Lean Startup Challenges

The 2019 Lean Startup Challenges run from May 21st, 2019 to October 31st, 2019.

Eligible* Alberta post-secondary school 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 ideas, implement technology, and become revenue generating ventures by October 31st, 2019.

To answer any questions participants have with the Lean Startup challenges we utilize a Slack Channel and we facilitate 1-hour web calls (via Zoom) Tuesday and Thursday each week until the pitch competition at the Innovation Rodeo.

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

$750 Challenge – May 21st to June 30th

Requirements: To qualify for the $750 challenge, students are required to complete and register 20 problem discovery interviews – to validate there is a problem people want solving and who the target customer is – by 11:59 p.m. (MDT) Sunday, June 10th.

With the belief that if left alone many students would wait until the last few days to conduct the interviews, we introduced scarcity by only offering the money the first 10 students who complete the 20 interviews.

The first ten students are then reimbursed up to $750 that is spent developing what is called an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that shows people what they are up to and getting people to take some action so the student can follow up to learn more.

Only funds spent between the day after you meet the requirements for this challenge and June 30th are eligible for reimbursement.

Up to $500 of the $750 can be spent on Facebook (or similar) ads, that drive people to an approved landing page (see an example of a suitable MVP landing page here) that shows their MVP and collects the contact information of those interested in learning more about the product or service the student is working on.

If students pay someone to do something for them, we only pay 10% of the amount paid. E.g. Paying a photographer $250 to take pictures results in $25 being reimbursed. To be reimbursed participants must provide proof of payment and proof of implementation.

$1,500 Challenge – July 1 to August 31

Requirements: To qualify for this $1,500, all finalists (not just those who completed their 20 problem discovery interviews within the timeframe given) are required to, by the midnight before the Innovation Rodeo, to meet the requirements of the $750 Challenge, ask at least 10 of those who complete the form on their approved landing page for their MVP (see an example of a suitable MVP landing page here) a series of questions, that are detailed on the Slack channel for $1,500 challenge, and create a five-minute video that explains:

  • What they learned from their first batch of interviews
  • Why they chose the MVP they did
  • What they learned from their second round of interviews
  • What they plan to do next

Students are then reimbursed 50% of the money they spend applying technology to their business – to a maximum reimbursement of $1,500 – between July 1st and August 31st. This can be almost anything that makes their life easier or their customer’s life easier. E.g. Building a website that includes an online ordering system, having a mobile app built, or creating an online training platform.

To progress to the $2,500 Challenge students must spend at least $2,000, between July 1st and August 31st, applying – not just buying – technology to their business. To be reimbursed participants must provide proof of payment and proof of implementations.

In order to receive payment, students must receive an email confirmation that the $2,000+ they are thinking of spending qualifies as applying technology to their business.

$2,500 Challenge

Requirements: To qualify for the $2,500 challenge students have until August 31st to meet the requirements of both the $750 Challenge and the $1,500 Challenge, spend at least $2,000 on applying technology, submit a professionally written 10-page business plan (with a minimum of 3 years of conservative month-to-month financials) and incorporate their business.

Students then earn $0.50 for every dollar in revenue they generate between September 1st and October 31st up to a maximum of $2,500.

* ELIGIBLE STUDENTS are defined as first time entrepreneurs*** who are: a) Post-secondary school 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 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 c) raised more than $10,000 in capital/equity funding.