This article was originally posted in April 2019. It has been revised as of August 19, 2020.
Too frequently, brilliant innovations make a big splash in the world of academia, but never live up to their potential to create real-world change. Innovators worry that they’re not entrepreneurs, but they’ll learn how to become one through Venture Partners' Research-to-Market (R2M) customer discovery program.
Aspero Medical, a CU Boulder startup founded by CEO and Associate Mechanical Engineering Professor Mark Rentschler, is bringing an innovative endoscopy technology to market after completing R2M. The program walks technologists like Rentschler through the process of customer discovery and pushes them to think about how their innovations can be adopted in real markets.
After R2M, Rentschler was able to further refine the product design to include a more complete solution based on interviews with clinical users and purchasers and was recently awarded NSF SBIR funding on a second product solution identified during customer interviewing. According to Rentschler, “R2M was incredibly helpful in transitioning from a research discovery mindset in the laboratory, to a market discovery mindset.”
Recent R2M program graduate Shine On is a CU Boulder startup founded by students Alex Mulvaney, Katherine Vega and Taylor Brooks-Murphy. Shine On is making the world's safest bike light.
After R2M, the company launched a Kickstarter and raised over $30,000—enough to begin manufacturing the product and to finish fulfilling all of the Kickstarter orders. R2M skills helped them learn how to present their company on three local news stations and in over a dozen print publications.
"Being able to focus our message and vision into something people could understand was one of the main lessons of R2M and one of the big keys to our continued success," said Mulvaney.
These journeys from lab to commercial venture are success stories that Venture Partneers wants all innovators to achieve. The sixth session of R2M launches this September.
Throughout the three-week program, teams will conduct interviews with industry experts and gain insight into their target market from experienced mentors and advisors.
R2M provides an easy entry point into the startup journey by setting participants up to:
- clarify their paths, reduce risks, and seek funding from the accelerators and investors that make up Colorado’s innovation ecosystem;
- apply for the Office of Economic Development and International Trader’s (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) grant; and/or
- compete for funding in Venture Partners 2020 Lab Venture Challenge.
Innovators and technologists interested in commercialization are welcome to apply to R2M before Sept. 1, through the easy online application.