By Brittney Dunkins
Calling all entrepreneurs!
The DC Innovation Corps is now accepting applications for the inaugural mid-Atlantic region program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to coach university technology entrepreneurs through the process of taking their ideas to market.
DC I-Corps is a collaborative effort between the George Washington University, Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, and GW will host the first cohort, a seven-week boot camp for entrepreneurial teams, on Oct. 7.
GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Office of the Vice President for Research will also award seven $5,000 grants on a rolling basis this year to eligible participants.
“This program was designed by NSF to create a culture change among university researchers and be more in tune with the commercial world—specifically how research goes from the lab to the market,” said Executive Director of the Office of Entrepreneurship Jim Chung.
Teams, composed of a faculty member, a student or post-doctoral student, and a mentor, should apply with a technology or invention that can be commercialized within three to five years. The technology must be developed by a GW faculty member, researcher or student and disclosed to the GW Office of Technology Transfer to be eligible for the grant.
Once accepted, teams will attend a three day orientation, online sessions and complete 100 customer development interviews over the course of the program, and use the feedback to create a “minimally viable product.”
“It’s a very rigorous program but we want to simulate the start-up environment,” Mr. Chung said. “Most people who start out with an idea are initially wrong about who will buy their product and why, and talking to potential customers is necessary to get the correct product-market fit, which can’t be done in a lab.”
Participants who decide to continue working on their project will have the opportunity to move into the Accelerator portion of the program, which offers close coaching on business building and commercialization, including incorporating their startups, raising money, hiring staff and more.
Director of the DC I-Corps Accelerator Dan Kunitz will work with staff members at GW, Virginia Tech and University of Maryland to support the teams during this part of the program.
“The biggest thrill for me is seeing the chemistry and energy that comes out of a team that can accomplish more together than they would individually and facilitating that,” Mr. Kunitz said.
“Dynamic things happen when you get a lot of smart, talented and hardworking people working together in a positive way. The Accelerator will provide the teams with the resources they need to get to market and accomplish their goals,” he added.
Mr. Kunitz joins GW after serving on a number of start-up teams, including the first management team of Politico, Albritton Communication’s popular political news site, where he was the first associate publisher and managing editor.
He has also worked as a mentor to students interested in business across the globe, including students in the GW Entrepreneurs Roundtable (GWERT) Mentors program and the GW Business Plan Competition.
“The entrepreneurs will need to stay focused and committed,” he said. “If they are receptive to feedback and are willing to make the appropriate adjustments based on market demand, they can succeed.”