Lean Startup Challenges

Lean Startup Challenges run from May 1st to October 31st.

Eligible* Alberta post-secondary school students 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 within six months of the start date of the Lean Startup Challenges – May 1st of each year.

To assist participants with the challenges, starting the first week of May of each we facilitate 1-hour web calls 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 Wednesday in September and October and plan to keep every other Wednesday calls going to assist finalists in their journey and assist students who register for the following year’s 150 Startups.

$750 Challenge

To qualify for the $750 challenge, students are tasked with completing and registering 20 problem discovery interviews – to validate there is a problem people want solving and who the target customer is – within the timeframe given. 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 15 finalists who completed the 20 interviews.

Students are 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 prior to the deadline for the problem discovery interviews are eligible for reimbursement.

Up to $500 of the $750 can be spent on Facebook (or similar) ads that drive people to a web page that 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 implementations.

$1,500 Challenge

To qualify for this $1,500, all finalists (not just those who completed their 20 problem discovery interviews within the timeframe given) have until the midnight before the Innovation Rodeo to complete 20 customer interviews,  ask at least 10 of those who complete the form on the website for their MVP a series of questions 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 written confirmation that the $2,000+ they are thinking of spending qualifies as applying technology to their business.

$2,500 Challenge

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 post-secondary school students currently enrolled at one of Alberta’s publicly funded colleges or universities that are either a) currently taking three courses or b) taking one course and have taken at least three courses during the last 12 months.

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