I-Corps South trains Irish researchers in entrepreneurship workshop

I-Corps South Program Manager Melissa Heffner leads a customer discovery workshop with a group of Irish researchers and entrepreneurs. (Photo by: Sara Henderson)

I-Corps South program team members recently traveled to the Republic of Ireland as part of a two-day training curriculum to prepare 24 Irish teams for a year-long program focused on supporting ideas and technologies that address societal challenges.


Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) invited the I-Corps South team to Dublin to explain how to develop a mission model and how to engage in meaningful and objective customer discovery. It’s the second consecutive year that SFI has invited the I-Corps South staff to lead this workshop.


A program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, I-Corps South is a node of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps initiative.


The NSF’s I-Corps program — a boot camp that shows what it’s like to form a startup — helps NSF-funded researchers learn how to commercialize their findings and determine if a market actually exists for what they developed.


I-Corps South provides evidence-based entrepreneurship education and support to commercialize startups, as well as training, resources, and an active network to regional research universities across the Southeast and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.


“SFI is currently working to build out its evidenced-based entrepreneurship programming,” said Sara Henderson, I-Corps South program designer. “They are basing their programs on the lean startup methodology and sought out our team to help them train their teams, given our experience in teaching the methodology to students and faculty across the Southeast and at NSF I-Corps Teams Cohorts.”


I-Corps South Executive Director Keith McGreggor explains the loss aversion bias theory and how it applies to entrepreneurs. (Photo by: Sara Henderson)

The I-Corps South team — Executive Director Keith McGreggor, Program Manager Melissa Heffner, and Henderson — worked with the Irish teams, which were all focused on various aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) or zero emissions for societal good.


Among some of the project ideas:

  • AI for fetal wellbeing
  • Non-surgical treatment for lung cancer using AI
  • Creating a carbon-neutral resilient dairy farm
  • Hybrid bio-solar reactors for wastewater treatment and carbon dioxide recycling


“It was a great experience and the teams were all focused on projects that have potential to effect positive societal change,” Henderson said.


In addition to the Mission Model Canvas and stakeholder discovery training they received from I-Corps South, the Irish teams also received coaching on the Theory of Change from Social Innovation Fund Ireland.


Sara Henderson, I-Corps South program designer, discusses the service blueprint methodology, a model for using operational efficiency to diagnose problems. (Photo by: Melissa Heffner)

“Several of the teams will be filtered out at the end of March after the first phase of the program, which is focused on them conducting rapid stakeholder and beneficiary research,” Henderson said. “The remaining teams will advance to the next phase and will support their projects with additional research and work on their solutions through the end of 2020.”


SFI and NSF have an agreement in place allowing SFI to send teams to the I-Corps Teams program.


In the last couple of years, SFI has leveraged Georgia Tech for I-Corps training for their teams and Tech has led similar sessions for the Centers for Disease Control. The government of Mexico in 2018, through its National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT), sent more than a dozen university-based instructors to Tech to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to build and maintain such programs at their schools.

I-Corps Puerto Rico wins “Best Startup Program of the Year” award

By Péralte C. Paul


Picture2The H3 Tech Conference, Latin America’s premier innovation event that brings together hackers, the startup community, and the creative economy, named I-Corps Puerto Rico the “Best Startup Program of the Year.”


I-Corps Puerto Rico, which is a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Startup Ecosystems group, is a five-week, hands-on program designed to teach small teams of entrepreneurs how to launch innovative businesses through the fundamentals of the Customer Discovery method and the Business Model Canvas.


The initiative, which is entering its third year on the Caribbean island, is a collaborative effort of the Puerto Rico Science and Technology Trust, Grupo Guayacán, and Tech’s VentureLab startup incubator and commercialization program.


“This is an important milestone for us that underscores the work we have been doing in Puerto Rico these last two years,” said David Bridges, Startup Ecosystems’ director. “We have been working with our partners there to help strengthen the island’s startup network, using the proven I-Corps model.”


Startup Ecosystems helps governments, communities, foundations, entrepreneurs, and small businesses foster value creation by applying innovative ideas, technology, and policy to initiatives focused on economic growth.


The I-Corps Puerto Rico model is based on the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. The initiative is designed to prepare scientists and engineers to look beyond their laboratory research to commercialize their findings. It also aims to broaden the impact of select, NSF-funded, basic-research projects.


VentureLab runs the I-Corps program in the Southeast.


“We’re happy the I-Corps Puerto Rico model has been recognized by the H3 Tech Conference,” said Keith McGreggor, VentureLab’s director. “It’s proven to help scientists and researchers become successful entrepreneurs, and our mission here in Puerto Rico is to help drive the growth of the startup ecosystem.”


The ultimate goal of the I-Corps Puerto Rico efforts is to help these entrepreneurs get to a point where together, they create a greater startup ecosystem that can become self-sustaining, Bridges said.


“Through the partnership with Georgia Tech to deliver I-Corps Puerto Rico, we have realized the great value that our entrepreneurs — at different stages of development — can get from going out there and talking to their customers,” said Laura Cantero, Grupo Guayacán’s executive director. “The experience has helped us introduce elements of the Customer Discovery method into every one of our programs and activities.”


Grupo Guayacán, headquartered in San Juan, is a non-profit organization that works with entrepreneurs, private equity investment entities, and programs such as I-Corps Puerto Rico to help the island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem develop and grow.


To date, nearly 40 entrepreneurial teams have gone through I-Corps Puerto Rico, representing a variety of industries ranging from life sciences to information technology, among others. A third cohort of I-Corps Puerto Rico will begin in April of this year.


“The program has allowed Guayacán to tap into new sources and pockets of innovation with great commercialization potential, including our top universities and research centers,” Cantero said. “One of our proudest achievements has been the acceptance of one of our I-Corps Puerto Rico Alumni into the national I-Corps program. This milestone proves the quality of our local entrepreneurial talent and signals that we’re moving in the right direction.”