Brave Launch is a seven-week virtual business accelerator modeled off of the National Science Foundation Innovation-Corps (I-Corps) accelerator program and Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad. The foundation of the program is evidence-based entrepreneurship and agile development, which pushes teams out into the real world to gain insights and develop their business model through customer discovery. Valuable to both start-ups and existing businesses, the program teaches participants this nationally proven model of innovation. Brave Launch supports economic development by accelerating the development of innovative companies. The program culminates in a demo-day during which teams have the opportunity to pitch to the members of the public, corporate partners, mentors, and the investor community, and win up to $5,000 in prizes.
Integrating the I-Corps national training standard is fundamental to the success of Brave Launch. The I-Corps model of innovation and customer development is used throughout the U.S. and globally. Learning the principles taught in Brave Launch means you can speak the language understood by investors, startup communities, and granting agencies. It is consistent with principles you would use in the future if you receive U.S. government funding.
At the core of this model is Steve Blank’s rejection of the traditional business plan. He observed that most business plans don’t survive the first few months of customer contact, and that startups fail, not due to lack of ideas, but lack of customers. Instead, startups and corporate innovation teams need to structure their innovation and business development around what Blank terms the “Customer Development Process” which includes principles such as customer discovery, minimum viable product (MVP), and quickly testing hypotheses so, when needed, an idea is abandoned and the startup pivots to a new hypothesis.
In integrating these principles into Brave Launch, you will learn how to conduct customer discovery, how to develop your business model canvas, and how to really understand if your startup or corporate innovation idea will be successful. This is part of what makes Brave Launch so challenging—and rewarding. You will be held accountable each week by facilitators to integrate what you are learning into your own customer discovery and business model canvas, which results in your customer discovery and business model canvas getting stronger and stronger each week.
The 2021 Brave Launch is managed by the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University. Joining our staff are two facilitators that have participated in regional and national NSF I-Corp programs.
Brave Launch is hosted by the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University. But your journey doesn’t end here. We are part of nearly 40 SBDCs across Illinois ready to continue to provide business startup and innovation assistance. There are also specialty centers including the Illinois SBDC International Trade Centers and Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. These centers are all embedded in their local communities and will connect you to additional resources.
Bradley University is a member of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition which provides additional linkages to resources, investors, and mentoring opportunities.Apply Now
New for 2021 is a 100% virtual format. Each week, the teams will meet on Thursdays from 4pm to 6:30pm via Zoom. Prior to each synchronous class meeting, teams will do hypothesis testing of their business model canvas through reviewing videos, reading materials, and talking to at least 10 customers. During each class, teams will talk about what they learned and engage directly with mentors. Regular virtual office hours will be held weekly.
|Virtual Brave Launch Networking Platform||The 2021 virtual Brave Launch will be managed through the peer-to-peer and team networking platform TrustedPeer. Teams will be able to see weekly activities, share files, manage documents, and network with mentors and other experts on the platform.|
|7 Classes||Thursdays, Oct 7 - Nov 18, 4pm - 6:30pm|
|Onboarding Meeting||Thursday, Sept, 30 4pm – 5pm|
|Demo Day||Thursday, Nov 18, 4pm – 6:30pm|
|Registration||$250 per team|
|Eligibility||Only residents and/or businesses in Illinois are eligible to apply.|
|Application Deadline||Monday, Sept 13, 2021|
|Number of companies in cohort||8 teams (2 - 4 members/team)|
|Demo-Day Prizes: $5,000||$2,000 Best Pitch
$1,000 Best Business Model Canvas
$1,000 Best Pivot
$1,000 People’s Choice Award