Start Me Up Bootcamp

Join a select group of entrepreneurs for a two-week virtual program designed to build your successful startup. The bootcamp introduces participants to the Lean Launchpad methodology and techniques to direct customer discovery through field interviews. Participants are required to conduct at least 20 customer interviews; attend online sessions and engage with other bootcamp teams and entrepreneurs.  Teams “get out of the building” to learn from potential customers to determine if they are solving a real-world problem with a sizeable market opportunity. In addition to providing entrepreneurial training, this program helps students and researchers identify new ways to apply research to solve global challenges. 

Faculty, staff, postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate student researchers may apply with a team of one to three people. Applicants are expected to be available for all short-course sessions. Teams that successfully complete this bootcamp may become eligible to apply for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Teams program, which includes a $50,000 grant.

Spring 2021 Bootcamp Dates

April 26th, 1 – 4 PM : Kickoff Day 1
April 27th, 1 – 4 PM: Kickoff Day 2
May 5th, 1 – 3 PM: WebEx Online Class
May 12th, 1 – 4 PM: Finale

*Interviews are required prior to acceptance. The program staff will contact you following your application submission.

Application PDF Sample

Update (April 21, 2021): We are sorry, the bootcamp is currently full and no longer able to accept applications at this time. Stay tuned for more information about our summer bootcamp in July 2021.

Bootcamp Stories

Yazmin Feliz, Creative Machines Lab, Columbia University, NY


“The activities of customer discovery allowed me to test my core business assumptions by speaking with potential users and stakeholders. I now have evidence to back my assumed product-market fit and am better positioned to further develop my business plan.

Yazmin Feliz, Ultrasonos, Summer 2020 Bootcamp

Paritosh Kulkarni, Columbia University, NY


“Our Bootcamp experience pushed us to successfully redefine our core competencies and consumer segment to better target our audience. It was around the second week of the Bootcamp, as we were past 10 interviews, where we had the “aha moments” and we found flaws in our initial hypotheses. We often placed ourselves as the customer and were victims of natural biases. By learning how to properly conduct customer discovery, we were able to change our approach and be more receptive to inputs and shifts in our goals.”

Paritosh Kulkarni, TheH.itchApp, Summer 2020 Bootcamp

Front row, left to right: Theanne Schiros, Valentina Gomez. Back row, left to right: Morgana Kattermann, Chui-lian Lee.


“The Start Me Up Bootcamp at Columbia this Spring was our first experience with customer discovery and business model canvas. While being able to do customer discovery in person would have been great, doing it during COVID-19 from our homes, we were actually able to conduct many interviews in the span of a couple hours every day with people from all over the country and world. Everyone we contacted was super generous in sharing their time and knowledge with us.

Presenting our work each week to the cohort was helpful in that it pushed us to continually think about how our interviews refined our business model canvas & through doing so, we were able to ask more specific/relevant questions that helped us better understand how we can go to market, what considerations we need to be cautious of as we grow, and how to start developing and maintaining customer relationships.

While rigorous, our team gained so much from the bootcamp, we defined a customer, and a set of value propositions that were developed through our customer discovery interviews. Since the bootcamp, our team has participated in a couple of accelerator programs – both in which we have been able to utilize the lessons learned, and work developed during our time at the bootcamp – we cannot recommend it enough!”

Chui-lian Lee, Werewool, Spring 2020 Bootcamp


Each team consists of at least three members:

The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) can be a postdoctoral scholar, graduate, undergraduate or other student with relevant knowledge of the proposed technology and a deep commitment to investigating the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. The Entrepreneurial Lead should also be both willing and able to support the transition of the technology, should the I-Corps project demonstrate the potential for commercial viability.

The Technical Lead (TL) will typically be a faculty member, senior research scientist or postdoctoral scholar with deep and direct technical expertise in the actual core technology about which the I-Corps team is exploring commercial potential.

The Industry Mentor (IM) will typically be an experienced or emerging entrepreneur who operates in proximity to the institution and is experienced in transitioning technology out of academic labs. The Industry Mentor may be recommended by the proposing institution or may be a member of the NSF-supported I-Corps Mentors network. The Industry Mentor will be responsible for guiding the team forward and reporting on its progress through regular communication with the cognizant NSF I-Corps Program Director.

The technology should be within a STEM-related industry that has potential commercialization ability and is scalable.

The technology can be funded by any government agency but must be disclosed to the Columbia Technology Transfer Office.

Students must complete 5 customer discovery interviews with potential  customers before the event kickoff and must complete 15 additional customer discovery interviews by the final presentation day.

> Looking for resources on how to conduct successful customer discovery interviews? Check out the book Talking to Humans by Giff Constable



  • Identify the best product-market fit for their technology
  • Concentrated time to focus on commercialization activities
  • Build relationships with experienced entrepreneurs and investors who can help you bring your product to market
  • Identify commercial potential for your technology to increase probability of grant success and/or raising venture capital
  • Develop entrepreneurship skills and learn about business model development
  • Engage in the customer discovery process by spending time outside the lab and talking to customers, partners and competitors


  • Have a tech idea or product in any STEM field and want to explore its commercialization potential
  • Are willing to find and talk to 20 potential customers in two weeks
  • Each team consists of at least three members: The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL), The Technical Lead (TL), and The Industry Mentor (IM)*
  • The technology should be within a STEM-related industry that has potential commercialization ability and is scalable
    Teams that successfully complete this I-Corps short course can apply to receive travel funds to continue customer discovery and become eligible to apply for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Teams program, which includes a $50,000 grant.

*If you are having trouble finding a mentor and/or cannot find a mentor, you are still welcome to apply. Email us

Learn more about the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program.

Visit the Venturewell’s I-Corps website for additional resources.

I was very overwhelmed with endless random questions and assumptions regarding recruitment, operation, product/market fit, valuations, and of course network expansion. Through this bootcamp we were able to identify our target customers and understand their pain points. At the end, we were able to pivot our business model. This bootcamp will help your startup tap into the real market with your game-changing ideas.

Previous bootcamp teams

Envirobe, Ravish Rawal, SEAS
Using plastic-eating microbes to break down waste into biologically-derived chemical precursors, helping close the plastic manufacturing loop and eliminating dependence on fossil fuels.

The Conscious Loop, Pratyusha Kiran and Sri Kapish Gollapalli, SEAS
Digital marketplace for working women to shop multiple sustainable clothing brands within their price point and with comprehensive label transparency.

MIA: Mask Infrared Assessment, Nikita Manjuluri, Margherita Firenze, and Bhoomika Kumar, SEAS and CC
A low-cost infrared and custom software to validate mask fit and detect exhalation leaks for hospitable workers.

Psicologia Conectada, Wendy Fernandez, School of Engineering
A platform for Latin Americans to confidentially and quickly connect with verified psychologists.

Disco, Saron Yitbarek, CBS
An online education platform for corporate managers to purchase audio-based courses to upskill and train their employees more effectively.

TheH.itchApp, Paritosh Kulkarni, Chemical Engineering 
The Über of networking, connecting scattered employees with their friends in virtual sessions.

USCI Company, Luozhou Li, SEAS
Aggregate information on product availability and track prices changes to optimize and automate the shopping process. 

Extrinsic Labs, Akshara Baru, SEAS
Develops online behavioral training modules to help reduce incidence of sexual harassment at the workplace and improve work culture. 

Local & Yonder, Minqi Cai, SEAS
A B2B web app that matches and provides supply chain solutions to farms, manufacturers, and grocers. 

JMS, Michana Pubien, Columbia University
Job placement algorithm for technology managers to expedite the recruiting process and save on placement fees. 

UltrasonOS, Yazmin Feliz, Mechnical Engineering 
A personalized mobile solution for at-home ultrasound scans to reduce exam time and provide mothers and doctors with clearer sonogram images and critical information., Nikhilesh Belulkar, SEAS
Highly flexible and easily implemented email classification software to maximize time small businesses spend on communication. 

Kiefer Robotics, Max Kiefer, Chemical Engineering 
An electronic product that can attract and eliminate a bug pest for citrus farmers, avoiding the environmental and economic costs of relying on harmful pesticides.

Werewool, Chui-Lian Lee, Theanne Schiros
Designing biodegradable fibers with tailored aesthetic and performance properties while minimizing the environmental footprint of the $961.5B textile industry. 

Wellbotics, Dr. Pam Davis, TC 
Supplies products used to help trauma survivors cope by teaching them to program robots to meet challenges modeled on real-life behavioral health scenarios.

Project Zero, Isha Gupta, SEAS 
An ML- & NLP-backed, easy-to-use one-stop solution to provide personalized job recommendations by translating the person’s traits and future goals to matching career and corresponding course recommendations.

At Your Service, Katie Spradley and Aditi Gargi, CBS 
A waste management intermediary that more effectively sorts trash earlier in the waste cycle using “smart” waste bins and makes waste management more efficient for the hauler using compaction techniques.

DataBuddy, Jannick Tapken, SEAS
Marketplace to connect people to sell their unused mobile data capacities to others who need it. 

Lionsight, Justin Law, SEAS 
Helping brands, public figures, and large institutions keep track of their online image using our algorithms.

Jogger Set, Sophia Raji, SEAS 
Digital-first retailer for luxe cashmere jogger sets. 

Kara Water, Bill Irvine, CBS 
An in-home appliance that takes humidity in the air around us and creates up to 3 gallons of pure drinking water.

VasculoTox, Shaghayegh Harbi, John Kerbawy, NYCRIN
Development of assays for diagnostic and therapeutic applications – including both sophisticated high-throughput applications and point- of-care (POC) diagnostic assay development for practical applications.

Popfizz, Jane Lee, Junho Lee, Teachers College
Popfizz CS is an online platform where students learn computer science by creating games, programs, and artwork and share it with the world.

Project Heartbeat, Lindsay Meyerson, Ana Zeneli, NYCRIN
Currently, service members have no ability to know what is going on in their own bodies. We propose to pair sensor technology with an application that will analyze data on physiological vitals and use that knowledge to prevent deterioration of health of deployed service members.

In Your Ecosystem, Nhi Dinh Tran, Arber Ruci, NYCRIN
A web-based customer discovery platform for innovation educations to remotely critique and track captured learning of entrepreneurship students.

X-battery, Xi Chen, Xiangbiao Liao, SEAS
Cost-effective flexible li-ion batteries with high-energy density and superior flexibility

Marko Motors LLC, Matthew D Marko, GSAS
Marko Motors is working to use thermodynamic theories developed by the founder, Dr. Matthew Marko, to build a revolutionary new solar engine. Rather than use photovoltaic cells, these solar engines use the intermolecular attractive Van der Waal forces present in all fluids to enhance the thermodynamic efficiencies of Stirling engines.

Small-Scale Med, Dimitrios Fafalis, Aykut Aksit, SEAS
We develop hollow micro-needles of 300 micro-meters length and 5 micro-meters tip diameter (i) to deliver therapeutics into the inner ear for treatment of hear-related diseases like Meniere’s disease, and (ii) to aspire perilymph from the inner ear for diagnostics.

New Money, Najin Kim, SIPA and GS
Private/permissioned blockchain ledgers to connect all stakeholders of impact investing.

Medi-SCAPE, Elizabeth Hillman, Wenxuan Liang, SEAS
Swept confocally-aligned planar excitation (SCAPE) microscopy technology is a novel single-objective lens light-sheet microscope for volumetric imaging of living biological tissue at ultra-high speed.

GetRight, Markus Kuhn, Suhyun Kim, SEAS
GETRIGHT is an improved and modernized method of watching game and practice film for all current NFL and NCAA teams, as well as replacing the current outdated version of studying the playbook.

Sobrite, John Bosco, Mailman, Engineering
A Sober Community On and Offline

Newtrima, Nicoleta de Deugd, CUMC
Personalized health and wellness tool, available at your fingertips

FITS Commute, Junhui Lou, SEAS
Flexible Integrated Transportation System

HelpingHandBiopsy, Jason Kahn, ChemE, SEAS
We are developing a a one-use, disposable, and sterile first of kind soft material that can aid in lung biopsy needle stabilization and placement.

3D Capsule, Vladlena Powers, IEOR, SEAS
Creating 3D technology that will capture specimens in 3D regardless of shape, color, or size and reduce processing time for any object by ~100 times

Colonai, Jacob Nye, Drew Afromsky. SEAS
We improve the physician’s ability to spot the hard-to-see, early-stage polyps, which increases their adenoma detection rate (ADR) and allows them to remove the polyps at a stage where it prevents cancer.

AdvanceH2O, Halil Kurt, Young Lee, Kartik Chandran, SEAS
We are developing a next-generation, advanced monitoring/sensor and data informatics platform that will address critical customer priority concerns for drinking and wastewater treatment.

BURPA: a Bio-Unified Research Project Agency, Qianru Qi, Bhubaneswar Mishra, NYCRIN
Developing patient-centric healthcare using blockchain and securitization.

coLiberate, Salah Chafik, Mohamed Haroun, SEAS
coLiberate is a collaboration platform that decentralizes tools, resources, and knowledge to facilitate making/fabrication. Put differently, it is a digital commons for local fabrication, and global collaboration.

Developing a Shakespeare Augmented Reality Application, Kevin LaGrandeur, John Misak, NYCRIN
The Augmented Reality (AR) application we are developing for smartphones and tablets would be of commercial use for college classrooms, and could also be used in high school and middle school to help teach Shakespeare.

huMOrgan, Yanne Doucet, Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard, Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, SEAS
The technology consists of an integrated platform where engineered human tissues can be matured and combined in a physiological manner so that they are cultured in their specific media, but connected to other tissues/organs via a vasculature system within the platform. These models provide opportunities to both test the safety and efficacy of drugs on individual tissue/organ systems or combinations of multiple organ systems to more closely mimic the human body as an integrated system in vitro.
TRANSFR, Bharanidharan Rajakumar, Dr. Erica Snow, Pranav Bhakta, NYCRIN
Using evidence centered design to develop virtual reality training modules for skill development for ultimately job placement or career advancement.