Director Spotlight: Dr. Carla Pavone

Dr. Carla Pavone, MBA and PhD, Associate Director of University of Minnesota’s Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, Program Director of MIN-Corps, and Co-PI for Great Lakes I-Corps Hub

Dr. Carla Pavone has always been oriented towards making things happen. 

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania for undergrad, and working as a writer, she realized she wanted to do more than just write about what was happening. With an MBA degree from Harvard, Dr. Pavone pursued life as a publisher, and eventually ended up at American Express and one of their subsidiaries as a marketer and working with internal startups and turnarounds for almost 2 decades.  

After getting her PhD and teaching for a few years, she ended up at the University of Minnesota Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, and with that, the Minnesota I-Corps program (MIN-Corps). When Dr. Pavone was first exposed to I-Corps, she was skeptical. She worried I-Corps was just remedial strategy and marketing for engineers. But, she soon realized the value of the program.

“What I came to appreciate was the experiential nature of the lean startup process where scientists and engineers who otherwise would never really engage in their markets are given a framework and a discipline for engaging with customers and engaging with stakeholders,” Dr. Pavone said. “That has had a remarkable impact in terms of energizing professors to tailor their research agendas to be more relevant to actual impact on stakeholders.”

During Dr. Pavone’s leadership of MIN-Corps, they have seen more than 30 startups emerge and raise millions. 

“We have wonderful role models now that people coming up can see and emulate and understand the range of options they have,” Dr. Pavone said. “It helps many of our PhD students and postdocs really understand that they have other alternatives beyond an academic world where a lot of times you end up being on a postdoc treadmill and not necessarily being able to develop a career.”

Now with the creation of the Great Lakes I-Corps Hub in 2021, of which the University of Minnesota is a partner institution, Dr. Pavone is excited for I-Corps and MIN-Corps to keep growing and reaching more people.

“I think there are both intrinsic benefits as well as extrinsic benefits to participating in I-Corps,” Dr. Pavone said. “The intrinsic part is you learn a whole bunch and you develop a skill set that you will reuse over and over again no matter what stage of career you are in. The extrinsic value of it is that it opens doors. If you can say I’ve done this many customer interviews, I have applied the Lean LaunchPad process, even if it is just at the regional or local level, then potential funders whether it is federal grants, like SBIR/STTR, or investors, realize that you’ve done your homework.”