Lean Startup Challenges

This page was revised September 1, 2019 to make it easier for participants to understand. Please contact us if you find any errors or ommissions.

The Lean Startup Challenges typically run from May 1, to October 31.

Eligible* Alberta post-secondary students or recent graduates chosen to represent their publicly funded college or university can earn almost $5,000 each by completing a series of Lean Startup** Challenges described below.

Created in collaboration with Google Launchpad and Lean Startup mentor Adam Berk, these challenges are designed to help students validate their business idea, implement technology, and become revenue generating ventures within 6 months of starting the Lean Startup Challenges..

To answer any questions participants have with the Lean Startup Challenges, we utilize a Slack channel and facilitate 1-hour web calls via Zoom on Tuesday and Thursday each week until the pitch competition at the Innovation Rodeo in July.

We then move to 1-hour calls on Thursdays until the end of August, one call every other Thursday in September and October, and we plan to have monthly peer mentoring calls to assist finalists as they continue on their entrepreneurial journey after the Challenges end in October.

$750 Challenge – May 1 to June 30

Requirements to Qualify: Complete and register 20 problem discovery interviews—interviews that use past-oriented questions (‘have you ever’, not ‘would you ever’) to validate that there is a problem worth solving and discover who the target customer is.

Deadline to Qualify: The second Sunday in June @ 11:59 p.m. (MDT)

Because we believe most students will leave their interviews until the last minute when left alone, we introduce scarcity by making only the first 10 students who complete the 20 problem discovery interviews by the deadline eligible to receive reimbursement.

What is Reimbursed:

  • Up to $750 spent developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • $500 of this $750 can be spent on Facebook or similar ads that drive customers to an approved landing page that shows your MVP and collects the information of those interested in learning more about your product or service (see an example of a suitable MVP landing page here)
  • Of the $750, any funds spent getting someone to do something for you will be reimbursed 10% (e.g. if you pay a graphic designer $50 for a logo, you will be reimbursed $5)
  • Only funds spent between the day after you meet the challenge requirements and 11:59 p.m. (MDT) on June 30 are eligible for reimbursement

Some examples of getting someone else to do things for you include, but are not limited to:

  • Paying for someone to design and maintain a website for you
  • Paying for someone to make a training video for you
  • Paying for a photographer
  • Paying for a graphic designer for logos

Note: All students—not just the first 10 to complete their interviews—must meet the requirements of the $750 Challenge to move on to the $1,500 and $2,500 Challenges.

$1,500 Challenge – July 1 to August 31

Requirements to Qualify:

  • Meet the requirements for the $750 Challenge
  • Ask at least 10 people who filled out the form on your approved landing page the questions detailed on Slack
  • Create a 5-minute video explaining
    • What you learned from your first round of interviews
    • Why you chose the MVP you did
    • What you learned from your second round of interviews
    • What you plan on doing next

Deadline to Qualify: The Sunday before the Innovation Rodeo starts @ 11:59 p.m. (MDT)

What is Reimbursed:

  • 50% of the money spent on applying technology to your business to make your or your customer’s life easier, to a maximum of $1,500
  • Students must receive a confirmation email from Craig Elias that the funds they are spending qualify as applying technology to their business in order to be eligible for reimbursement
  • Students must provide proof of payment and implementation in order to be eligible for reimbursement

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
  • Creating an online ordering system

$2,500 Challenge – September 1 to October 31

Requirements to Qualify:

Deadline to Qualify: August 31 @ 11.59 p.m. (MDT)

What is Reimbursed:

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

* ELIGIBLE STUDENTS are defined as first time entrepreneurs*** who are a) post-secondary students that are currently taking three or more courses at one of Alberta’s publicly funded colleges or universities, b) currently taking a minimum of one course from one of Alberta’s publicly funded colleges or universities and have taken at least three courses during the last 12 months from one of Alberta’s publicly funded colleges or universities, or c) have graduated from one of Alberta’s publicly funded colleges or universities within the last 12 months.

** LEAN STARTUP is a trademark owned by Eric Ries, and his most recent book is called The Startup Way

*** FIRST-TIME ENTREPRENEURS are defined as those who have not previously started 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.