A new program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is encouraging faculty, staff and students to think like entrepreneurs.
The program, Nebraska Introduction to Customer Discovery, launched this fall with 19 teams representing departments across campus. It is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps, in which researchers interview stakeholders to understand their needs — and then use that feedback to guide decisions about a startup company or technology commercialization.
“This training provided an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to gain new perspectives on the commercialization of their research idea,” said Mauricio Suarez, director of business development at NUtech Ventures, the university’s commercialization affiliate.
The program included weekly office hours with staff from NUtech Ventures, Nebraska’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Invest Nebraska, and the Nebraska Business Development Center. It also featured sessions to learn concepts such as value proposition and customer segmentation, which helps entrepreneurs narrow their focus to test specific hypotheses.
Carly Hillburn, a graduate student in nutrition and health science, narrowed her project focus to a specific group of people: parents of children aged two to five years that are attending licensed, for-profit daycares in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.
She then conducted interviews with team members Rachel Maloy, an undergraduate student majoring in nutrition and dietetics, and Dipti Dev, Betti and Richard Robinson Associate Professor of child, youth and family studies. The team presented their findings at the Oct. 23 program finale.
“My favorite part was the hands-on experience we gained from going out and doing interviews,” Hillburn said. “I learned a lot from this program, because I didn’t have a lot of experience with business or entrepreneurship.”
The free, non-credit program will be offered again in the spring semester and is open to all University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty, staff and students. To receive more information, email email@example.com.