Creating and Pivoting Your Customer Hypotheses in OPTT’s Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Practicum

While “If you build it, they will come” works great for Hollywood movies about things like fields and dreams, they leave out a fundamental step when it comes to an inventor looking for their customers.

When an inventor hits on a new idea for innovation, the first instinct to build on the idea, thoroughly design the product and then look for potential customers. The only problem is this instinct doesn’t work favorably in almost all cases.

A better way would be to start to with a list of hypotheses: guess the benefits of the invention for a particular segment of potential customers. Start talking to those potential customers and listening to how the innovation could realistically add value to the customer’s experience. This school-of-hard-knocks is politely called as the Customer Discovery phase, and it allows inventors to learn the needs from their potential customers before they build on their idea. The initial long list of hypotheses is narrowed down with each interview, and the inventor and his team will continually pivot until they find a new obvious path forward.

In other words, it is better to start with a question, “If you build it, will they come?” rather than assume the affirmative.

OPTT’s Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Practicum welcomes cohort 2 on July 9, and it will guide new scientist-entrepreneurs through understanding current problems in an existing marketplace and connecting with customers and their needs.

In module 6, Customer Discovery Part II, students will participant in a hands-on workshop on the next steps after the first set of customer interviews. While customers may not always ask technical questions or be end users, they provide useful clues to understanding market needs.

Students are encouraged to BYOT, Bring Your Own Technology, for the added benefit of applying this skills training to their own innovation.

Register for the eight-week course at:

Seats are limited.

Questions? Contact Laura Rogas,