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I-Corps Hub West Programs

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I-Corps Hub West Journey

What Happens in ZAP?

Graduate students & research faculty with deep technology to bring to market.

Gain a broad introduction to Lean StartupMethodology and The business model canvas.Identify your customers and refine your value proposition through practical exercises.


In ZAP, you will gain real-world insights, interacting with potential consumer bases for an end product – the purpose is to obtain actionable data and refine your value proposition: how can your tech provide a solution to a real-world challenge? 

Your team will be coached by expert instructors in various fields of business and tech, learning about Lean Startup Methodology and the business model canvas, and you will have to complete 10 interviews with industry-relevant businesses. 

In ZAP, you will not be required to have found an Industry Mentor for your team, but we highly encourage you to recruit an IM as soon as you are able.

What Happens in BOOM?

Teams who have completed ZAP, invitation-only. If you don’t have a NSF grant, you must complete ZAP and BOOM to gain sponsorship for the national I-CorpsTM program.

Dive deeper into customer discovery and the business ecosystem — mapping your journey from deep tech innovation to scaling a startup.

Congratulations, you have completed ZAP and are ready for Round 2! 

BOOM is invitation-only after ZAP completion, and teams are chosen based on both performance and the relevance of your technology to the National I-Corps program. 

Through additional coaching and another round of 10 industry interviews, you will dive deeper into customer discovery and the business ecosystem, gaining insights into the process of transforming a deep tech innovation into a growing startup. After successfully completing BOOM, you will be invited to apply for Hub sponsorship to Nationals.

How Do I Get to Nationals?

Teams with NSF grant Funding and teams who have successfully completed ZAP, BOOM, and a final screening process.


If accepted to the national program, you will receive a $50,000 grant from the NSF to support the commercialization of your deep technology.

After refining your value proposition and gaining a great understanding of where your deep tech can fit in the marketplace through ZAP and BOOM, you will submit an application for Hub sponsorship to the NSF I-Corps program. 

If your team is determined to be primed for success at the national level, you will be sponsored to apply to the NSF National Cohort. The final decision rests with the NSF. 

When you are accepted, you will receive a $50,000 grant from the NSF to support the commercialization of your deep technology. 


APPLY to ZAP, even if you don't yet have a fully formed team. Each team must have three members.

PI/TL (Principal Investigator/ Technical Lead) 

This team member is a research professor or faculty; the technology came from their lab and was developed using grant funds. If the PI has limited availability to participate, they can nominate a TL, who is the technical expert on the tech in relation to the program. 

EL (Entrepreneurial Lead)

The EL is typically a graduate student or postdoc, who is working in the lab with the technology. They are the team lead going through the I-Corps program. All team members are required to be at all program sessions and the EL does all the reporting out—they are the point person. 

IM (Industrial Mentor)

The primary role of the IM is as a third-party resource for the team. The IM brings an outside perspective to manage potential roadblocks in the process, like confirmation bias. They are the interpreter of the business world for academics on a team, but they are also a connector—leveraging their network and opening doors for the EL and PI.


Interested in mentoring one of our startups? 

Sign Up Today!

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