Penn Center for Innovation

I-Corps Week 1: Opportunity Assessment Session

Posted on June 9, 2015 — Kat Hinkel

Guest Post By Tomás Isakowitz

Today was the first session. What a pleasure it was to feel the enrgy and excitement of our fourteen teams! The magnificent classroom in the medical school accentuated the experience. It is well-lit and the many tables distributed in rows facilitated group interaction.

We started with a review, with examples of the trajectory that start-ups and pre-startups follow. Going through my own experience starting a service company in the ’80s (assisting small businesses adopting microcomputers) provided a glimpse of iterations and pivots undertaken by instinct and serendipity. It worked that time, but it took much longer than it would have taken if the Lean Launchpad method had been followed. Steve Blank’s example of Transcense (a team that graduated from a  Lean Launchpad class) provided a second illustration. They pivoted from a solution (an electronic glove) to addressing deaf individuals’ difficulties in talking to those that do not know Sign Language, then to an app that allows deaf individuals to follow group conversations. Scott followed up with an overview of the Business Model Canvas and we dove into building a BMC for the iWatch. Great example. The analysis we undertook clearly showed  that its success rides on top of Apple’s ecosystem (content via iTunes disseminated through a wide platform of computing devices).

Four teams gave their first presentations. What a treat this was! These were great greatly executed first attempts at defining their business models.

1. QTEK presented their antimicrobial coating for medical devices, consumer products, furniture and appliances, and consumer products in general as potential markets. QTEK has this very clear: they have a solution in search of a problem, like many technology startups. Their next goal is to analyze one market at a time to find a good fit.

2. Shareonymous presented their solution for alleviating emotional distress amongst student populations. It is a network that enables “honest communication”, where students do not try to pose, which is what happens on Facebook and discourages sincere, honest displays of emotional problems. The team nailed it in figuring out that their most significant customer segment is colleges and, more specifically, Behavioral Health outfits within them that are tasked with tending to students’ emotional mental health. Their task now is to find out from these customers what their real problems are.

3. Proton Imaging is working on providing a more accurate targeting of proton therapy for reduction of cancerous tumors. Their project, as with many life sciences businesses, is complicated by the presence of multiple stakeholders: clinicians, patients, radiologists, payers, and radiology equipment manufacturers. The team identified clearly the need to interview oncology clinicians and radiology technicians first. Fortunately, we are right in the midst of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), where there are plenty of potential interview candidates.

4. Lastly, Lashbee gave a very polished presentation on semi-permanent eye lash extensions. (I did not know these existed.) The problem they are addressing is the tension between the desire of having eyelash extensions and the cost and time it takes. Lashbee made the case that the market is large and they identified two customer segments: end-users and beauty professionals, with value propositions for each.

These presentations were followed by a breakout session in which the remaining 10 teams presented to each other and to our industry mentors.

A common theme with all teams is the need to further define their customer segments to come up with more specific customer archetypes, which we will covered later in the course.

Category: i-corps