UTRGV Entrepreneurship Certificate Program

Entrepreneurship Certificate Program web banner

This certificate program offered through the Academy for Entrepreneurs, incorporates a highly selective admission process which is intended to identify the best early-stage entrepreneurs in the Rio Grande Valley. It is designed to provide the right level of coaching and support necessary to help entrepreneurs find success within their first year. This 8-week long program will be offered in a blended learning format that will include online and in-class sessions.  

We will be using a custom curriculum sourced from some of the strongest entrepreneurship programs in the world, which blends the best of design thinking, lean startups, and agile development. By the end of the course, you will have engaged customers, pitched them deals, refined your problem/solution fit, and possibly be generating revenue!

As a plus, we will introduce our entrepreneurs to members of the RGV community who may provide funding and other resources to early-stage ventures, through public events such as a “startup meetup” pitch event, and our end of program Demo Day. Alumni who complete the course are eligible to receive curated introductions to investors and additional accelerator programs, within the RGV, Texas, and beyond.  

As part of our support, participants who are invested in the program will receive coworking space for their business for the duration of the program, and a custom-designed website to share your new business with the world, which adds significant value to this program.

Note: Module 0 will take place at the McAllen Teaching Site. The remaining modules will be offered at the recently completed UTRGV Center for Innovation & Commercialization facility in Weslaco. This will allow easy access to attendees from both upper and lower valley.

Program Brochure

Module 0: Application Process

Click here to pay for the application fee for Session 1: August 07, 2018. (Completed)

Click here to pay for the application fee for Session 2: August 14, 2018. (Completed)

Click here to pay for the application fee for Session 3: August 21, 2018. (Completed)

Click here to pay for the application fee for Bonus Session: August 28, 2018. (Completed)

Click below to add yourself to the wish list:

Wish List

  • Module 0 - Application Process

    Anyone can call themselves an entrepreneur, but it takes grit and determination to separate the best from the rest. To ensure that our cohort includes the very best early-stage entrepreneurs in the RGV, this program includes an application process. The application process includes the following steps after you pay the application fee of $45:

    • Join RGVEntrepreneurs Slack. Use it.
    • Sign up for a “Bright Idea” Group Workshop / Class
      • This is the “Group Interview”
      • The entire experience will last ~2 hours
      • Each entrepreneur will give feedback on others’ ideas
      • Each entrepreneur will receive individualized feedback
        • If they are rockstars they'll receive feedback same day, with an invitation to apply
        • If there is a concern, they'll receive feedback on a scheduled (10-20 min.) call with an invitation to come to another Workshop / Class if there is a chance they might demonstrate excellence worthy of inclusion
      • Each session (3 total, August 7, 14, and 21) will have the target of admitting 3-4 students to the class.

        Session 1: August 07, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
        Session 2: August 14, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
        Session 3: August 21, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
        Bonus Session: August 28, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

        Note: These are the available times to attend Module 0: Application Process. You do not have to attend each session. You must attend one of these sessions.

        McAllen Teaching Site (MCTC)
        1800 S. Main #1100
        McAllen, Tx 78503

    • Pay $2,400 online or apply for private loans through our website (please keep in mind that private loans take up to 4 weeks to get approved)
  • Module 1 - Introduction to Customer (re)Discovery

    Regardless of how excellent your product or service is, in order to gain and keep customers you must understand what they truly need. Knowing and understanding customer needs is at the center of every successful business. This module will will help you place your customers at the center of your business. Beyond abstract discussion, we will work together to identify and engage a handful of real customers right from the start.
  • Module 2 - Problem Definition

    In Module 2, we practice placing customers at the center of our business model by conducting The Problem Interview with a significant number of high-value customers. These customers are exactly the same ones that might buy a product from you in Weeks 5 & 6, but in this initial phase, you should feel no pressure to sell anything - you are simply giving them a rare opportunity to talk about their experience and frustration around your chosen “pain point.”
  • Module 3 - UVP & MVP Design

    In Module 3, you learn to conduct The Solution Interview, which involves revisiting the same customers from The Problem Interview, but focusing in greater detail on potential solutions to the pain your customers’ experience. These interviews should provide initial customer validation of the key points of your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), and the outlines of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).  You will also be introduced to the Go To Market Strategy, which is informed by The Solution Interview with customers.
  • Module 4 - Go To Market Strategy

    At this point you have turned the trends you observed through listening to customers into a rough-draft UVP & MVP, which are just fancy words for “sales pitch” (UVP) and the “simplest form of your product you can deliver soon to satisfy your early customers” (MVP). What’s left is to discover and define the early process for “how” you will identify more of your customers (lead sourcing), how you will share your message, or UVP, with them (marketing), what you want for them to do right now (call to action), and how we can measure success (conversion rates, Key Performance Indicators etc).

    These components will make up your Go To Market Strategy, and help you prepare to actually sell an initial version of your product in Weeks 5 & 6.  After we define the Go To Market Strategy, you can start to pitch your product, as defined and redefined by your customer discovery.

  • Module 5 - Sales Sprint v1.0

    Entrepreneurs learn the most by actually “going to market” and introducing their early product to their (potential) early adopters.  Do your customers accept your call to action, and how often do they convert from potential to real paying customers? When problems arise, how can you immediately apply new learning to improvements in your Go To Market Strategy?  Is it possible that your best customers might have a slightly different profile than you imagined? As you actually execute your Go To Market Strategy, we will address these questions and others that arise. You can generate real revenue at this stage, or generate fast learning to save time from learning “the hard way” down the road.
  • Module 6 - Sales Sprint v2.0

    Don’t you wish sometimes you had a chance to relive an experience, and do it better the second time around?  Here is your golden opportunity to take what we learned from the first week of sales execution, and apply it with a revised Go To Market strategy. In this module, you will learn how to refine your marketing to improve your message, compare conversion rates and other KPI’s, and share your results in real-time.
  • Module 7 - Revise Your Business Model

    While we learned to revise elements of our Go To Market Strategy in real-time during the sales sprints of Modules 5 & 6, now we can apply our learning to revise our entire model, going all the way back to Customer (re)Discovery, as needed, depending upon your success metrics.

    Here you will walk through all the elements of your model, from Customer Discovery, to Problem Definition, to the UVP and MVP, and Go To Market Strategy, and focus on building a plan that works beyond the course.

  • Module 8 - Sustain Success

    What help will you need going forward? Additional capital? Technical assistance? A new team member? Now that you have refined your entire model (ideally several times over) through continuous customer engagement and sales execution, you are better able to self-assess your needs, and to take the steps necessary to continue to learn and find success beyond this course.

    Naturally this experience will coincide with an opportunity to pitch the best version of your business to date, before a curated audience of talented entrepreneurs, potential team members, and members of the RGV business and funding community.  Congratulations, entrepreneur!

The first day of this training will be held as a face-to-face session on September 11th, 2018 from 6:00 - 8:00 P.M. at the UTRGV Center for Innovation & Commercialization in Weslaco and will run until October 26, 2018. 

The course will be delivered over 8 weeks, one module per week. Classes will be delivered in a blended learning format with weekly in-class sessions on Tuesdays and virtual sessions on Wednesdays & Thursdays.

Overview of Modules from September to October. 0: Application process, 1: Customer discovery, 2: PRoblem definition, 3: UVP and MVP design, 4: Go to mmarket strategy, 5 Sales sprint v1.0, 6: Sales sprint v2.0, 7: Revise model, 8: Sustain Success


The cost of the course is 2,400.00.

This includes FREE coworking for your business during the program (1,000.00 value), a FREE custom-designed website upon course completion (2,500.00 value), the use of a business laptop if needed, and discounted software engineering services.

To review private loan options for continuing education programs, click below:

Private Loans

Note: If you are applying for the Continuing Education Private Loan to cover the registration fee for a non-credit continuing education program, then please use UTRGV Continuing Education School Code: 00359902. The loan amount you note in the application cannot exceed the open enrollment fee noted on our website. Minimum for the loans must be $500.00. Some service charges may apply.

  • Michael C. Barnes, Ph.D.

    Michael C. Barnes, Ph.D., is a former teacher, school leader, and serial entrepreneur committed to making sure every person has access to an excellent education.  He is currently the CEO of TeacherTalent, a venture-backed startup that has raised $300k+ in the first year of operation. TeacherTalent is bringing big-data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to K-12 human capital management.  Their first Software as a Service (SaaS) product helps school districts (currently 50+ across 10 states) recruit and retain the most effective educators. Michael is also an alumnus of UTRGV, where he received his Master’s in Computer Science.  He received his Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Texas at Austin.


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