The Centennial Center at Hobart and William Smith are proud participants in The National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Short Course Program.

NSF I Corps Logo
The 2-week Customer Discovery workshop is available for students, faculty/staff, and recent alumni to accelerate early-stage ideas towards business and entity creation. The immersive program advances academic teams with the assistance of entrepreneurial/industry coachs through a curriculum of robust customer discovery, customer segment definition, and business model development.

Participants in the course will learn how to:

  • Acquire valuable customer info to drive product/service decisions
  • Conduct customer interviews
  • Identify customer problems
  • Understand value from the customer perspective
  • Identify industry partners

NYS I Corps Logo
The course will be taught by experienced faculty and mentors from the Upstate New York I-Corps Node, which acts as a hub for commercialization training in the Northeast, connecting researchers to valuable resources through national and regional I-Corps programming.

The NSF I-Corps Short Course participation is also a great way to get connected with the nationwide NSF I-Corps network of mentors and programming. Individuals or teams may participate in the program.

Who Should Apply?

Student entrepreneurs and academic researchers who:

  • Have a general idea or innovation and want to explore its market potential;
  • Are willing to find and talk to 30 potential customers in two weeks;
  • Have one to three team members who can participate, including:
  • At least one "entrepreneurial lead" (typically a student or faculty/staff),
  • An optional "research lead" (faculty or staff),
  • May want to apply for the NSF I-Corps Teams National Program and a potential $50,000 grant.

Online Application

How It Works

During the free two-week course, student entrepreneurs are required to “get out of the building” and talk with 30 potential customers to identify or prove a significant customer problem. Lean Startup methods are used, specifically the Business Model Canvas, customer discovery interviews, and value identification techniques, to explore if there’s a viable market fit, (customer desire), for their product idea.

The course begins with an in-person kickoff workshop, followed by 2 video conference mentoring sessions, and ends with an in-person closing workshop (half day), where teams present their findings, get more coaching, and learn about next steps with NSF I-Corps and other entrepreneurship programs.

The 2021-2022 NSF I-Corp Short Course Schedule

NSF I-Corp Short Courses are delivered regularly throughout the Upstate NY region at various colleges and universities (HWS included).

Successful completion of the NSF I-Corp Short Course allows for application to the I-Corps National Teams program, an intensive seven-week innovation and entrepreneurship training course with mentoring and up to $50,000 in NSF funding.

This program is offered by HWS through the Upstate NY I-Corps Node, which consists of Cornell University, the University of Rochester, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. More information on the program and the Upstate NY node can be found on the Upstate NY I-Corps Node website.