Milestone-Based Mentoring in I-Corps and Lean Startup

At GW, mentoring consists of coordinated ongoing engagement with an innovator that can begin well before a business idea or team is formed, if ever. It can last through the development of products and business models, through the acceleration process. 

The common thread throughout our mentoring program is the Lean Startup process of customer discovery and our I-Corps-derived mentoring philosophy:

  • Focus on training the innovator, not the innovation.
  • Never judge the potential of an idea — that’s the job of the innovator and their market.
  • Never tell teams what they should do with their idea, just how to develop it, i.e., guidance, not consulting.

In general, GW seeks mentors who are good listeners. Mentors need to understand the innovator, their level of experience, and the stage of the idea to provide appropriate guidance. Often, a researcher has no fixed commercial idea, or even a desire to build a business, but seeks knowledge about where their research can be applied. Students might have very little real-world experience but want to “build an app.” As teams and their ideas advance, assistance can advance and become more specific.