Friday, January 31, 2014

Julian Valencia and Erik Ashby came into the University of Iowa’s Venture School last fall with an idea and a lot of enthusiasm. As full-time MBA students, they were exposed to case studies and innovative business strategies. Venture School provided an opportunity to put this knowledge to work while building and testing their own business concept.

As part of Venture School’s five week program, Valencia and Ashby were assigned a mentor and asked to talk with 100 potential customers about their big idea. During this “customer discovery,” they focused on different aspects of the business model canvas, such as their value proposition, revenue models and addressable market size. Each week Valencia and Ashby pitched their discoveries in class and received constructive feedback from instructors, mentors and their peers. In the end, Valencia and Ashby learned they needed to pivot from their original vision to have a more viable business.

Ashby commented, “Venture School gave me a chance to put what I’ve learned into practice, while getting feedback from a team of instructors and mentors whom had a variety of expertise and experiences.”

Venture School is a new program based on the National Science Foundation’s Innovation-Corps model. It enables entrepreneurs to evaluate business opportunities in a state-of-the-art way  by getting out of the building and talking to real customers, partners and competitors and they will be more likely to successfully launch their businesses.

Since graduating from the UI’s Venture School, Valencia and Ashby continue to work on their business with mentoring from the JPEC teaching team. Ashby feels that the information he gained from Venture School has been critical in his development as an entrepreneur and has put him in touch with an exciting methodology that he will be able to put into practice no matter where he goes.

Over the next year, the UI will partner with community colleges and other programs to take this exciting new program across the state. For more information on the program and future dates, please visit