Idea TestLab (Fall 2023)

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About Idea TestLab

Have a business idea? Figure out how to turn it into a viable business. Idea TestLab is a "customer discovery" deep-dive designed to help you better understand the customer problem you're trying to solve and how to provide value in a differentiated way. No affiliation with Penn State is required for participation. Applications are welcomed from any Pennsylvania-based entrepreneur. Idea TestLab is free to participants and takes no equity.
  • Fall Idea TestLab: September 12 - October 10, 2023
  • A six week virtual program on Tuesday nights from 6-8 PM.
  • 1:1 Coaching support for your idea.
  • Final elevator pitch competition with grant money prizes.
  • Continued support after program.

            2023 Fall Idea TestLab Applications Open August 1, 2023

Learn from your customer.

Successful startups begin by spending time with potential customers to figure out exactly what the problem is and how much “pain” they are having.

As part of the Idea TestLab, you will:

  • Talk with at least 40 potential customers
  • Validate your customers’ needs/pain
  • Identify key customer characteristics
  • Determine where they hang out (physically and virtually)

Figure out where others fall short.

It’s critical that you understand where other solutions fall short from the perspective of your target customers.

The Idea TestLab helps you:

  • Evaluate current solutions
  • Identify the tangible results you provide
  • Draft a value proposition

We take no equity. We charge no fees.

Our programs are free. We take zero equity in your business.

Do I have to attend all 6 sessions of Idea TestLab?

Yes. At least 1 person on each startup team must attend all 6 sessions to be able to compete in the elevator pitch competition for seed funding. When you accept the invitation to join the cohort, you are committing to attending all 6 sessions of Idea TestLab and doing all the required homework.

What type of people/teams are the best fit for the Idea TestLab program?

The Idea TestLab is best for individuals who have identified a problem (or idea) they want to work on, but have not yet systematically collected data to validate the problem/need and who has it. We look for scalable ideas that have an unclear, or unknown business model. This program is not a good fit for individuals wanting to open a traditional business such as a restaurant or retail store.

We are looking for teams or individuals who…

  • have identified a problem (or idea) they want to explore as a potential business.
  • need help to clearly define their target customer and the value they can provide to them.
  • are willing to learn from others by working through the customer discovery process, which includes holding 10 business interviews (customers, experts, competitors) each week.
  • are looking to build their entrepreneurial skills by participating in a structured program that focuses on moving ideas from concept to potential viable businesses.
  • are struggling with identifying an appropriate business model.

Participants must be 12 years of age or older to apply and participates under the age of 18 must attend with a parent.

How do I figure out if Idea TestLab is for me?

Questions about the program?  Watch the Get Started Building Your Business with Lean Startup webinar from 2020 Global Entrepreneurship Week at Penn State.  Learn more about customer discovery and lean startup process and listen to Q&A about Idea TestLab.

I want to open a traditional business (i.e., retail, restaurant, as a sole proprietor), is the program right for me?

This program is best suited to non-traditional businesses where the business model is unknown or unclear.

If you are looking to open a traditional business, we do offer many resources to help you. You do not need to be affiliated with Penn State to utilize these services:

Do I have to have a team to apply?

No. We welcome individuals who are looking to better define an idea for their business.

How many entrepreneurs will be selected to participate?

Usually 12-16 teams are accepted into the cohort.

What is included in the Idea TestLab?

  • 5 virtual classes in which teams learn customer discovery techniques and guidance on how to test the assumptions behind their business ideas.
  • 1 Final virtual elevator pitch presentation, in which participants compete for small grants in seed funding.
  • Weekly 1:1 coaching
  • Text and video educational resources (i.e. homework!)

Will I have a business by the end of the program?

That’s hard to say. We can tell you, however, that by the end of the program, you will:

  • have verified your assumptions about the problem and who has it,
  • have a clear statement of the problem or job your customer is trying to accomplish and the root cause of that problem/need,
  • know what your customer is doing to try solve the problem today and how that’s working for them,
  • understand what motivates your customer to keep looking for a solution, and
  • be able to pinpoint how you can provide value with your solution.

With all that under your belt, you’ll be ready to start building a minimum viable product and start testing the market.

Do you take equity in my company?

No. We take zero equity and charge no fees.

Will Penn State own any intellectual property I bring to the Bootcamp?

No, you own your own intellectual property (IP), unless you are a faculty member or current graduate student of Penn State who is commercializing your university research. Your IP safely stays with you! What’s more, Penn State can even help you protect your IP. The Penn State Law Intellectual Property Clinic provides free legal services related to intellectual property to Pennsylvania entrepreneurs. No affiliation with Penn State is required to work with the Clinic.

What is the time commitment?

It is our expectation that all participants are serious about, and will be dedicated to, testing their idea. Participants in the Idea TestLab should be prepared to spend between 7 – 12 hours a week during the program (2 hours a week in a weekly group class and 5- 10 hours preparing for and carrying out customer discovery).

If I have others working with me, does everyone have to participate?

Not required, but recommended.  If you have others that you are working with, or might want to work with, the program is a great way to get everyone on the same page and see how well you work together.

If you still have additional questions please contact with the subject:  Idea TestLab