Gaining admission into Innovators of Progress is an achievement worth celebrating. Once admitted, students are off to the races to begin the hard work of transforming their bright ideas into real products and services of value. Our one-year program is spread out over three key components, which are designed to lead each student, no matter their idea, to success.

Part One: Customer Development

For the spring semester, students continuously interview stakeholders to collect data that validates or invalidates their assumptions about the problem they are solving, who their customers are, and refining their idea into a solution that is evidence-based. Students are challenged to conduct 100 customer interviews with feedback and reflections along the way.

Part Two: Summer Start-Up Internship

We pair students with local Maryland startups so they can be shoulder-to-shoulder with funded founders and experience entrepreneurship in the real world. Internships are paid and provide students an opportunity to accumulate subject matter knowledge and skills relative to their respective industries,

Part Three: Customer Validation

By this point, students have received strong data to support their ideas and up to $9,000 to fund the next round of data collection. During this phase, students work to iteratively present prototypes to customer segments to obtain pre-orders and other forms of traction to validate they have market fit. Students will also be submitting applications for local accelerator and funding opportunities.

Research Methodologies

Experiments must be effective for deriving actionable insights that lead to informed decision making. Students are supported with a variety of research methodologies to collect data the right way, from the right people, and at the right time.

Freedom to Learn

Our program is a sandbox for learning, which allows students to fail early, fail often, and fail without the normal risks of operating on their own. The motto is not “fail fast,” but “learn quickly” as we want students to make the best of their limited time in the program.

Cohort Empowerment

Students are admitted into cohorts at the beginning of each program cycle. Cohorts provide students with an immediate, interdisciplinary network of like-minded students that can serve as resources to support and hold each other accountable.

Real Experience

We strongly encourage our students to intern at local start-ups and small businesses each summer to experience firsthand how entrepreneurship operates in the real world.

Program Limitations

It is important to clarify that Innovators of Progress does not:

  • support company building such as raising capital, incorporation, hiring team members, etc. Students at this stage of their entrepreneurial journey are generally not a good fit for our program.
  • provide traditional, academic style learning of entrepreneurship or business management. For example, we do not teach students how to produce business plans or curate financial statements. Students are encouraged to enroll in entrepreneurship courses at their institution. If such courses are not available, we encourage students to apply their received scholarship funding to apply for online courses.
  • teach students how to code. Similarly, students are encouraged to use their scholarship funding for additional learning.
  • provide legal or financial advice.
  • provide students with accountability-free spending of their program funding. Funds are expected to be used responsibly, and limitations are negotiated with each student.

Program Affiliates

Innovators of Progress Scholars may invite members of their venture’s core team. Program Affiliates do not receive scholarship or seed funding. However, Affiliates do receive the following benefits:

Scholars cannot delegate their program responsibilities to their team.