Updated: Mar 30, 2021
For the past five weeks, eight inaugural female founder teams came back together to apply the customer discovery theories they learned in the Female Founders: Introduction to Lean Startup program from the fall. Participants were asked to conduct six or more customer discovery interviews each week, and reported on their interview findings in weekly group sessions. Instructors Sara Henderson and Melissa Heffner provided feedback on the team’s targeted customer segments and assumed value propositions, hypotheses on their customer behaviors, questions they were asking during interviews, and next steps they planned to take with the findings. Teams also had the opportunity to attend office hours for additional feedback and support.
Throughout the program teams heard from potential customers and were able to identify where there was or was not an opportunity to commercialize their technology. The five weeks went fast and by the end teams were getting a strong handle on who they should be targeting as their priority customer segments, what their customer ecosystem and journey’s looked like, and how they could be creating value to address their customers’ needs.
Sara Henderson, “Being in a program led by women for women provided these teams with a unique experience and an opportunity to embrace risk over perfection as they worked to evolve their startups towards stronger marketable concepts built with a customer problem first approach.” This was shown as many teams found themselves making several pivots and some teams arrived at key inflection and decision points for the direction of their startups.
Many teams pivoted in small or large ways throughout the process. One example is team Stridelink, who realized they would need to start with physical therapy researchers to prove patient outcomes for their device before going directly to physical therapists for adoption of their solution. Female Founder teams Kula, Solopulse, River Recon, and Stridelink all had opportunities to receive additional feedback from startup mentors as they presented at our monthly startup team pitch events while engaged with the Female Founders programs, I-Corps Souths’ Innovation Open Mic and VentureLab’s Mentor Lunch. This allowed these teams to adjust their customer discovery efforts further as they were provided with valuable insights into the industries they were exploring and the business models they were pursuing.
Allyson McKinney from team Solopulse summed up the program saying, “Through Female Founders, I saw how different my way of thought was as an engineer relative to the successful businesswomen who spoke to us. In the first Fall session, they coached me to start developing the type of mindset I need to be a successful entrepreneur while maintaining my love for STEM-related work. I came back for the second session because I would never turn down an opportunity to learn from the best. Being part of a program that is by and for females is all the more inspiring.”
For VentureLab’s Graduate Research Assistant who was able to assist with the program, the experience was an opportunity for personal and professional growth that she outlined in this blog post. Grupp said, “As I’m about to embark on a career in consulting, I’m grateful to have been able to practice creating and delivering lectures on resources within the Innovation Ecosystem, key characteristics of how to form successful teams, and best practices for conducting customer discovery.”
The program came to a close on Tuesday, March 2nd with keynote speaker guest Meredith Struby, an IP attorney from Meunier Carlin & Curfmanand who works with Georgia Tech. Meredith discussed the ins and outs of intellectual property and how startups could protect their inventions. While this is the closing of the program, it is only the start of the journey for many of the entrepreneurship teams who participated. Female Founder instructors look forward to supporting them along the way. The next Female Founders: Introduction to Lean Startup program begins on March 4, 2021.