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Horn Entrepreneurship

John Cusick, Lead Mentor, Bringing Innovative Ideas Forward

John Cusick 2-1Meet John Cusick. Joining the Horn Team as a Lead Mentor, John plans to utilize his love for coaching young entrepreneurs and his Gore experience in bringing technology to the market.

After spending 28 years and much of his career at Gore, John Cusick is excited to share his enthusiasm for helping others find a market fit and build winning business models for innovative ideas.

Cusick grew up in Scranton, PA, and at age 18 left to study chemical engineering at Villanova University. One of his early experiences coming out of college was a unique role in an early startup for a highly leveraged business. His first exposure to commercialization was to find a market fit as the sales and marketing lead.  He admits they were driven by a combination of learning and trying things versus paying the bills. Financial pressure drove the fast-paced environment. Lessons learned here about testing and failing quickly helped him throughout the following years.

He transitioned to Gore for the remainder of his career where commercialization efforts balanced the short term financial pressure for a higher level of accountability and to have a successful long term business plan. Cusick explains, “Over time corporations have built lean models of entrepreneurship that bring a product to market.” 

Cusick expressed how grateful he is for the diverse roles he held at Gore. Half being in industrial markets and the remainder in Gore’s consumer businesses. He grew a strong interest in the intersection of technology and the market and was able to connect Gore’s strategic needs with that of the customer. In both experiences John was able to connect his passion for coaching with helping teams find the best product market fit and decide if ideas were worthy of further investment. 


What Experience do you plan to share with entrepreneurs and innovators?

Understanding how the ultimate end user of a product or service values it should always be an early stage priority - independent of what the winning business model or route to market will be. That is true even for an innovation destined for or a Business to Business (B2B) business model.  Cusick explains, “One of our best practices at Gore was to involve the end-use consumer early in  customer discovery efforts. In the Gore-tex businesses we consistently tested new ideas directly with outdoor enthusiasts even though our ultimate model was to sell through consumer apparel brands (e.g. Arc’teryx) to those consumers.  Knowing the end user’s perspective is key to understanding product market fit and developing the right business model.”

Cusick’s last 13 years at Gore focused on the global business for Gore-Tex which brought him to locations world-wide to work with outdoor enthusiasts and even participate in some of those customer testing of apparel and footwear. 


How will your knowledge of branding help with a new venture development process?

Great brands are built on great consumer experiences. Building a strong brand can be a valuable business asset depending on the nature of the business and opportunity.  Not all innovations will benefit from early focus on brand planning but being aware of the possibilities helps in the initial discovery for early startups finding market fit.


What message do you have for researchers or innovators considering Horn for their commercialization endeavor?

Understanding that early work should be focused on separating facts from assumptions to guide conversation with potential customers and market experts is a critical mindset to keep during the early stages of building a new business..  

Also, one of the most important elements to guide early innovation work is to stay focused on what facts and data support a strong Value Proposition. Investing time to prove the unique, sustainable competitive advantage summarized in your Value Proposition should be the core of early innovation efforts.

When Cusick is not found in the Venture Development Center at Horn he may be golfing or hiking somewhere in the world with his wife Kathy or visiting one of his four grown children.


About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

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Topics: entrepreneurship, startup advice, startups, technology, innovation, research, commercialization