Six-week program helps aspiring entrepreneurs with products, plans
January 25, 2022
Richmond-based nonprofit business incubator Startup Virginia is hosting its fifth Idea Factory — a six-week, largely virtual program to help aspiring entrepreneurs test, improve and validate their business ideas — from February 28 to April 4.
The program focuses on technology- or manufacturing-focused business ideas and begins with an onboarding meeting before progressing to five weeks of product discovery. Participants end with plans and free resources to move forward. Thanks to a recent GO Virginia grant of $250,000 and a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond, participants won’t have to pay the $500 program fee.
“I don’t want to underestimate how important it is to say your idea and get it out there for other people to touch, and that’s what they made us do on the program,” said Philip Deng, fall 2020 attendee, who is now co-founder and CEO of Grantable.
Deng moved to Richmond in March 2020 and traditional community building methods were unavailable due to the pandemic. Idea Factory gave him a sense of community and he still sees friends he made in the program.
“That’s really how I connected to this community,” Deng said. “It was extremely helpful. I simply wouldn’t do what I do today without their help.
Deng started with the idea of offering a grant-writing software tool, but adjusted his plan based on feedback. On Monday, Grantable will open its marketplace for organizations to connect with grantmakers.
Idea Factory facilitators helped Deng and his fellow attendees figure out how to meet potential clients and professionals in fields relevant to their business ideas and get feedback, he said. The facilitators helped them create a list of people to contact, provided them with tools and wording to contact them, and helped them structure the interviews and take notes.
The program also provided guidelines for using the information obtained during the interviews, such as how to quantify the qualitative feedback received – for example, sending surveys to interviewees asking them to rate the issues they have identified.
Applications are due February 1. The program requires an in-person workshop at the Startup Virginia office on March 21.