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The Idea Factory program aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs test their business ideas | Business

A new program to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop their business ideas is scheduled for this fall.

Startup Virginia, a business incubator in Richmond, has organized a five-week program called the Idea Factory.

The Idea Factory is designed to offer instruction and coaching for people who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to validate and test ideas for new businesses.

“It is a creative, innovative way to look at workforce development and a way to attract new founders to the Virginia entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Richard Wintsch, executive director of Startup Virginia. “We will be giving preference to applicants who have been impacted by COVID-19.”

Wintsch said the program’s goal is to have three cohorts over the next year with about eight to 10 participants in each group. The fall program will focus on aspiring entrepreneurs with a technology-driven or manufacturing-based business idea.

“One of the things we have seen at Startup Virginia is we have a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs who come to us with an idea and really have not spent enough time validating it,” Wintsch said. “This program will allow them to validate their ideas.”

The cost for participants is $500, but need-based scholarships are available, Wintsch said.”We don’t want cost to be a barrier,” he added .

A $50,000 grant to support the program was provided by GO Virginia, a business-led state economic development initiative. That program and two other projects were submitted by the local GROW Capital Jobs Council, which administers GO Virginia in 17 counties and cities from the Richmond area to the North Carolina line.

The Richmond-based product development agency Bldr is leading the curriculum. Bldr (pronounced “builder”) works with early-stage ventures to help them craft their ideas.

The curriculum was developed from Bldr’s experience over three years of helping to co-found tech companies, said Luke Rabin, who co-founded Bldr with Brandon Lewis. “We put together our own process of helping people navigate from an idea through creating a product and raising money,” Rabin said.

There are excellent programs, such as Richmond-based Lighthouse Labs, for helping startups that already have a product developed, Rabin said.

“There is very little if you just have an idea,” Rabin said. “We are helping people navigate that so they don’t spend a year thinking about whether they should take the jump or not. They can do that through this process quickly and inexpensively and see whether it is worth pursuing.”

Participants will need to devote 10 hours a week for five weeks to the program. A three-hour virtual workshop will be held one evening per week.

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