Have a Cool Idea for a Business?
- 6 week startup virtual accelerator
- 1:1 coaching support
- Final elevator pitch competition
- Continued support after program completion
Application to Idea TestLab is open to all early-stage, PA-based entrepreneurs – no affiliation with Penn State is required for participation.
- 6 virtual learning sessions
- 1:1 weekly coaching
- Win up to $2500 in final elevator pitch competition
- Access up to $3000 in additional grant funding
Idea Test Lab Class Dates
Program consists of 6 virtual sessions. Participants must attend all sessions to complete in final pitch competition and be eligible to apply for additional $3000 grant funding upon completion of program.
Educational materials for the Idea TestLab have been provided through a grant from Barnes & Noble.
Learn from your customer.
Successful startups begin by spending time with potential customers to figure out exactly what the problem is and how much “pain” they are having.
As part of the Idea TestLab, you will:
- Talk with at least 40 potential customers
- Validate your customers’ needs/pain
- Identify key customer characteristics
- Determine where they hang out (physically and virtually)
Figure out where others fall short.
It’s critical that you understand where other solutions fall short from the perspective of your target customers.
The Idea TestLab helps you:
- Evaluate current solutions
- Identify the tangible results you provide
- Draft a value proposition
We take no equity. We charge no fees.
Our programs are free. We take zero equity in your business and charge no rent to use our facilities.
Compete for seed funding.
After 5 weeks of bootcamp classes, you will present your customer research and value proposition to compete for up to $2500 in seed funding for further customer discovery and validation. Participants may be eligible for an additional $3000 in grant funding through the NSF iCorps Microgrant Program upon completion of the program.
Get weekly 1:1 coaching sessions between classes to help you apply lean startup principles to your business idea
Are the class sessions live or pre-recorded?
The Tuesday evening class sessions are taught live and will be offered through a video conferencing platform. You will be assigned pre-recorded videos to watch for homework between classes, however.
Do I have to attend all 6 sessions of Idea TestLab?
Yes. At least 1 person on each startup team must attend all 6 sessions to be able to compete in the elevator pitch competition for seed funding. When you accept the invitation to join the cohort, you are committing to attending all 6 sessions of Idea TestLab and doing all the required homework.
The Idea TestLab is best for individuals who have identified a problem (or idea) they want to work on, but have not yet systematically collected data to validate the problem/need and who has it. We look for scalable ideas that have an unclear, or unknown business model, do this program is not a good fit for individuals wanting to open a traditional business such as a restaurant or retail store.
We are looking for teams or individuals who…
- have identified a problem (or idea) they want to explore as a potential business.
- need help to clearly define their target customer and the value they can provide to them.
- are willing to learn from others by working through the customer discovery process, which includes holding 10 business interviews (customers, experts, competitors) each week.
- are looking to build their entrepreneurial skills by participating in a structured program that focuses on moving ideas from concept to potential viable businesses.
- are struggling with identifying an appropriate business model.
Questions about the program ? Watch the Get Started Building Your Business with Lean Startup webinar from 2020 Global Entrepreneurship Week at Penn State. Learn more about customer discovery and lean startup process and listen to Q&A about Idea TestLab.
I want to open a traditional business (i.e., retail, restaurant, as a sole proprietor), is the program right for me?
Our programs are best suited to non-traditional businesses where the business model is unknown or unclear.
If you are looking to open a traditional business, we do offer many resources to help you. You do not need to be affiliated with Penn State to utilize these services:
- Small Business Development Center
- The Penn State Entrepreneur Assistance Law Clinic
- The Penn State Intellectual Property Law Clinic
- Nope. We welcome individuals who are looking to better define an idea for their business.
- Usually 8-10 applications are accepted into the cohort.
- 5 virtual classes in which teams learn customer discovery techniques and guidance on how to test the assumptions behind their business ideas.
- 1 Final virtual elevator pitch presentation, in which participants compete for up to $2500 in seed funding
- Weekly 1:1 coaching
- Text and video educational resources (i.e. homework!)
That’s hard to say. We can tell you, however, that by the end of the program, you will:
- have verified your assumptions about the problem and who has it,
- have a clear statement of the problem or job your customer is trying to accomplish and the root cause of that problem/need,
- know what your customer is doing to try solve the problem today and how that’s working for them,
- understand what motivates your customer to keep looking for a solution, and
- be able to pinpoint how you can provide value with your solution.
With all that under your belt, you’ll be ready to start building a minimum viable product and start testing the market.
After 5 weeks of class, entrepreneurs will have a chance to compete for up to $2500 in prize funding for further customer discovery/research and prototyping.
No. We take zero equity and charge no fees.
No, you own your own intellectual property (IP), unless you are a faculty member or current graduate student of Penn State who is commercializing your university research. Your IP safely stays with you! What’s more, Penn State can even help you protect your IP. The Penn State Law Intellectual Property Clinic provides free legal services related to intellectual property to Pennsylvania entrepreneurs. No affiliation with Penn State is required to work with the Clinic.
It is our expectation that all participants are serious about, and will be dedicated to, testing their idea. Participants in the Idea TestLab should be prepared to spend between 7 – 12 hours a week during the program (2 hours a week in a weekly group class and 5- 10 hours preparing for and carrying out customer discovery).
Not required, but recommended.
If you have others that you are working with, or might want to work with, the program is a great way to get everyone on the same page and see how well you work together.
Annie Hughes, Director of Harrisburg LaunchBox, and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Penn State Harrisburg, will be your teacher and innovation-guide. She brings 10 years’ experience in innovation practice and product development within small and corporate business environments. Her dynamic teaching style creates an engaging and energetic class featuring the fundamentals of VentureWell’s Lean Launchpad methodology.