 teams from the applicant pool for the fall of 2019. The program will run from the end of September through the beginning of December. Teams will present their original Value Proposition to the Tech Advisors Network on September 18 with the purpose of getting a mentor for their team.

 

About I-Corps

The I-Corps program provides financial and mentoring support to student and/or faculty teams who think they have an idea that addresses a market need and has commercial potential. Rather than develop and design something from the lab and then see if someone is interested, this program will teach the participants to develop their initial Value Proposition, and then “get out of the building” to test and refine that through customer interviews. This alters the traditional method of developing a technology, writing a business plan, and then going out to implement it. Instead, you will be challenged to seek the input from real customers, someone that will actually pay for the idea. This will include discovery from other stakeholders, recommenders, distribution channel participants, etc.

The WPI I-Corps™ Site program is fast paced and the teams will be pushed and challenged to hopefully learn quickly whether or not the ideas are worth pursuing. Teams are expected to conduct 30 customer interviews over the 10 week term of the program. For more about the benefits of the program, view the video made by VentureWell.

You can find out more about the National I-Corps program at: https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/

The Methodology

1. You begin by working with your team to come up with a testable hypothesis. What is the need in the market, what is your approach to addressing the need, what is the benefit to the customer, and what is the competitive alternative to your idea? You will be asked to identify key stakeholders in the industry and the team is responsible for conducting the 30 interviews. Each week you will check in with the group and provide the results of the customer discovery. There will be both hard copy and video materials that will be used to guide you through the process each week.

2. If you stay committed to the course, you will have come away with a much deeper insight into the value of your idea. You may end up “pivoting” several times as you discover the initial idea is not viable, but adjustments to the value proposition make it more viable. It will allow you to compliment the normal WPI for-credit curriculum and hone inter-personal skills, team dynamics, strategy development and market based research. To be successful in this course, you have to be willing to work through ambiguity, take risks in reaching out to what could be total strangers, and be willing to listen, rather than assume your idea is the right one.

3. Get funded! Typical funding for a team will be in the $2000-$3000 range and would be used to travel to key customer locations or attend a conference in your industry. Whatever can be justified to complete your 30 customer interviews would be considered. There is also a small amount of funds ($350-$500) available for prototyping, if needed.