Startup Virginia to host Idea Factory workshop
Six-week program helps aspiring entrepreneurs with products, plans
Richmond-based nonprofit business incubator Startup Virginia is hosting its fifth Idea Factory — a six-week, largely virtual program to help aspiring entrepreneurs test, improve and validate their business ideas — from Feb. 28 to April 4.
The program focuses on technology-driven or manufacturing-based business ideas and starts with an onboarding meeting before moving into five weeks of product discovery. Participants end with plans and free resources to move forward. Thanks to a recent $250,000 GO Virginia grant and a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, participants will not have to pay the $500 program fee.
“I don’t want to understate how important it is to say your idea and to get your idea out there for other people to touch, and that’s what they had us do in the program,” said fall 2020 participant Philip Deng, who is now the co-founder and CEO of Grantable.
Deng moved to Richmond in March 2020, and traditional methods of community building were unavailable because of the pandemic. Idea Factory provided him with a sense of community, and he still sees friends he made in the program.
“It’s really just how I got plugged into this community,” Deng said. “It’s been enormously helpful. I just wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without their help.”
Deng started with the idea to offer a grant-writing software tool, but adjusted his plan based on feedback. On Monday, Grantable will open its marketplace for organizations to connect with grant writers.
Idea Factory facilitators helped Deng and his fellow participants figure out how to meet with potential customers and professionals in fields relevant to their business ideas and to get feedback, he said. Facilitators helped them create a list of people to contact, provided tools and phrasing for contacting them and assisted them in structuring interviews and taking notes.
The program also provided direction for using the information gained in interviews, like how to quantify the qualitative feedback received — for example, sending surveys to those interviewed asking them to rate the problems they identified.
Applications are due Feb. 1. The program requires one in-person workshop at the Startup Virginia office on March 21.