This Virginia Business Model Validation Lab is a 7-day accelerator for early/idea-stage, East Coast-based entrepreneurs that are tackling social and environmental problems. Over four full and two half days, it is designed to help these entrepreneurs rapidly identify and validate the foundational assumptions of their business.
Virginia is for lovers. But it’s also for change makers, visionaries and startups. A great place for Southern cuisine (biscuit capital!), outdoor adventures on the James River and a growing craft brewery scene, it is easy to forget that 30% of Richmonders live below the poverty line. Looking at the broader picture, 11.8% of Virginian’s are classified as poor, affecting 15.9% of young adults under the age of 18 restricting their access to quality education and the labor market.
With that being said, Virginia rests on the shoulders of a strong nonprofit sector and a thriving ecosystem of startups and entrepreneurs – both joint forces for an Unreasonable endeavor! Lighthouse Labs, the Greater Richmond Chamber, Virginia’s Commonwealth University and social pioneers such as UnboundRVA and the B Corp community – to name but a few – are driving forces behind fostering entrepreneurship and social change.
Virginia’s Unreasonable Lab leverages the existing entrepreneurial infrastructure to create a new breed of mission-driven startups. Become part of this adventure and join us!
Get Involved: Apply to be an entrepreneur, become a mentor, be a sponsor, or help our Lab team find entrepreneurs. Read on to get involved!
The early stages of a startup are marked with questions. Who is my customer? What problems do they have? Do I have a solution to their problems? What are they willing to pay? Will I be able to break even? An entrepreneur’s ability to quickly convert these questions into answers is one of the few characteristics that separates successful startups from failed ones. The problem is that few entrepreneurs know the rapid and systematic approach required to answer these questions. They go too slow, they focus on the wrong things in the wrong order, and they move forward without truly validating a business model.
The Lab & Curriculum
The Business Model Validation Lab is designed to do one thing: provide entrepreneurs with a step-by-step methodology to rapidly and systematically validate their venture’s business model. Entrepreneurs will:
Identify the foundational assumptions that underpin your venture.
Design and run experiments to validate / invalidate the foundational assumptions (through customer discovery and rapid prototyping)
Meet with mentors to get feedback and develop next steps.
The curriculum of the Lab oscillates between in-classroom workshop time and in-market customer interaction time.
Day 1 (Thursday late afternoon)
Starts with orientation and kick-off happy hour on Thursday afternoon.
Day 2 (Friday)
Starts with assumption mapping and a co-session with Lighthouse Labs. The afternoon is spent interacting with target customers. Participants should plan to work independently over the weekend of September 18/19.
Day 3 (Monday)
Starts with a workshop in the morning on how to rapidly prototype. In the afternoon entrepreneurs will physically build a prototype.
Day 4 (Tuesday)
Starts with a workshop on how to build powerful, long-term relationships with mentors, funders, and partners. Entrepreneurs learn how to validate the cost assumptions of their venture in the afternoon.
Day 5 (Wednesday)
Mentor Day! 10-15 mentors will attend the Lab to work directly with entrepreneurs.
Day 6 (Thursday morning & early afternoon, final event: Friday night)
Begins with a workshop on storytelling in preparation of that night’s final event. The early afternoon is spent on strategic planning. The program wraps up with a final event in the evening.
By the end of Lab entrepreneurs will have something to show for their work. They will have:
- Learned a repeatable methodology for how to do customer discovery
- Built 2-3 prototypes of a key element of their venture
- Tested prototypes with real customers
- Learned how to build and maintain mentor relationships
- Met and received feedback from 10-12 world-class mentors
- Conducted a break-even analysis of their business and identified the key cost and financial assumptions of their business
- Built out a basic budget and financial model
- Created a 6-month operating plan
This Lab will actively involve a diverse set of mentors. These mentors will be custom-selected after selecting the Lab ventures to assure mentors meet their needs. Interested in mentoring? Email Anika!
Startup Network Curator
Co-Founder & CEO Rivata Health
Small Business Director, unBoundRVA
New Richmond Ventures
CEO & Co-Founder, Rockin’ Baby
Executive Director, Powhatan Habitat for Humanity
Shannon Siriano Greenwood
Founder, Lemon Umbrella
CEO, John Kemper LLC
Owner, The Carpet Warehouse
Assistant Professor, University of Richmond
Executive Director, Lighthouse Labs
Outreach Coordinator, Peter Paul Development Center
Senior Director, Impact Investing & Social Entrepreneurship, Catholic Charities
FAQ’s & More About This Program
Application and Selection
- Committed to social and environmental impact with their venture
- Idea-to-early-stage in their venture’s development
- Based in Virginia (more on location below)
- For-profit or non-profit
- 18 years of age or older
- I am an entrepreneur from a state adjacent to Virginia. Can I apply for this Lab? If you are outside Virginia you can still apply. But please know that we will prioritize entrepreneurs from Virginia. But if you can make a compelling case, we might consider your application.
- My venture’s headquarters are here in Virginia, but my operations are elsewhere? Can I apply? It depends. The Business Model Validation Lab is designed for ventures to interact directly with their target market during the Lab. For example, during the Lab entrepreneurs will go and do “customer discovery” by interviewing people (in-person) in their target market. If you are unable to do this because your venture’s operations are elsewhere, then the Lab will be less valuable to you. In any case, please feel free to reach out us if you have specific questions about this.
- Who their target customer is
- What, exactly, is the problem their target customer has
- What their product/service offering looks like (they haven’t built a prototype yet or have just begun building prototypes) and if it meets the needs of the target customer
Entrepreneurs are too late if:
- They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) who their customer is
- They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) what problem their customer has
- They know (with a very high level of confidence and specificity) that their solution solves their customer’s problem
- They have a product/service that is in mainstream production
They have substantial sales
The Lab Team will work with any entrepreneur who is accepted to attend the Lab but unable to pay. Do not let the cost prohibit you from applying for the Lab!
The Lab will feature both time in the classroom (learning principles of how to validate your business model) and time in market with your customers where you will be interviewing them and having them interact with your prototypes. There will also be one entire day dedicated to working with mentors. Throughout the course of the Lab, you will have plenty of time to work and rest. Taking time to digest the material is an important piece of acceleration!
Day 1: Day 1 starts with a brief orientation in the afternoon.
Day 2: Day 2 starts with a workshop in the morning on the Lean Canvas and a co-session with Lighthouse Labs. In the afternoon, entrepreneurs will go out and talk to their target customers. Entrepreneurs will also use the weekend to talk to customers and deep-dive into the issue they are trying to solve for their target customers.
Day 3: After the weekend, day 3 starts with a workshop in the morning on how to rapidly prototype. In the afternoon entrepreneurs will physically build a prototype.
Day 4: Day 4 starts with a workshop on how to build powerful, long-term relationships with mentors, funders, and partners. Entrepreneurs spend the first part of the afternoon working on their cost assumptions and the second half on working independently to prepare for Mentor Day.
Day 5: Day 5 is a mentor day when 10-15 mentors will attend the Lab to work directly with entrepreneurs.
Day 6: Day 6 begins with a workshop on storytelling in preparation of that night’s final even before spending the early afternoon working on strategic planning. The Lab concludes with a final event on Friday night.
Be a Supporter
Click here to email Anika to discuss becoming a mentor.
Pipeline Partners are organizations that help us find the entrepreneurs. Like us, they support entrepreneurs doing good in the world. If you want to become a Pipeline Partner for this Lab, please Email Anika!
Here is the team that made this happen.
entrepreneur, Logistics & Operations support
PR and communications mastermind
Change Maker & Outreach Partner
Numbers Guru, Finance & Fundraising Lead
founder, master-accelerator, Logistics and Operations Lead