The Innovation Corps program — which starts in September at Stanford University –will give $50,000 to 100 different teams (3 or more people per team) every year to go through an intensive entrepreneurial education class. The I-Corps class will be modeled on a Stanford engineering class called Lean LaunchPad that was taught earlier this year by serial entrepreneur Steve Blank and a coterie of entrepreneurial thought leaders, technologists and venture capitalists. The grant, which runs to $10 million, covers five years of operations of the program, which will be taught quarterly to 25 teams at a time.
And unlike angel funding or investments from tech incubators such as TechStars and YCombinator, the teams don’t have to give up any equity to the government or to Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), which is handling the education portion of I-Corps.
So how do students get to join the program? Well, that involves a application process and only those who have had an active science and engineering award from the NSF in the last five years are eligible.
All sounds great except two things: They still need to think of ways to pay back the funds because having a sense of obligation is good for entrepreneurs; and they should make it open to everyone, going through a screening process, as the latter itself is part of the game, better than winning the engineering award. It is important to have teams of compensating skills and background, so they learn from each other instead of just the teachers or the program.