Each I-Corps Team includes a mentor - an experienced entrepreneur who can guide the team as they refine their business models, gain insights from their customer market, and pivot down alternate paths.

The Mentor Role

Industry Mentors are deeply involved during the seven-week period of the curriculum. They serve as networking and industry advisors, and help reinforce relevant lessons from the curriculum. I-Corps Mentors are advisors that have two primary roles:

  1. By being a third-party resource for the team, the mentor helps to recognize and reduce confirmation bias during the customer discovery process. The I-Corps Mentor is in some ways an extension of the I-Corps Teaching Team in helping the team absorb and apply relevant course lessons.
  2. The I-Corps Mentor is someone that has industry contacts and knows the ecosystem of the target market area. I-Corps Teams will be interviewing more than 100 potential customers and potential partners in-person. A good mentor will help the team find the right people to interview.


  • As a member of the I-Corps Team, Mentors must be available during the seven-week period of the curriculum
  • All members of the Team (including the Mentor) must be geographically near each other
  • I-Corps mentors cannot be paid a stipend or consultancy fees under the I-Corps grant


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The Value of Mentorship

Get a sneak peek into a mentor training session by viewing the videos below.

Program Learning Goals

Mentor Role

What to Expect as a Mentor


Interested in becoming an NSF I-Corps Industry Mentor? Sign up for a virtual mentor training session. 

Mentor Testimonials

Michelle Kortenaar

My teams became better at recognizing their assumptions and finding evidence to support or reject them. The result was more evidence-based decision-making. They learned how to approach the creation of a business with rigor and data.

– Michelle Kortenaar, Senior Director of Engagement and Learning at the Sciencenter

I-Corps is excellent at instilling disciplined thinking into the business planning process. In real life, many entrepreneurs will “lose the forest for the trees,” and this program forced constant strategic oversight so participants never forgot the overall vision of their business.

– Didi Discar, Principal, Galileo Bio Strategies, Inc.

Didi Discar
Rob Shepherd

The first time I went through the I-Corps program, we discovered a new market segment and my team pivoted to focus on those customers. A student of mine is currently in I-Corps pursuing that new commercialization opportunity. Ironically, the original market we identified has caught up and my first I-Corps team is forming a company and receiving attention from investors.

– Dr. Rob Shepherd, Organic Robotics Lab, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University

Mentor Spotlight