Venture Exploration Program

Brought to you by the MIT Innovation Initiative and the NSF I-Corps Node at MIT

Learn about pathways from academia to venture creation.
Define and communicate the broader impact of your research.
Think about how to turn your science into a startup.

VEP is a three-part program that allows you to develop a business model for your research-derived product or service.

The program is currently on hiatus, but if you’re interested in learning more about this and other resources available at MIT for research-derived venture creation, contact Thomas Luly at the MIT Innovation Initiative here.

What is VEP?

VEP has three modules, each geared around one of three goals:
        1. Determine the product-market fit for your tech
        2. Understand science startup success factors
        3. Plan for next steps: communications, networking, and potential funding

More information on these is below.

Who is it for?

VEP is primarily for MIT postdocs and PhD candidates. You may participate as a solo member, or as part of a team. If you’re a researcher, other type of student, and/or from another university, you’re still welcome to apply.

Participants are required to have a technology that will form the basis for their work in the program (usually, the tech that you’ve been working on in the lab).

Module 1: Product-Market Fit

You’ll begin VEP with a brief introduction to the I-Corps process, then embarking on customer discovery to start thinking about product-market fit.

Hour 1:
  • Product-Market Fit
  • Customer Segments and Value Propositions
  • Business Model Canvas

Hour 2:
  • Overview of your technology/project
  • Who’s your customer, and why might someone pay for your solution?
  • Deeper Dive: Customer Segments and Value Propositions

Hour 3:
  • Customer Discovery
  • Building a testable hypothesis
  • Finding potential customers and interviewing
  • Overview of other I-Corps programs

Module 2: Science Startup Success Factors

Next, you’ll learn more about success factors that play a role in launching a successful tough tech venture:
  • Entrepreneurial strategy
  • Thinking about your technology, the market, and regulatory considerations
  • Early-stage financing and funding sources, including VC and non-dilutive government grants

Past speakers have included Scott Stern and Erin Scott from MIT’s Sloan School of Management; Prof. Oli de Weck, MIT Aero Astro; Shreya Dave, CEO & Co-Founder, Via Separations; Bob Mumgaard, CEO & Co-Founder, Commonwealth Fusion Systems; Veronica Stelmakh, CEO & Co-Founder, Mesodyne; and Michael Kearney, Principal at The Engine

Module 3: Next Steps and Communicating Your Impact

And finally, you’ll put it all together as you consider next steps. What have you learned about the commercialization process, and about you and your technology?
  • Receive mentorship from MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service
  • Final presentation to share your learnings from throughout the program

Where will the sessions take place?

To maximize convenience for participants, we’ll be holding these sessions virtually, but hope to hold some networking sessions at MIT’s brand-new InnovationHQ.

What’s the schedule?

Below are dates for the Spring 2022 program. (Dates for the speaker sessions are tentative and subject to change.)
  • Kickoff - Tuesday, April 12, 12-1pm
  • I-Corps Session 1 - Tuesday, April 19, 12-1pm
  • I-Corps Session 2 - Wednesday, April 27, 12-1pm
  • I-Corps Session 3 - Tuesday, May 3 at 12pm
  • Startup Founder Fireside Chat - tbd
  • Entrepreneurial Strategy - May 10 and 12
  • Funding and Venture Capital - Tuesday, May 24
  • Non-Dilutive Funding Opportunities - Thursday, May 26
  • Final Presentations and Next Steps - Thursday, June 2


I’ve already participated in an MIT I-Corps program (e.g. MIT Spark) – can I still participate?

Yes, you may apply to the program for participation, and are encouraged to continue with the customer discovery process.

Do I need to have a startup idea in mind already to participate?

Not at all – many participants are just beginning to think about tough tech entrepreneurship, so a lack of experience in this area isn’t a problem.

If I already have a startup, can I still participate?

Please let us know in the application form; we’ll reach out to discuss specifics.

Can I apply by myself, or do I need to be part of a team?

Either is fine – you can apply on an individual basis or as part of a team. If part of a team, each team member will have to submit an application.

Is participation in each session mandatory?

Yes, although we should be able to make reasonable accommodations for limited absences. If you have a schedule conflict, please let us know in your application.

Is there funding?

Yes – each team is eligible to receive funding to defray expenses incurred as part of the customer discovery process.

I’m concerned about confidentiality and IP – should I be?

VEP helps participants explore the customer discovery and business model development processes, as well as other key facets of technology commercialization. No new IP will be generated during VEP, and we won’t get too far ‘into the weeds’ of your specific technology.

How are participants selected?

Each application will be reviewed by a team from the MIT Innovation Initiative and the MIT New England Regional Innovation Node (NERIN).

Must I commit to launching a startup at the end of the program?

Not at all – it’s called the Venture Exploration Program for a reason. If you decide that pursuing a startup isn’t for you, that’s fine – there are many paths from idea to impact beyond startups. If you do have the intention of launching a startup at some point, VEP will help you take a step forward towards that goal.

Still have questions? Contact Thomas Luly at the MIT Innovation Initiative here.