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Polsky Center Launches Customer Discovery Bootcamp to Help Early-Stage Ventures Explore Product-Market Fit

(iStock/Dilok Klaisataporn)

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is pleased to announce the launch of Customer Discovery Bootcamp, a new program for early-stage startups to explore the viability of their business ideas.

Customer Discovery Bootcamp, which will be piloted during winter quarter, aims to help early-stage ventures determine problem-solution fit by engaging directly with potential customers and industry stakeholders.

The program is modeled after I-Corps, an initiative funded by the National Science Foundation to help scientists commercialize their discoveries. Unlike I-Corps, the bootcamp won’t be limited to startups in STEM fields (Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology.)

Customer discovery is a foundational step in startup formation. Over five weeks, bootcamp teams will gain experience in the process of customer discovery, including conducting customer discovery interviews and participating in educational sessions. By the end, teams will gain valuable insight into their intended market and use customer feedback to inform their next steps in developing their ventures.

“We’re excited to be able to support student founders at an early stage through the process of customer discovery,” said Ellen Zatkowski, assistant director at the Polsky Center. “By engaging with potential customers and other stakeholders, teams can use this direct feedback to develop their venture in response to customer needs. This critical experience will serve as a starting point for students to successfully participate in other Polsky programs, like the New Venture Challenge and Polsky Accelerators.”

Customer Discovery Bootcamp is open to current graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Chicago. Teams must have a startup idea and at least two members who are committed to attending all three required workshops and completing out-of-class assignments. Teams are not required to have fully functioning prototypes or proof-of-concept data.

Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee and qualified applicants may be invited to interview. Preference will be given to applicants who have not completed other customer discovery programs or coursework.

The deadline to apply is December 6, 2021 at 10:00am CST. Sessions will take place in person at Chicago Booth Harper Center, 5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., on Jan. 18, Feb. 1, and Feb. 15 of 2022.

Apply at https://airtable.com/shrgxxZPWldAXvEHt

Questions? Contact Ellen Zatkowski at ellen.zatkowski@chicagobooth.edu or Lucas Peralta at lucas.peralta@chicagobooth.edu

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