University of Michigan
Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy at the University of Michigan

First Customer Program

The First Customer Program (FCP) assists companies with identifying first customers, gaining introductions, and closing deals. FCP is focused on start-up tech companies that need both preparation for and introduction to first customers. While focusing on start-ups, FCP also assists established companies that are facing start-up 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 First Customer Program provides the following services:

  • Assessment (market/customer focused)—FCP facilitates a First Customer focused technology and market assessment based on the company’s proposed value proposition and target market(s). The assessment will include a Market Specific Overview (MSO) executed by private sector experts. The MSO includes valuable information on market characteristics, potential customers and contacts 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 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—FCP provides resources through project implementation assistance. Together with the company, FCP identifies private sector experts capable of providing the exact resources required on a high leverage point (project) in a company’s Action Plan and co-funds the project.
  • Executive coaching—FCP project managers provide executive coaching throughout the process.

FCP operates from the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy at the University of Michigan.

Funds for the First Customer Program are provided by the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a Michigan Strategic Fund program designed to accelerate the growth and diversification of Michigan’s Economy. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a public-private partnership between the state and local communities, provides administrative support for the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The MEDC markets Michigan and provides the tools and environment to drive job creation and investment.

Contact Information:
Steven B. Wilson Program Director sbwilson@umich.edu 734-998-6221