Part of UWM’s umbrella program called Ideas Challenge, The Student Startup Challenge (SSC) is a unique co-curricular program that is creating an entrepreneurial culture at UWM by encouraging students to develop their ideas, launch businesses, and develop unique skills that come from the entrepreneurial experience. SSC is not a business plan competition.  Instead, it helps student entrepreneurs develop their ideas while working with other students and mentors.  In the Fall of 2016, the fifth year of the Student Startup Challenge was launched with a new model designed to engage more students in the process and develop ideas.  The program has been redesigned with three phases – Explore, Discover, and Experiment – which allows student entrepreneurs to explore a broad range of ideas, discover markets through a structured process and experiment with business models and prototypes.

SSC Phase 2: Discover

The Discovery phase of Student Startup Challenge leverages the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps site.   In the Fall of 2016, more than 40 teams were invited to participate in an accelerated version of NSF I-Corps to perform customer discovery on their own ideas.   The program includes instruction in customer interview techniques and framing customer questions to explore a specific business hypothesis.  In addition, “office hours” were provided to offer students more focused mentoring.  Teams are challenged to conduct at least 25 customer discovery interviews and conclude with a presentation and mini-proposal.  The teams collectively completed more than 500 customer interviews that helped inform the next steps with their projects.