The Lean Cohort at TVC is for faculty members at the University of Utah who are interested in creating an impact in the market with their inventions by building a viable business based on their technologies. The TVC’s desired outcome of the Lean Cohort is that each participating team will sufficiently understand their product’s requirements and what the business model should look like in order to be scalable and repeatable. Our program uses Lean Startup principles to achieve these results.
In order to participate, a team must be created with a total of three members: 1. the faculty member/inventor (P.I.), 2. an Entrepreneurial Lead and 3. A Business Mentor. TVC will help the P.I. identify and vet potential Business Mentors and Entrepreneurial Leads, if needed. Up to 5 technologies per cohort are accepted.
The program is based on work by Alex Osterwalder and Steve Blank that is used by both NSF and NIH in the I-corp programs, and does have NSF Lineage.
PI – Principal Investigator – The principal investigator (PI) is typically the inventor of the technology and serves as the technical lead or expert. He or she will be expected to make any necessary technical pivots with the technology. The PI is required to allocate 5 hours a week to the cohort.
EL – Entrepreneurial Lead – Typically a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student, or other student, that possesses relevant technical knowledge and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. Generally, this investigation requires, predominantly, primary data collection through interviews and supplemental data materials collected via other sources. Additionally, the entrepreneurial lead should be capable of disseminating this information to the instructor, TA and participants each week in the form of a presentation. This position could be compensated.
- Must have a sufficient understanding of the assigned technology and the target market.
- Must have proficient communication skills.
- Must have the ability to freely travel if necessary.
- Must be able to allocate 25-35 hours a week (during business hours) to the cohort if an individual EL.
- Must be able to allocate 10-15 hours a week (during business hours) to cohort if working as a co-EL.
- Must be willing to take direction.
BM – Business Mentor – The BM brings entrepreneurial experience and serves as the principal guide in determining the technology’s disposition to the market need. The BM also provides warm leads to the team for customer validation interviews, which is a critical component of the Lean Canvas Cohort.
- Must have a comprehensive understanding of the assigned technology and how it could integrate into a market.
- Must have access to a large number of potential contacts within the technology’s industry or target market.
- Must be able to aid in translating feedback received in [customer] interviews into actionable goals/technical pivots.
- Must be able to allocate 3-6 hours a week to the cohort.
Cohort One & Two Outlined
Cohort One is a seven week program that begins during the first week of each month. There are a total of 8 required meetings during the Lean Cohort — two kickoff days during the first week and one meeting per week for six weeks. Each weekly meeting lasts about 3-4 hours.
The purpose of Cohort One is to properly assess true opportunity with an invention or idea. By the end of this process, the inventor(s) or team should be able to determine whether or not their technology/idea is either a license or a startup.
The purpose of Cohort Two is to develop a successful business strategy or model around the validated opportunity of the technology/idea.