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SUNY launches Startup Summer School

More than 70 faculty, staff, students and startup leaders from across the State University of New York (SUNY) system have enrolled in a new and unique SUNY Startup Summer School (S4) to hone their business development skills and, ultimately, move their ideas to the marketplace. 

S4 focuses on providing learning and development opportunities for aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs. The customized education program offers a series of in-person and virtual training sessions that teach customer discovery, the Lean Startup methodology, and provide tips and techniques for obtaining Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards. 

Depending on their experience, S4 enrollees receive in-person training, proposal development support, and access to instructional webinars and other training and development programs supporting startup success provided in a just-in-time format. 

The 12-week program launched with SUNY ZAP!, an accelerated customer discovery course taught at Innovation Node, Los Angeles, (IN-LA) teaches that the first step to a successful start-up is to find your first customer segment by engaging with industry and learning from the marketplace. Presented by the Research Foundation for SUNY (RF) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Innovation Node-Los Angeles (IN-LA), the SUNY ZAP! curriculum is designed to teach scientists and engineers to get out of their labs, think more like entrepreneurs and complete five customer interviews with potential customers of their products. The two-day program is based on the Lean Start-Up Methodology and the NSF I-Corps curriculum

"Learning the basics - the lingo and the process - was very interesting," said University at Albany School of Public Health Professor Jennifer Manganello, who noted that she has experience writing research grants but is not as familiar with business development. "I learned how to prepare a business thesis, articulate value, and create a business model canvas. Listening to the other presentations was also extremely helpful." 

UCLA faculty, Melihe Bulu Taciroglu, who taught a two-session customer discovery curriculum (ZAP!) at SUNY on May 23 and 30, noted that the key to startup success is making something users want. Throughout the program, discussion and exercises focused on the questions: what is the invention, who is it for, and why should we care? Participants learned to challenge their assumptions, look beyond academia for market information, and talk to potential users in person. The teams used these skills to create hypotheses and draft business plans for their startups. 

“SUNY ZAP! helps make the point that understanding what the customer needs is key to creating a viable commercial company,” said Scott Tenenbaum, Head of Nanobioscience at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. “It is important to get out of the academic bubble and get honest feedback from real people who may actually use your product.  Hearing that your assumptions may be wrong, and then learning how to take that advice is more valuable than anything else a new entrepreneur can learn.” 

David Logan and business partner John Konrad, a graduate of SUNY Maritime College, are in the early stage of defining their business. “The market-based approach of the business canvas makes a lot of sense,” said Logan. “The support this program offers is incredibly helpful, I especially appreciate the direct feedback.” 

Graduates of the regional SUNY ZAP! sessions are eligible to enroll in the advanced BOOM course, which requires participants to build a business team and conduct 10 customer interviews. Teams that complete BOOM qualify to apply for the $50,000 National I-Corps team grant. Graduates will also have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one meetings with federal and state program managers representing the $2.5 billion in early-stage funding at the state Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Road Tour, which will make a stop at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Albany Campus on September 17, 2019.

Tags Tags: University at Albany , SUNY Polytechnic Institute , Maritime College

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