A Software engineer consulting provides mentors to UCF I-Corps

As a software engineer consulting we provide mentors to UCF I-Corps

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A Software engineer consulting provides mentors to UCF I-Corps Screenshot
Jun 11, 2021 | XEO

David Sharpe of XeoDev is a mentor for I-Corps at UCF.

Several times a year, UCF offers the I-Corps programs in what they call cohorts. This program is hosted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a tool to learn how to transition from academica to industry. It is based on the work on The Lean Startup by Steve Bank and taught in a college setting with a twist. Because it is sponsored by the NSF, each team gets a budget of a couple thousand dollars to help them attend tradeshows and meet with industry players in person.

Is it easy to go from acdemia to industry? Its a challenge. The core objective of I-Corps at UCF is to determine if your original business idea resonates with your target customers. This is tracked in a business model canvas. Which is similar to a business plan that fits on one page instead of 98 pages. First the value proposition is populated with several hypotheses of how customers will benefit from the business. These aren't features, but focued on finding customer pain and solving that pain. To vet each hypothesis requires many customer interviews. Each week, each team is expected to perform 10 face to face interviews either in person or over Zoom. These interviews are not sales calls trying to pitch features and extract cash. No, these are real interviews searching for what keeps the customer up at night and how can you solve that. The interviews are gamified and the teams compete for the most interviews each week.

Pivot. The deep goal of these customer interviews is not to get positive feedback on the current feature set of your product. It is to see how you can shift and mold your product to better fit what will solve your customers' pain in the best way possible. That means that your original idea may completely pivot away into something else entirely or may shift significantly as the weeks progress. Last cohort I mentored a young man who wanted to create a spray on tint similar to how RainX works. After a couple of weeks of customer interviews, he pivoted all the way to an organic air freshener instead because many customers were allergic to the standard air fresheners and cared more about not sneezing than if their car was warm in the summer.

What do mentors provide? During I-Corps, mentors coach the business model canvas and open their rolodex to facilitate the customer interviews. After I-Corps, mentors provide business coaching to help the business succeed.

The team at UCF who run I-Corps are phenomenal. They are entrepreneurial professors in a variety of disciplines and a strong administrative staff. The mentors come from all over the state, some from Broward College, some from Miami through Zoom. There is a different mix of mentors each cohort as the projects are all different and need different expertise.

David enjoys mentoring both within the I-Corps program and with XeoDev clients. There is so much to learn and do in a software business that it takes years to learn and pick up tips. Yet the startup ecosystem demands running much faster to be successful.

How do I get a free mentor? If you would like to learn more about having David as a mentor, please drop us a line.