UW–Madison’s D2P Igniter program seeks next round of entrepreneurs

September 14, 2017 By Natasha Kassulke
Photo: Edgar Spalding pitching his business idea

Discovery to Product is offering a fall cohort of the Igniter program, building on the past success of Igniter rounds that helped start up 17 companies over the past three years. Above, botany Professor Edgar Spalding pitching his idea for predicting viable plant seed strains to fellow entrepreneurs. Photo: Bryce Richter

To ignite is to heat, to set in motion, to catch fire. Sometimes the spark comes from an idea over coffee at the student union or during a brainstorm with friends in a campus dorm. Other times it develops in a petri dish in a lab, in a practice room at the School of Music, or on a white board in a classroom.

At UW–Madison ­— a hub of learning, networking, mentorship and creativity — one can find all the ingredients necessary to spark entrepreneurship. This is why the Discovery to Product (D2P) initiative, located within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, created its Igniter program. Igniter has helped in the creation of 17 startup companies over the past three years and it is now calling for the next cohort of entrepreneurs.

D2P works with Igniter project teams for as long as needed to achieve commercialization — a depth of commitment not typical of startup accelerators.

“Igniting ideas is exciting and UW–Madison is stronger when it broadens entrepreneurial opportunity — when students, faculty and staff alike can test their ideas for marketplace readiness, and when the best innovations can rise to the top and be successful,” says Andy Richards, interim director of D2P. “D2P strives to catalyze more entrepreneurial activity on campus, and one way of doing that is D2P’s Igniter program.”

The next round of the program begins on Oct. 17 with an intensive five-week sprint that includes a weekly series of three-hour workshops running from 9 a.m. to noon. During this portion of the program, project teams identify their value propositions and target customer segments. In group settings, teams learn to incorporate tools and techniques like the Business Model Canvas, customer development, lean startup methodologies, desk research, in-depth customer interviews, and value proposition design.

Igniter Calendar
Classes run from 9 a.m. to noon

Class Date
Week 1 October 17, 2017
Week 2 October 24, 2017
Week 3 October 31, 2017
Week 4 November 7, 2017
Week 5 November 14, 2017

Igniter project teams will also work one-on-one with D2P innovation and commercialization specialists to address issues and challenges associated with specific innovations and business opportunities. D2P and the Igniter program aim to help develop projects on campus so they are ready to receive equity, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards or other types of funding needed to form a startup and to help ideas or inventions achieve market readiness.

D2P staff are experienced entrepreneurs, startup executives, product development managers and technologists with industry experiences. D2P works with Igniter project teams for as long as needed to achieve commercialization — a depth of commitment not typical of startup accelerators.

“Igniter puts the Wisconsin Idea in action, helping move the innovation and expertise found at UW–Madison to the public marketplace.”

Marsha Mailick

For teams that successfully emerge from the initial Igniter program with a compelling product or market fit, D2P may be able to provide limited funding through Igniter grants to pay for initial commercialization tasks. D2P does not receive any equity in return for funding or the help offered by the D2P team.

“Through entrepreneurship support and programs such as Igniter, UW–Madison is finding new ways to translate research results into practical knowledge and technological innovations, to help transform ideas and technology into long-term societal benefits,” says Marsha Mailick, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “Igniter puts the Wisconsin Idea in action, helping move the innovation and expertise found at UW–Madison to the public marketplace.”

The deadline for Igniter program applications is Oct. 6.

Submit an application