NC IDEA LABS is not a curriculum, but a structure that helps each team quickly assess demand, understand customer pain and iterate on their concept.

The program is meant to be incredibly intensive, which requires a full time+ commitment for the four weeks. Though content, meetings and workshops will help guide and optimize your activities, you will spend most of your time interfacing directly with potential customers.

For the first half of the program, participants will receive support on performing effective customer interviews and using validated techniques for identifying their target market. Through a guided approach, participants will speak directly with potential users, customers and stakeholders. By doing so, entrepreneurs will better understand WHO is experiencing a specific problem, HOW that problem is felt and WHAT solutions may satisfy their current pain.

Participants that successfully demonstrate a market pain will then be guided through generating a viable solution and testing it within their target market.

After the completion of the program, those who demonstrate coachability and demonstrate meaningful progress will continue to receive support from NC IDEA though mentorship and programming.


Program Framework

The first two weeks of the program focus on customer interviews and problem/solution fit. Our belief is that, until a painful experience in the market with a potential buyer is found, coaching, mentoring and helping with other aspects of the business such as marketing, branding or sales is distracting.

Each week, we provide 2-4 hours of presentations/workshops/talks that set the tone for the week.

In Week 1, we provide an introduction, as well as information on how to construct an effective customer interview (in addition to practicing with peers).

In Week 2, we introduce early adopters as a means for segmenting the market. Entrepreneurs will continue customer interviews, but are also challenged to understand how their idea fits with existing solutions, and what potential customers are doing now to solve the problem.

In Week 3, we introduce concepts around an MVP. Part of the program relies not just on assessment through interviews, but also in rapid experimentation. Some entrepreneurs may spend four weeks trying to validate (or pivoting) their idea. In these situations, they can either continue customer interviews in parallel, or wait to implement anything testable until their idea receives stronger validation.

Week 4 continues with rapid experimentation, but also reinforces the importance of data and understanding a sales strategy. One of the key goals of this final week is to guide entrepreneurs to go deep into their own data and understand what metrics are actually effective for their business, and also implement a data/goal driven approach into core activities. This provides the foundation for what is done next – rarely after four weeks have founders completed a journey to product-market fit.


Application Process

NC IDEA LABS accepts applications at various times throughout the year in four-week cohorts. We typically receive 30 applications each deadline. From each applicant pool, approximately 15-20 founders will be selected for interviews, with 6-8 selected for each cohort.


Watch a Brief Explainer Video to Learn More


Upcoming Dates & Deadlines


December 7 – NC IDEA LABS Application Opens

December 17 – NC IDEA LABS Q&A Session

January 3 – NC IDEA LABS Application Deadline
*All applications must be submitted and received by 5:00pm EST – No Exceptions*

January 10-21 – NC IDEA LABS Interviews
*Not all applicants will receive an interview request.*

January 21 – NC IDEA LABS Participants Selected and Notified

February 1 – 26 – NC IDEA LABS Spring 2021 Cohort



Back to NC IDEA LABS program page →

“We learned so much from the amazing and extremely talented group of mentors who helped us transform our company from a great idea into a viable startup. We believe 100% that without the knowledge gained through NC IDEA LABS, we would not have been in a position to win an NC IDEA SEED grant.”

Helen Fuller, Co-Founder, Edulync
NC IDEA LABS Alumni and NC IDEA SEED Grant Recipient