Flemming CEED Center announces Customer Discovery Lab workshops, grants

Customers Discovery Lab flyer
Credit: Penn State

WYOMISSING, Pa. — Budding entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the Penn State Berks Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center’s Customer Discovery Lab, a six-week series of workshops that will provide commercialization training and mentorship, as well as the opportunity to apply for micro-grants, for up to 30 startup teams per year. The deadline for applications is Jan. 29, and applications can be found at https://sites.psu.edu/ceed/. This opportunity is open to Penn State faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, recent alumni and community members interested in exploring the commercial viability of their idea or innovation.

The Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center’s Customer Discovery Lab and spring 2021 weekly workshops will begin on Feb. 17. These “boot camp” style trainings will help entrepreneurs to begin customer discovery, learn about the commercialization process, network with experienced entrepreneurs, and determine if a market exists for their innovation.

Participants will learn how to develop a business model, validate their business model through a scientific process, get feedback from faculty experts and other entrepreneurs, and work one-on-one with experienced entrepreneurs who serve as mentors. 

Participants will also be eligible to apply for a micro-grant of up to $3,000, which can be used to attend industry trade shows, visit potential customers, develop prototypes, and cover customer discovery expenses, and they can apply for an I-Corps National Teams $50,000 grant award after completing the program.

The Iab’s lead faculty includes Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems, and Abdullah Konak, professor of information sciences and technology. Kulturel-Konak is also the director of the Flemming CEED Center and the coordinator for the entrepreneurship and innovation (ENTI) minor. 

Kulturel-Konak summarized, “You can’t test your business idea inside the building. You can’t build your business in a laboratory. Together we can easily see whether a business model can succeed, or what it needs to do so. I feel really good about how much we have been able to help our teams in our Customer Discovery Lab sessions.”

Eligible projects must be in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), and teams should be composed of three individuals: an academic lead who will serve as principal investigator, typically a Penn State faculty or staff member; an entrepreneurial lead, typically a student, faculty/staff member, recent alumnus or community member; and a business mentor who will provide experienced perspectives to the team. Business mentors may be assigned if necessary. Teams must commit to attending the required workshops and cohort meetings and must perform a minimum of 30 customer interviews by the end of the program.

For more information and to apply, visit https://sites.psu.edu/ceed/.

About the Customer Discovery Lab
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Invent Penn State Innovation Corps site status and $500,000 in September 2017 to support entrepreneurship training and micro-grants for university-related startups. The Customer Discovery Lab is a joint initiative funded through the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps and Invent Penn State. In accordance with the NSF guidelines, all ideas for the program must be based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

About the Flemming CEED Center
The Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center was established in the fall of 2011 as part of Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. Its mission is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking in the Penn State Berks community and to foster economic growth and development in the Greater Reading area.

The Penn State Berks Customer Discovery Lab offered by the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center is one of the area’s newest resources for testing the validity of a new business idea. It offers startups free access to other entrepreneurs, faculty members, business owners, venture capitalists, members of the community and many other resources. Part of the Penn State Berks Flemming CEED Center, the Customer Discovery Lab further expands the University’s strong emphasis on entrepreneurship programs.