Ricky Venters, FastForward's program manager, presents during the virtual workshop.

Aspiring entrepreneurs from across The Johns Hopkins University attended a virtual workshop last week to learn about two key concepts in entrepreneurship: customer discovery and the value proposition.

The April 1 webinar was part of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ AccelHERator, an educational event series that provides targeted support to accelerate the innovations and business ideas of female innovators at Johns Hopkins. (While women comprise 44% of the university’s faculty and 54% of the student population, only 11% of startup founders are women.)

Ricky Venters, FastForward’s program manager, guided attendees through an abbreviated version of the I-Corps curriculum, an immersive learning experience developed by the National Science Foundation for researchers, faculty, and students to determine if the problem they are working to solve exists on a larger scale in the market. Tips included:

  • When interviewing customers, the goal should be to validate the problem, not your product. In other words, don’t ask a customer if they like your solution; ask them about their problem.
  • Always finish an interview with an open-ended probe that takes advantage of your customer’s expertise, such as “What did I forget to ask?” or “Is there anyone else you think I should meet?”

Participants from the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, Carey Business School and School of Medicine, among other schools, shared their draft value propositions for products including medical devices and a range of consumer products.

While the program was originally scheduled as an in-person workshop, participants interacted and were engaged in what attendee called “one of the most useful webinars I have ever attended!”

Aspiring entrepreneurs interested in applying the principles of customer discovery to a business idea can apply for the I-Corps program, which is held several times each year. The spring session starts May 1.

The next event in the AccelHERator series is scheduled for May 8, when JHTV’s Christy Wyskiel will lead “The Corporate and VC Audience: Pitching your Innovation and Building Relationships.”  This session includes a 30-minute “Pitching best practices” seminar and a conversation with Jill Carroll (SOM ’99), principal at S.R.One.

To register and learn more about our Women in Innovation initiative and future AccelHERator events, click here.