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Boot Camp

The NSF “Beat-the-Odds Boot Camp” provides Phase I awardees with entrepreneurial training designed for early-stage companies that draws on methods used in the NSF I-Corps™ program and uses curriculum based on Steve Blank’s customer discovery process.

Taught by I-Corps instructors, the Boot Camp provides an immersive experience that pushes companies to develop stronger business models, market strategies, and successful products. The main goal is to provide early-stage companies with an introduction, or refresher, in customer discovery and business model validation.

The Boot Camp is run twice per year - starting in mid-January and again in mid-July – and lasts about two months, requiring about 10-20 hours per week from the participating team. At the end of the program, companies will understand how to verify product market fit and other business model elements.

Boot Camp Preparation

  • Phase I Awardees who participate in the Boot Camp should form a company team that will include the Principal Investigator (representing the technology) and the President/CEO (or other member of the team responsible for driving the commercial effort).
  • Register for Steve Blank’s free “How to Build a Start Up” online course and watch all lectures.
  • Complete the initial draft of your Business Model Canvas (click to download template).
  • View customer discovery interviews (, specifically those found under these sections: Before Leaving the Building, Outside the Building, Understanding What the Customer is Telling You, Back in the Building.
  • Identify a minimum of 30 prospective customers to interview.

Boot Camp Office Hours

Each team will be paired with an I-Corps Instructor and will meet for three 20-minute office hour sessions.


Each team will present their “Lessons Learned” at the Beat-the-Odds Boot Camp event the day before the Phase I Grantees Workshop. NSF I-Corps instructors will critique your work and provide feedback about your business modelssions.

Budget Preparation

Phase I applicants may budget up to $20,000 of their Phase I award funds to cover costs for the NSF’s “Beat-the-Odds Boot Camp.” Refer to the budget preparation instructions in the solicitation or the FastLane Guide for more information.

Phase I awardees that participate in NSF’s “Beat-the-Odds Boot Camp” may reallocate up to $20,000 of their Phase I award funds to cover costs that were incurred as a result of participation in the Boot Camp. Please contact your program director and click here to learn more about revising a budget.