The Mousetrap* Fund is a new program to support USC Viterbi researchers interested in prototyping commercializable research and launching startups.  The maximum Mousetrap grant is $100,000.


In addition to receiving support, teams supported by the Mousetrap Fund are entitled to (but not required to have):

  • Residence in the Viterbi Startup Garage in Marina Del Rey
  • Coaching by angel investors
  • Participation in the Viterbi showcase for corporate and angel investors in the annual Technology Scouting Workshop.  Past speakers have come from Adobe, Act One Ventures, Baroda Ventures, Boeing, Canyon Creek Ventures, Dow, Google, HP, M34 Capital, Northrop Grumman, NTT DoCoMo, Pasadena Angels, SABIC, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Tech Coast Angels, and other organizations.

Customer discovery

Prior to applying, teams are required to demonstrate evidence of customer discovery, consisting of one or more of the following:

  • Purchase order
  • Sponsored research funding from a commercial entity may be used to qualify, but the link to a business unit must be clearly specified.  Corporate sponsorship will be carefully evaluated to identify the internal business unit champion and the link to a value proposition.
  • Completion of a national NSF I-Corps program (100 interviews)
  • Completion of a regional NSF I-Corps program (20 interviews)
  • Participation in a I-Corps Node ZAP and BOOM program (complete 20 interviews)
  • Participation in MEPC or Min Family Challenge (may be concurrent with the award period)
  • If you do not have customer discovery evidence but would like to apply, please advise in your LOI.  A ZAP/BOOM combination may be offered in January if there is strong demand.

Use of funds

  • You must charge at least 1 month time during the period of the award, with no more than 2 weeks (0.5 month) during the summer.
  • Funds may be used for equipment, student support, and other research expenses.
  • Your budget must include all direct costs (awards are exempt from indirect costs/overhead).

Letter of Intent (LOI) requirements

LOI should be a single PDF file limited to 1 page addressed to the Vice Dean, Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

  • Technology introduction: Describe your technology and the specific advance that enables new applications.
  • Envisioned commercial application: Describe the potential application.
  • Business model and customer discovery: Explain your potential business model and your customer discovery insights. Use the list above to determine if your activities qualify as customer discovery.
  • Use of funds: Please indicate how you expect to use the funds.  You will be asked to submit a full budget with the complete application.
  • Startup experience: Summarize your experience in starting companies and describe the results – exit or dissolution. You will not be penalized for failed companies.


This award supports research at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. You must be a USC Viterbi faculty or research staff member. Startup companies may not apply.

Other conditions

As with other awards, all intellectual property resulting from this award is owned by USC, and therefore invention disclosure to the USC Stevens Center is required for all resulting inventions.

Faculty with startups must submit a conflict of interest disclosure through the USC disclosure system diSClose, and must have received approval of an associated management plan.


* There are 4,000+ patents for mousetraps. Read a great article on mousetraps and innovation.