Accelerating Customer Discovery
You have a great idea. Our four-week LABS program helps entrepreneurs refine their business model and learn more about their customers.
An intensive four-week program, NC IDEA LABS helps entrepreneurs take their first steps toward building a successful company. The program guides entrepreneurs through the process of identifying and targeting customers, then validating product/market fit. Entrepreneurs spend much of the time communicating directly with potential customers, gathering feedback and assessing demand.
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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.
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.
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.
First and foremost, we are looking for ambitious founders and teams. Though a majority of NC IDEA LABS participants will begin at an “idea” stage, the impact of the program is not limited to the stage of the company itself. For example, if you are already generating revenue but need to assess if and how your company can scale, your company may also be a strong fit for our program.
At least one founder must be full-time during the program. We will accept individual founders and can be a valuable resource in helping find co-founders.
We look for a unique idea that gives you a competitive advantage in a large market. We do not accept consultancies or retail/small businesses, or companies that have limited opportunities to scale.
During this program, varying benefits can be achieved depending on your company type, stage and needs. No matter what idea you are pursuing, this program is meant to help you assess not just if a solution CAN be built, but SHOULD it be built in the first place.
At NC IDEA LABS, we care more about the entrepreneur than the idea itself. Though we maintain an interest in companies with growth potential, our investment lies with you. We look for entrepreneurs that are:
Stubborn and Flexible: stubborn enough to persevere and hold onto building the company when everyone around is saying it won’t work, and flexible enough to pivot when needed
Growth-Oriented: want to build a business through a rapid-growth trajectory
Ambitious: actively seeks opportunity and demonstrates the ability to react accordingly
Committed: no wantrepreneurs, only folks who are all in despite the challenging road ahead
Coachable: demonstrate the ability to listen, take feedback and react accordingly
It is important that all participants are willing to “buy-in” to the Lean Methodology and/or Human Centered Design. If you want to build a product before assessing market demand, this is not the program for you.
Finally, we are looking for founders who will be positively impacted by the program, and in turn will positively impact their fellow teams in the cohort. You must be open, ready to be challenged and want to engage with your peers. You should be willing to give up a bit of time helping your peers knowing that same person will reciprocate and help you when needed.