First Customer Program

Identifying and addressing critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales for advanced technology companies

ABOUT THE FIRST CUSTOMER PROGRAM

The First Customer Program (FCP), funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) assists with identifying critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. The FCP can co-fund projects with service providers to address critical gaps needed for a client to acquire their first customer(s). FCP is focused on advanced technology startup companies as well as established technology companies that are facing startup-like challenges as they diversify into new markets.

The FCP: 1) performs an assessment of a company’s stage of technology, its value proposition, and its potential target markets and competition; 2) provides a market assessment and a plan/path to potential first customers, including identification of and introduction to potential first customers where warranted; 3) identifies resources required for the company to successfully validate the value proposition and/or to close a deal with potential first customers; and 4) provides access to identified resources through executive coaching and project implementation assistance. The FCP may co-fund projects for eligible clients to address critical gaps in marketing and sales. Startups are engaged through the process below and provided FCP Action Plans and Market Specific Overviews. FCP operates from the Economic Growth Institute at the University of Michigan.

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COMPANY ENGAGEMENT PROCESS

Clients are referred to FCP to fill out the application

Pre-Screening Call with FCP Project Manager

FCP Team Full Assessment

In-depth Look at Scopes of Work & Action Plans with Market Specific Overviews

FCP Application

SERVICES

The FCP is an entrepreneurial resource provider uses the aforementioned process to screen and assist clients. The FCP team leverages Steve Blank’s Customer Development and Lean Startup methodology and uses professional staff for assessing and developing our clients. The First Customer Program provides the following services:

  • Assessment (market/customer focused)—FCP professional staff facilitate a First Customer focused technology and market assessment based on the company’s proposed value proposition, business model, and target market(s).  The assessment will include a Market Specific Overview (MSO). The MSO includes valuable information on market characteristics, potential customers, competitive landscape, and prospective leads if warranted. The overall assessment will identify the company’s current capability, phase of value proposition and customer validation and or product positioning, and required resources to attain customer sales.
  • Action Plan (AP) Development—FCP summarizes the assessment phase and develops a plan/path to first customer with specific actions and resources required. The Action Plan includes MSO information, identified path to first customer, identified required resource, and specific actions including identified resources (projects) to address high leverage/critical path requirements not available to the company.
  • Implementation— Together with the company, FCP identifies resources and private sector experts capable of addressing critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. These high leverage points (resources and project scopes) are documented in the company’s Action Plan and may lead to co-funded projects with eligible clients.
  • Executive Coaching—FCP project managers provide executive coaching throughout the process as well as project implementation assistance.

PROGRAM OUTCOMES

The First Customer Program works with startups to identify & address critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. Did you know we helped generate 29,890 leads for potential sales? This infographic describes the top 7 outcomes of FCP including our clients’ job creation and retention, intellectual property, total external funding, new products commercialized, new sales or additional sales, number of companies expanded, and leads generated. Learn more by reading our infographic.

CONSULTANT AND CONSULTING FIRM PAYMENT PROCESS OVERVIEW

How does the First Customer Program co-fund projects with clients? The First Customer Program helps startups to identify and contract trusted third party consultants and consulting firms to help address critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. Projects are never funded retroactively. Clients always pay their share first and then the FCP releases payment. Consultants and consulting firms become vendors to the University of Michigan and invoice both the FCP client and the University of Michigan. Consultants must confirm they have been paid the FCP client share. The University of Michigan will then pay and payment terms net 30. Did you know we have helped clients co-fund projects at the institute for more than 30 years? Please see our payment process overview for a description of the invoicing process, confirmation questions, and checklist.

TESTIMONIALS

FCP helped us tremendously with market feedback, development of digital marketing and sales collateral, and execution on marketing and sales. At first, SISU was the main Akervall product and SOVA the black sheep product. With FCP’s help, our sales of SOVA went up and those sales helped Akervall stay float during Q1 2016. We are now expanding international and domestic partnerships. We could not have anticipated the demand created by the release of the new SOVA product and how it would strengthen our reputation for innovation and good quality products. We have since received the Dental Advisors Category Medal and thank the FCP team!
Sassa Akervall, CEO, Akervall Technologies Inc.
The First Customer Program (FCP) provides its clients with two, highly valuable services. First, the FCP program provides thorough assessment of the client’s business with a focus on addressing critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. The reports provided to the clients are thoughtful, and more importantly, actionable. Importantly, the FCP model requires the company to share in the costs of engaging the consultant, which makes them truly value the engagement as they have ‘skin in the game.’ The FCP is careful to match the level of engagement with clients’ needs – whether the engagement is a short term deliverable or a longer-term relationship. All of our clients and affiliates who have engaged with FCP remain very enthusiastic about the program and the value it has provided to their company. In most cases, the engagement has led to the client’s hiring more staff and increasing their sales.”
Paul Riser Jr., Managing Director, TechTown Detroit
Working with the Institute gave us the confidence to move forward with both business online and retail confidently. The second project helped put us on the map with a strategic influencer and establish credibility. We could have a more focused strategy to spending marketing and sales dollars and led to a direct sale with a 25-store chain based in Canada and connecting with other retails in more than 50 locations across the country for Roger Hollins and Helzberg Diamonds.”
Sam Tzou, CEO, Yes Cam LLC
Once we received the FCP Action Plan document, “we went to work”! The FCP Action Plan was excellent. I attribute the Action Plan directly to creating new sales. We are in the process of closing 3 projects directly attribute to the Action Plans, totaling $150,000 in dollar value. FCP identified the billing codes I needed to analysis Health Numeric’s cost structure. Currently, there are only CMS reimbursement codes for Chronic Disease management when using remote patient monitoring. Based on the market demographics in the Action Plan, we’ve reached out to our first primary care provider network and there is a provider already secured for a pilot project. Based on the Action Plan document, we decided to keeping the cost within the monthly reimbursement total per patient. We also developed a customer shared saving agreement.
Nevin Brittain, President & CEO, Health Numeric LLC
With initial recommendations from FCP in the Summer of 2014, Larky focused and tested the financial institutions (FI) market extensively especially community banks and credit unions. Now, Larky has more than 14 paying FI customers including Lake Trust Credit Union ($1.6B assets) and Partners (Disney) Federal Credit Union ($1.2B assets). As a result, Larky has grown revenue 1300% and added more than six new full time jobs. With FCP dollars, Larky was able to develop a professional video, and launch a new web site that was far more targeted at their audience. Traffic to Larky’s web site and blog have significantly increased, and its pipeline of targets stands above 1,000.
Greg Hammer, Co-Founder, Larky Inc.
We are happy to report that the FCP program has doubled our rate of growth over the previous year. We only had a 25% increase in 2014 over 2013, but thanks in a great deal to the FCP program, our sales grew 57% to total nearly $700,000 in 2015 over 2014. Analysis helped us identify that our largest orders come from teachers/professors that have heard of us from conferences and trade shows.
Greg Gage, Co-Founder and CEO, Backyard Brains Inc.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FIRST CUSTOMER PROGRAM

What types of clients has FCP worked with in the past 4+ years? What companies are eligible? What projects has FCP funded in the past? This presentation answers these questions in greater depth.

FCP Staff

Steven Wilson
Steven Wilson Director
Michael Forbis
Michael Forbis Program Manager
Vikesh Chandrashekar
Vikesh Chandrashekar Project Manager
matt
Matt Pierce Research Associate
Sarah Barton
Sarah Barton Research Assistant

PROGRAM SPONSORSHIP

The First Customer Program (FCP) is able to engage with advanced technology companies through the support of key entrepreneurial resource providers. FCP is funded by the Michigan Strategic Fund with program oversight by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). FCP is dedicated and proud to support new product commercialization, sales, and job creation for the MEDC.

PARTNERS

FCP is supported by referrals from statewide entrepreneurial resource providers dedicated to connecting Michigan’s advanced technology companies to resources that help critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. FCP is proud to work with the following referral partners.

CONSULTANTS AND CONSULTING FIRMS

FCP is supported by the hands-on project services rendered by consultants and consulting firms. Our consultants and consulting firms are dedicated to assisting Michigan’s advanced technology companies to maximize startup budgets and time constraints. Our vendors bring multidisciplinary and advanced technology expertise; FCP seeks to pair vendors with the best experience with client companies. FCP is proud to work with the following consultants and consulting firms.

PROGRAM RESOURCES

For more information, please see the additional program resources below. They include additional resources for potential partners, consultants, consulting firms, and clients.

FCP Payment Process Overview

FCP Payment Process Overview FCP is able to administer co-funded projects. This is the overview of the payment process for vendors to the FCP and FCP client.  If you are a consultant,

FCP Bi-Annual Survey

FCP Bi-Annual Survey FCP is funded by the state of Michigan and biannually collects key figures and statistics from clients.  If you are a client, you will receive surveys biannually collecting key

FCP Consultant Invoice Template

FCP Consultant Invoice Template How do you invoice the First Customer Program at the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy? If you are a consultant or

FCP Application

Would you like to be considered for the First Customer Program? If so, please fill out the attached application.

FCP Overview Two-Pager

What types of clients has FCP worked with in the past 4+ years? What companies are eligible? What projects has FCP funded in the past? This two pager provides an overview to these questions.

FCP In-Depth Presentation

What types of clients has FCP worked with in the past 4+ years? What companies are eligible? What projects has FCP funded in the past? This presentation answers these questions in greater depth.

Consultant Payment Process Overview

How does the First Customer Program co-fund projects with clients? The First Customer Program helps startups to identify and contract trusted third party consultants and consulting firms to help address critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. Consultants and consulting firms become vendors to the University of Michigan and invoice both the FCP client and the University of Michigan (payment terms net 30). Vendors may be based outside of Michigan. Did you know we have helped clients co-fund projects for more than 30 years? Please see our payment process overview for a description of the invoicing process, confirmation questions, and checklist.

FCP Infographic

The First Customer Program works with startups to identify & address critical gaps in business development, marketing, and sales. Did you know we helped generate 29,890 leads for potential sales? This infographic describes the top 7 outcomes of FCP including our clients’ job creation and retention, intellectual property, total external funding, new products commercialized, new sales or additional sales, number of companies expanded, and leads generated. Learn more by reading our infographic.