Lean Startup Challenges NW

Each year upwards of $50,000 is made available to eligible students who are aspiring first-time entrepreneurs through a series of Lean Startup Challenges that typically run from May 1 to October 31.

These Lean Startup challenges are not a competition so everyone who meets the requirements by the deadline is eligible for funding.

Created in collaboration with Google Launchpad and Lean Startup mentor Adam Berk, these challenges are designed to help students:

  • Validate their business idea
  • Make their business more scalable by implementing technology
  • Become revenue-generating ventures within 6 months of starting the Lean Startup Challenges

To answer any questions participants have about the Lean Startup Challenges, we utilize a Slack channel and facilitate 2-hour web calls via Zoom on Monday and Tuesday each week until the pitch competition at the Innovation Rodeo in July.

 

The First Challenge: Problem Validation

This challenge is designed to help students validate their business idea.

Requirements to Qualify

  • You must ensure your eligibility
    • For the Lean Startup Challenges and the $25,000 Pitch Competition eligible students are defined as individuals who are a) post-secondary students that are currently taking three or more courses at one of Alberta’s 26 publicly funded colleges, universities, or polytechnics b) currently taking a minimum of one course from one of Alberta’s 26 publicly funded colleges, universities or polytechnics and have taken at least three courses during the last 18 months from one of Alberta’s 26 publicly funded colleges, universities or polytechnics or c) have graduated from one of Alberta’s 26 publicly funded colleges, universities, or polytechnics within the last 12 months.For the $25,000 pitch competition eligible students are defined as EARLY-STAGE FIRST-TIME ENTREPRENEURS who came up with the idea, own at least 50% of the idea, have not previously started and does not currently run a company that a) sold more than $10,000, b) taken a loan of $10,000 or more, or c) raised more than $10,000 in capital/equity funding.
  • Read this entire page
  • Complete the confirmation form found here

Deadline to Qualify

The first Sunday in June @ 11:59 p.m. (MDT)

The Goal

Conduct 25 interviews with 25 complete strangers.

It has been found that a sample size of 25 is extremely representative of the general population.  You must find 25 individuals that have experienced the problem that your startup idea is trying to solve and interview them to validate that this problem exists (i.e. there is a need for your product/service).  You should not disclose the solution your startup offers – you only want to focus on the existence of the problem.

The Task

  1. Fill out our website building form – this will allow us to create a website for you that you will have full access to edit and personalize
  2. Create an interview request page – through your newly created website, you can develop an interview request page.  This page does not link to any other pages on your website and has no branding or hints towards your solution.
  3. Distribute your interview request page – share the link to your interview request page in any online space where people who may experience your problem gather.
  4. Conduct your 25 interviews – contact 25 of the people that filled out your interview request form and schedule a time to interview them in person, on the phone, or via zoom.
  5. Register your interviews – use this form to register your 25 interviews.  Interviews must take the shape of the questions in this form or they will not be considered valid.

The Reward

  • $250 – awarded to the first 10 people to complete and register their valid 25 interviews
  • $750 – granted to individuals who complete this challenge by the deadline to be used to fund your participation in the second challenge

 

The Second Challenge: Customer Discovery

This challenge is designed to help students validate their business idea.

Requirements to Qualify

Completion of the first challenge

Deadline to Qualify

11:59 p.m. on the first Sunday of Stampede week

The Goal

Through a series of digital ads, direct potential customers to your landing page to fill out a form providing their information so you can contact them to complete 10 customer discovery interviews.

The Task

  1. Create your landing page – following David Bland’s template for extremely effective landing pages, create a landing page for your startup which includes a “home” page, a “contact us” page, and an “about us” page.  This page should feature your idea and collect information of those interested in learning more about your product/service
  2. Have your landing page approved – an “approved” landing page is one that has been emailed to Craig and that Craig has agreed is suitable for the purposes of this challenge via email.  Any changes made to the landing page after the approval process must be resubmitted to Craig.
  3. Create digital advertisements – run a series of digital advertisements (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that directs potential customers to your approved landing page
  4. Conduct 10 interviews – conduct interviews with 10 of the potential customers that came to your landing page via a digital ad and filled out a form
  5. Register your 10 interviews – using this form register your 10 interviews.  To be considered valid, interviews must take the shape outlined in this form
  6. Post a 4-5 minute video on YouTube – post on a public YouTube channel or one of your 150 Startups pages a four to five-minute video explaining
    • What you learned from your first round of interviews
    • Why you chose the landing page content you did
    • What you learned from your second round of interviews
    • What you plan on doing next

What is Reimbursed

  • Up to $750 you spend developing and promoting a landing page for you to interview potential customers
    • $500 of this can be spent on digital ads that drive customers to an ‘approved’ landing page
  • Of the $750, any funds spent getting someone to do something for you will only be reimbursed at the rate of 10% (e.g. if you pay a photographer $500 to take some pictures, we only reimburse $50. If you pay $500 to rent photography equipment and take the pictures yourself, we will reimburse you for the full $500)
    • Some examples of getting someone else to do things for you include, but are not limited to:
      • Paying for a photographer
      • Paying for someone to make a training video for you
      • Paying for someone to design and maintain a website for you
  • It is STRONGLY recommended that prior to spending any money that you check with Craig to ensure eligibility for reimbursement
  • TIME FRAME: Only funds spent between the day after you complete the first challenge and June 30th will be reimbursed

To be reimbursed you must submit all of your receipts in PDF format upon the completion of the second challenge.

The Reward

  • The opportunity to compete in the pitch competition during the Innovation Rodeo where we give away over $70,000 in cash and prizes annually

 

 

The Third Challenge: Scaling

This challenge is designed to help students scale their businesses.

Requirements to Qualify

Completion of the First and Second Challenges.

Deadline to Qualify

The requirements to qualify must be completed the Sunday before the Innovation Rodeo starts @ 11:59 p.m.  Mountain Daylight Time (MDT), and the technology being applied must be applied and paid for by 11:59 p.m. MDT on August 31st.

The Task

  1. Spend a minimum of $2,000 applying technology to your business that makes it easier for people to become your customer or makes it easier for you to have someone as a customer

Students must share via an email to Craig Elias what technology they are planning to apply and receive a confirmation email from Craig Elias stating that the technology they are spending funds on is approved as applying technology to their business in order to be eligible for reimbursement

What is Reimbursed

  • 50% of the money spent on applying approved technology to your business that makes it easier for people to become your customer or makes it easier for you to have someone as a customer

Suitable ways to apply technology to your business include, but are not limited to,

  • Building a website or mobile app
  • Developing an online training platform
  • Implementing an online ordering system

The Fourth Challenge: ???

This challenge is designed to encourage students to maintain their momentum, get their first customers sooner and generate initial revenues faster.

Requirements to Qualify

Successful completion of the First, Second, and Third Challenges

Deadline to Qualify

August 31 @ 11.59 p.m. (MDT)

The Task

  1. Submit a professionally written 10-page business plan with a minimum of 3 years of realistic month-to-month financials
  2. Incorporate your business

What is Reimbursed

  • $0.50 for every dollar of revenue generated, to a maximum of $2,500