Startup Virginia's Idea Factory helps entrepreneurs fine-tune their business ideas – The Business Journals

Nine budding entrepreneurs are learning how to bring viability to their business concepts through a Startup Virginia program. Launched in 2020, the Idea Factory pairs founders with mentors.
“We created a program to help people who have an idea but don’t know what to do with it next,” said Laura Shibut, program director at Startup Virginia. “It was a six-week program that put participants through customer discovery and taught them how to identify their target customer, how to find them, how to do interviews with target customers.”
The Idea Factory’s current session, the program’s sixth, has expanded to eight weeks. It started in late September and runs through the middle of November. Participants meet virtually for some sessions and in-person for others.
When the program is completed, participants should have a target customer list, an interview script for discovery and a value proposition statement, which is a summary of why a customer would choose a company’s product or service.
“The goal is to create data points to see if their idea is worthy of continuing or maybe they need to pivot the idea or even come up with a new one,” Shibut said.
The program is limited, and participants must apply. In the applications, prospective participants discuss their idea, their backgrounds and their understanding of the competitive landscape. Staff at Startup Virginia decides which applicants are selected to the program.
Shibut said Idea Factory is a challenging process. Some previous participants have dropped out partway through and others have gone on to have success. Philip Deng, for example, founded Grantable, a software company that helps facilitate grant funding. After Idea Factory, Deng was accepted into Lighthouse Labs and received funding from the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corp. The company has worked with nonprofits and government entities.
Participants who graduate from the Idea Factory are offered a scholarship to join Startup Virginia. As members, they get access to the organization’s programs, coworking space and other resources.
“That allows them to keep working on that idea after Idea Factory,” Shibut said. “We want to continue to work with the participants to help them further their idea.”
Here is a rundown of the current Idea Factory cohort:
Applications for the next Idea Factory cohort open in January. The program will begin sometime in the spring.
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