Students Gain Business Skills at I-Corps@Ohio

Posted: June 10, 2016

I-Corps@Ohio is an initiative by the Ohio Department of Higher Education to assist students and faculty from universities around Ohio in validating the market potential of their technologies. Through this program, run by Dr. Michael Camp from the Fisher College of Business, teams learn how to apply Lean Startup, Customer Discovery and Business Model Canvas methodologies while also expanding their professional networks. The goal of the program is to increase innovation and industry collaboration, as well as drive technology-based economic development in Ohio. This year, about 20 teams with a wide range of ideas are participating in the program to validate and hopefully launch their startups.
On the first day of the program the teams came together to present their initial business plans. They participated in workshops and had time to interview key industry partners to validate or invalidate their initial thoughts. By Day 3, almost every team had shifted their target markets and created a more focused value proposition. Throughout the next six weeks, the teams will learn more about their industry partners in an effort to identify where they fit in the market.
As interns at CDME, Paul Bete (business/ marketing) and myself (engineering) had the opportunity to attend the launch week of this program. After observing the first few days, I learned how crucial market validation is when kick-starting a business. It was interesting to see how teams pivoted multiple times before realizing their target market was completely different than what was first expected. I also recognized how the Business Model Canvas must be adjusted multiple times to identify the most successful path. Asking the right questions and testing assumptions is crucial in order to determine the value of a startup. Most importantly, I learned that no business can be successful without identifying the correct customer segments. Although all of the teams here have innovative ideas, they cannot succeed without interested customers.  I look forward to following these teams throughout the next few weeks of the program to see how their startups evolve.   
Author: Hannah Maringo 
Third year student at The Ohio State University studying Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Member of the Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship Scholars, which engages students in the entrepreneurial scene through strategic networking. Current research assistant at the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence with an interest in business development and project engineering.