Customer Discovery Workshop

Have you been kicking around a business idea in your head for a while, but lack the confidence to move forward with it?  Have you recently started a business but don't have the customer demand you anticipated? The Customer Discovery workshop may be for you.  It shows how to replace wishful thinking and uncertainty with customer feedback and validated facts - something called evidence-based entrepreneurship.

McLennan SBDC is one of five SBA pilot sites in the nation offering this immersive, real-world learning approach to "main street" small business entrepreneurs.  The Customer Discovery workshop will be conducted over two weeks at City Center Waco at 801 Elm Ave., Waco, TX on August 9 - 23, 2016.  Workshop fee is $25 per person, payable to City Center Waco.

The ideal candidate is an entrepreneur who has recently resolved to start a new business or one who simply has a novel business idea they’d like to test with direct, real-world input. Instruction will be delivered in a small cohort or group of teams, so space will be limited.  Women and minority entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply.

The program is taught using a “flipped classroom.” All coursework is done prior to class to allow for student-led interaction and direct feedback from instructors. Teams are tasked with interviewing 20 or more potential customers in two weeks to determine “product-market fit” or whether a product solves a real market need.

This means, that after the opening workshop on August 9, teams will work on their own, outside the classroom, talking to potential customers about their business problems and needs. Teams reconvene for the closing workshop at the end of the two weeks on August 23 to present their findings in a “lessons learned” workshop.

After spending time in front of customers, teams often come away with significant customer insights that inform how they think about both their idea and next steps.  Finding out if their product/service is a business opportunity worthy of pursuit - based on validated customer feedback - is considered "success."

In the words of a recent Customer Discovery workshop participant and SBDC client:
"This was a tectonic shift in our approach and understanding of what we have to do to succeed as a startup. The combination of the Lean Startup content from Steve Blank, etc. plus the brutally honest & challenging feedback is really powerful…it’s in a league of its own..."

Since this is a pilot, we have very limited space.  If this looks like something that would benefit you or someone you know, you may apply online here or email Jane Herndon at jherndon@mclennan.edu.

 

 

Local Teams at SW I-Corps

Two McLennan SBDC teams recently explored the market potential of their early stage innovations in an intense Southwest I-Corps workshop at UT Austin.  Gus Welter, Lindsey Price, and Ilshat Ashatov of Blinc have a software development platform. Will McKerrall, John Fitch and Kristen McKerrall of Structural Health Data Systems have an infrastructure monitoring product. Both are in search of a business model.

I-Corps, short for ‘Innovation Corps’, is the rigorous market assessment and validation program pioneered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote entrepreneurship and stimulate startup creation across the country.  It is based on key concepts from the lean startup movement like customer discovery and business model development.  

I-Corps is taught using a “flipped classroom.” All coursework is done prior to class to allow for student-led interaction and direct feedback from instructors. Teams are tasked with interviewing 20 or more potential customers in two weeks to determine “product-market fit” or whether a product solves a real market need.

This means, that after the opening workshop, teams spend a significant amount of time outside the classroom talking to potential customers about their business problems and needs. Teams reconvene for a closing workshop at the end of the two weeks to present their findings in a “lessons learned” workshop.

After spending considerable time in front of customers, McLennan teams came away with significant customer insights that have informed how they think about both their idea and next steps.  

In the words of Gus Welter, "I-Corps was a tectonic shift in our approach and understanding of what we have to do to succeed as a startup. The combination of the Lean Startup content from Steve Blank, etc. plus the brutally honest & challenging feedback is really powerful. From the standpoint of a startup, I-Corps is in a league of its own..."

Max Green, National Instructor with the Southwest NSF I-Corps node, led the intensive, two-week short course at the IC2 Institute in Austin on May 23 and June 6, 2016.  Photo: Aprille Raabe

Max Green, National Instructor with the Southwest NSF I-Corps node, led the intensive, two-week short course at the IC2 Institute in Austin on May 23 and June 6, 2016.  Photo: Aprille Raabe