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Enabling a Different Perspective for Potential Entrepreneurs. Emel Bulat Gordon-CenSSIS/ALERT –Industry & Government Liaison President – MySkin Technologies 04/12/13 ACW Workshop, Chicago, IL. Agenda. NSF I-Corp, Why is I-Corps Important? Biz Plans, Adjacent Markets

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Enabling a Different Perspective for Potential Entrepreneurs

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Enabling a Different Perspective for Potential Entrepreneurs

Emel Bulat

Gordon-CenSSIS/ALERT –Industry & Government Liaison

President – MySkin Technologies


ACW Workshop, Chicago, IL


  • NSF I-Corp,

  • Why is I-Corps Important?

    • Biz Plans, Adjacent Markets

  • Other sources of funding

    • SBIR, AIR & SECO

  • Discussions

  • Recommendations

I-Corps Intro

“The National Science Foundation (NSF) has established a new opportunity to assess the readiness of emerging technology concepts for transitioning into valuable new products through a public-private partnership. The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program will bring together the technological, entrepreneurial, and business know-how to bring discoveries ripe for innovation out of the university lab”

  • Takes academics out of their comfort zone & “out of the building”

  • Brings different people together enabling interdisciplinary collaboration

  • Funds only “Biz Plan” & “Voice of the Customer” activities

I-Corps Tools

  • Great “Team” concept

  • Great books

    • “Business Model Generation,” Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Piguer; Wiley Press

  • “Canvas”for understanding nuances of market, value proposition, supply chain, etc.

  • Makes for a better SBIR, etc.


Higher quality matching of skin care products to customers

High-End (prestige) Cosmetics


Product Development


Exclusive Spas-Beta sites

Correlating measurements with OEM cosmetics

Exclusive Spas


Low cost

Cosmetic companies

In-Home Cosmetics (Avon, Mary Kay, Arbonne)

Train OEM

More accurate

Melanin measurement

Direct OEM

Over the counter (CVS, Walgreen)


Database of skin tones to better target products


Cosmetic R&D


Reduce returns

Consistent results

Leasing In-Home Sales

Advertising & Marketing

COGS = $200 / Instrument

OEM Sales

Integration with OEM product

Service & Calibration Contracts

Human Resources


  • Forces team to look from many different perspectives

    • “Voice of the Customer” rather than “my invention is the best thing since sliced bread”

    • Value Proposition-Is your assumption valid?

    • Is there something you missed?

    • Can you Pivot?

    • Economics; Adjacent Markets

    • Competition

    • Channels-overlooked by many start-ups

Teaming with MBA’s & Mentors a Must

Diagram of Payment Flows





Cosmetics Firm or Spas / Salons

Department OEMorSales Reps

Contract Manufacturer




$500 - $1K



  • MySkinTone purchases product from contract mfg

  • Product received from manufacturer

  • MySkinTone delivers to cosmetic firms

  • MySkinTone receives payment from cosmetic firms

  • Cosmetic firms place MySkinTone product into department stores or leases it to regional sales reps

  • Department store sells cosmetics to consumer, increase sales

MySkinTone Product



Cosmetic Money

Linking Other Programs

  • SBIR I & II, (IB & IIB)

    • Great next step after I-Corps

    • Requirements could be more in-line with the momentum created from the I-Corps

  • STTR

  • SECO

    • Currently there are two Options:

      • Option I for new start-ups teamed with ERCs

      • Option II for active SBIR II teamed with ERCs

  • State Funding

  • Angels, VCs

Discussion Topics

  • Making sure the technology is robust

  • Getting high quality mentors who are willing to donate their time

  • Having the “right team”

  • Networking with start-ups in similar markets

  • Positioning for other funding opportunities


  • I-Corps is unique for the “.gov” community

  • Focusing founding teams on “Biz Plan & Mkts”

  • Developing more interactions with potential customers

  • Funding agencies providing more one-on-one access with the private sector

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