Fu’s team completes NSF Innovation Corps program; will start new company
In October 2012, Computer Science Ph.D student Yinjie Chen, his adviser Prof. Xinwen Fu (Associate Chair & Associate Professor, Computer Science), and Nancy Saucier (Associate Director, New Venture Development) successfully completed the NSF Innovation Corps program (I-Corps) at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
NSF I-Corps is newly formed program to “prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broadens the impact of select, NSF-funded, basic-research projects.”
The UMass Lowell team was one of 24 teams accepted into the UMich Ann Arbor cohort, the third cohort of this program. NSF program managers selected 147 teams for phone interviews, and chose 24 teams for this cohort.
Prof. Fu's team is the first into the NSF I-Corps program from UMass Lowell.
At the Ann Arbor workshop, experienced entrepreneurs introduced participants to the business canvas model. Running a startup is different from running mature business, and start-ups must address nine specific aspects of doing business:
- Customer segments: which customers to pursue;
- Value proposition: what a startup can provide to the customers—what is customers’ burning pain and the startup’s edge to cure it;
- Customer relationships: how to let customers know the products;
- Channels: how to distribute products to customers;
- Key resources: what we need to make the products;
- Key activities: how to make the product;
- Key partners to work with;
- Cost structure: projecting monthly expenditures against expected revenue;
- Revenue streams: ways to make money.
After the workshop, teams participated in weekly online meetings to share their progress.
Prof. Fu explained, “Our company will hold the intellectual property of using a single wireless detector to locate a target mobile phone. We confirmed that potential customers include law enforcement who can use their localization tools to locate criminals abusing WiFi networks, outdoor enthusiasts who can locate each other while outdoors, and military personnel who can detect IEDs (improvised explosive devices) by sensing the cellular signals used to detonate IEDs.
“We went through the rewarding journey of this program, and we're now positioned to found a startup company!”
(L-R) Nancy Saucier, Yinjie Chen and Xinwen Fu at final presentation of University of Michigan Ann Arbor NSF I-Corp cohort 3 workshop.