OTTI Event Applies the Scientific Method to Entrepreneurship

What is the scientific method and how can it help a prospective entrepreneur on their entrepreneurial journey? Chris Taylor, the executive director of the Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation at the University of Houston, aimed to answer that question in an online event on July 30. 

Adapting the Scientific Method 

Taylor breaks it down into four easy steps. First, a research question must be created. For entrepreneurs, the research question is the “business thesis.”  What is the problem the company will be trying to solve? 

The second step is to generate a hypothesis, identifying some of the possible outcomes of the research question. The third step is to “make predictions” about what outcome seems the most likely. 

Finally, the last step is to start experimenting. This is also called the iteration loop, which is the process of refining your idea.  

These steps are the starting point for someone wanting to start their own company and to have it be successful.  

Customer Discovery 

Taylor says that the most important thing to consider at each step of this process is the customer. Once a problem and a potential solution has been identified, who is going to buy the product?  

“You’re going to develop some hypotheses, and you have to go out and test those by doing what we call customer discovery. It’s the process of asking questions to understand the needs and pain points of potential customers,” Taylor said. “If you don’t understand their problem and if your product doesn’t take away their pain or provide them with some type of gain, most costumers aren't going to look at you twice.”  

Customer discovery questions include: who is the customer, what do they want, how to get them to buy more and how much will they pay? 

According to Taylor the goal is to turn the hypotheses and predictions into facts by conducting an experiment, the last step. That experiment is the costumer discovery.  

“Ultimately, it comes back to these three questions:  

  • Is it desirable — does somebody care?  

  • Is it feasible— can you do it and you have the people and the resources in order to accomplish it and then is it viable?  

  • Is it something where we can get enough funding to do an adequate job in the right way to complete the task?”  

Taylor also advises weighing the risk of launching a startup. He cautions that there is a steep learning curve, but following these steps will help along the way.  

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Cory Thaxton
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