What Makes a Team?

I-Corps Team
I-Corps Team

Launching a new venture takes a tremendous amount of work, and a team-based approach is strongly emphasized in I-Corps.

For GW’s Regional Introductory Courses, teams are encouraged to apply but individuals are also accepted to gain exposure and learn the fundamentals of the program.

For NSF’s national I-Corps program, teams of three individuals are required to apply and participate.  Teams participating in GW’s regional programs intending to subsequently apply to NSF’s national program should follow the NSF guidelines from the outset.  Exceptions do apply so reach out to GW’s I-Corps Director to discuss the team composition requirements.

A traditional I-Corps team consists of three individuals:

  • Entrepreneurial Lead (EL)
  • Technical Lead (TL) (previously known as PI)
  • Industry Mentor (IM)

Required Team Roles:

Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) – this could be a postdoctoral scholar, graduate or other student, staff member, researcher, or other personnel with relevant knowledge of the technology and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. In rare circumstances, with approval of a cognizant NSF I-Corps Program Officer, the EL could also be the proposal PI or TL. The Entrepreneurial Lead should also be capable and have the will to support the transition of the technology, should the I-Corps Teams project demonstrate the potential for commercial viability.

Technical Lead (TL) – will typically be a faculty member, senior research scientist or postdoctoral scholar with deep and direct technical expertise in the actual core technology about which the I-Corps team is exploring commercial potential. Typically the Technical Lead will also serve as the proposal Principal Investigator (PI).

Industry Mentor (IM) – will typically be an experienced entrepreneur with proximity to the institution and experience in transitioning technology out of Academic labs. The I-Corps Teams Mentor should be a third-party resource and may be recommended by the proposing institution. The I-Corps Teams Mentor will be responsible for advising the team on its progress through I-Corps and will usually have contacts in the industry area(s) being explored. Other than their direct expenses for program participation, Mentors are not compensated through I-Corps Teams awards – Mentors are part of a volunteer cadre of entrepreneurs. 

Mentors can review the DC I-Corps Mentor Handbook here.  Teams looking for introductions to prospective mentors should contact us for suggestions.

The PI, the EL, and I worked together on every aspect of the process and we learned from each other every step of the way. I could go on about how our canvas changed from the beginning to the end of the course, but I think that was the norm for almost everyone.  Getting out of the building and talking to real customers, real partners, real competitors,…..is the lesson that will live on long after the initial process.  We will certainly continue the habits developed as we march as rapidly as possible to our MVP and first customer trials. I, as a Mentor in Residence, have already applied the principles learned to the other projects I am currently working.
- Ken Spenser, Mentor in Residence, Office of Technology Transfer, University of Michigan