Technology-led entrepreneurship begins as a process of recognizing opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship within the context of a deep understanding of new technological innovations. Historically economic development with university-based technologies have focused on technology transfer. We now know that a very effective model is to create a new venture led by student entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the process of creating successful technology entrepreneurship and clusters depends upon a whole “system” of resources – all working together to create an innovation ecosystem.
An important “Lean Launchpad” for this process involves forming an entrepreneurship TEAM comprising a Student Entrepreneur, Faculty Mentor and Entrepreneurship Industry Mentor. The mentoring team creates ideas for an agile product development concept that is tested by direct discussion with customers in the established marketplace.
Mentoring using Business Model Canvas
In addition to the Entrepreneurship Course the Foundry also provides an Entrepreneurship Mentoring program for networking with the incubator and project startup space available from a community of Innovation Partners and Industry Members. Entrepreneurship mentoring helps startups by providing a process for evaluating the business opportunity within the context of a Business Model Canvas. The canvas helps by formulating a good understanding of a future customer’s needs in relation to the technology being developed.
Within each team the Industry Mentor plays a crucial role by providing critical business insights. The mentor typically will be savvy in the business space of the technology with real experience in transiting technology from discovery research to product development. He or she will also be in close proximity to the academic institution and have many connections with the private sector. The mentor will serve as the team’s principal guide in determining the technology value proposition and must work intimately with the team. Regular team meetings are required in order to: (i) update the customer contacts (multiple contacts are required each week), (ii) monitor progress through updates and discussion, (iii) summarize what has been learned and identify next steps, (iv) review and update presentations and business model canvas, (v) identify knowledge gaps and pivot points throughout the process.
The mentoring program is based on the NSF I-Corps program developed originally as the “Lean Launchpad” by Steve Blank. The program recognizes that a technology-led startup company is a temporary organization in search of a scalable, repeatable business model that can transition into a scalable startup. Below is a synopsis of the sections of the business model canvas (noting pages from “The Startup Owners Manual”) that acts as the foundation for the mentoring program:
- Introduction to the Foundry & Role of Mentors (pages 53-84)
- Business Model Canvas & Customer Development (pages 195-199)
- Value Proposition (pages 85-97)
- Customer Segments (pages 98-111, 189-255, 406-412)
- Distribution Channels (pages 227-256, 332-3 2)
- Customer Relationships (pages 277-331)
- Revenue Models (pages 257-270, 429-459)
- Key Partners (pages 406-412)
- Key Resources, Activities & Cost Structure (pages 169-175)