1. WHAT DOES VENTURE SCHOOL INCLUDE?
[Know what type of commitment are you making before joining the program]
What is the class schedule for Venture School?
Classes will meet weekly from 5:30– 9 p.m. over the course of seven weeks. In addition, a final pitch session will also be scheduled at the end of the program.
What is the policy for missing classes?
Your team in counting on your participation. We excuse one absence, due to the short timeline and limited number of classes. Since your acceptance into the program kept another team from being accepted and participating, we do not refund the participation fee. If the unfortunate event that an emergent or serious life situation arises, please speak with your instructors to decide how to move forward.
What is required of me outside of the class?
Working on a real startup can be chaotic with a heavy workload - requiring significant focus and dedication. Venture School is no different. During each week, your team will be expected to reach their goals for outside of class work, including customer interviews and testing value propositions. Additional weekly homework will be assigned in the form of readings and videos. Completing this work is crucial to your team’s success in the program. Your team will also be required to attend some in-person meetings with mentors or instructors that will be assigned to your team to help guide you through the program. Each week in class, you will be expected to present an update on your progress to the class with a format that will be provided.
How much time every week does Venture School take?
Classes are 3.5 hours a week. Outside-of-class hours will depend on how many members are on your team and how much additional guidance/mentorship you seek. However, on average we suggest you be prepared for 10 hours of work a week outside of class.
What does the weekly class agenda look like? Team Presentations
Every class will begin with team presentations/updates (4-6 minutes/team) followed by instructor and mentor questions. These questions are designed to make you think about real-world issues you may be skipping over, or to test why you believe what you state, or simply to help you learn to pitch a start-up better.
Classes will include a 30 minute lecture on the Business Model Canvas, or a related topic and may be followed by an interactive exercise, or group Q&A, or team breakouts to work with Instructors/Mentors.
Each week will allow opportunities for your team to receive feedback from successful entrepreneurs and partners of the program. This typically includes instructors and mentors from various areas of focus including but not limited to; public relations, attorneys, accountants, business leaders, and others.
2. IS VENTURE SCHOOL RIGHT FOR ME?
[Things to know before diving into the program]
Is Venture School just for startups?
Absolutely not! On average, around 30% of our cohorts have been made up of early stage existing companies that are looking to expand their entrepreneurial mindset. This program helps these business become more entrepreneurial, consider new customer archetypes, and learn new tactics for marketing, distribution, or minimum viable product concepts. We have also had several non-profits benefit from the Venture School program, learning how to better run their organization. The Business Model Canvas is the cutting edge of teaching entrepreneurship today, and it has benefits for virtually all industries and organizations.
Speaking of industries, what kinds of companies participate?
More than 325 Iowa companies have participated in the Venture School program to date. Industries represented include but are not limited to; retail, software-as-a-service (SaaS), educational tools, virtual reality, high-tech construction, medical technology and devices, agriculture, women’s health, machine and tool, electrical technology, food and beverage, cosmetics, mobile apps, pharmaceutical technology, transportation, health and wellness, fashion, robotics, financial and economic development, general products and services and many more.
Have Venture School teams been successful after completing the program?
Venture School Alumni teams have had considerable successes. Our graduates have exceled in raising capital, creating jobs, launching products and services, turning profit, and creating additional joint ventures.
Do I have to have a business plan before I begin Venture School?
No, you don’t! In fact, a majority of teams do not have a business plan when they join our program. In Venture School, you will take your idea and vet it through extensive in-person customer discovery with an initial target market. With this information you will then determine if you have a product-market fit, fine tune your market insights, competitive landscape, channels, key partners, and resources needed. This process will help you develop a clearer picture of your solution. This all amounts to de-risking the startup process, well teaching you how to pitch to potential investors. It is after this process has been completed that we suggest a business plan is created.
What does a Venture School “team” typically look like?
We strongly encourage at least two people from each startup to attend the classes each week, however additional team members are welcome. Individuals with no team members are also welcome to participate in the program, although it may be hard to complete the workload without a team member. Your team should come to the program with their own idea, with the goal of determining if the idea represents a commercializable opportunity at the end of the program.
When should I join Venture School?
Based on our hundreds of successful participants and their feedback, having thought through an idea before joining the program is important. Ask yourself “what am I building, and why? Who am I building it for, and do enough people care or is the need too small?” When you have answers to these rudimentary startup questions, you are ready to explore Venture School. The #1 reason startups fail is because people often build something that no one wants. We will make sure to work hard with you, starting on day 1, to prove if your idea is meeting a need. Therefore, your idea should be something you have already spent significant time thinking about and exploring. As you go through the customer discovery process, many companies will pivot their idea, which is normal. Together we will focus on helping you creatively adapt your idea to better solve the problem at hand. This approach helps a team in several ways, from financing, to moving on to participate in other incubators after Venture School.
I am not a strong presenter! What kind of feedback will I receive in class?
The feedback is professional, focused on what you are telling us, and what you believe from your customer work that week and what you believe is valid. Feedback may include discussing a competitive issue, a market leap of faith, or guide you away from focusing too much on technology instead of on business. It is valuable, varied, and comes from experts - that early stage startups would not have access to without the help of this program! We consider the feedback to be a tremendously valuable asset for your team. We will also discuss presentation style, slides, and other presentation tips if we feel your story is suffering from logistical issues.
How much does the program cost?
The program costs $299 per team.
3. HOW IS VENTURE SCHOOL DIFFERENT?
[Things that make Venture School unstoppable]
Is Venture School only based in Iowa City?
The Venture School program runs state wide, training innovators across the entire state of Iowa. From Council Bluffs or Sioux City, to the Quad Cities and many other towns in between. Our instructors travel to different communities each session to work closely with existing communities, innovators, partners, and resources. Although the program is supported by the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC), the program reaches state wide in an effort to support Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by helping to create new businesses. This means our program will help connect you to like-minded entrepreneurs across the state of Iowa.
How is Venture School Connected to the University of Iowa?
Venture School was created and is supported by the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). Although the program is connected to the University of Iowa, the program reaches state-wide in an effort to support Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by helping to create new businesses. Venture School Instructors are University of Iowa faculty & lecturers. Venture School teams will also get connected to Iowa JPEC programs that can help support their team after completing the program, such as receiving business consulting services or student interns.
How is Venture School different from the Iowa Startup Accelerator or other startup weekends/programs?
Venture School is a one-of-a-kind program. We believe our program is unique and successful for the following reasons:
Most Venture School instructors are certified in the national iCorps program, giving them the tools and knowledge needed to successfully guide teams through the program. Our mentors also span the state and are recognized as “thought leaders” in the entrepreneurial community. This means you are receiving quality training and feedback from successful entrepreneurs and leaders.
Unlike many startup weekends, you bring your own idea to Venture School, to test it. Our program is intense, and is used by some teams as the preparation before deciding to invest significant time, money, and effort into longer term accelerators. Our program will help you understand need, solution, customers, validation, and the “whys” behind it all. Our program uses interactive exercises and training techniques that are used by major universities across the country to train entrepreneurs. We consider a decision not to pursue your original idea just as valuable as those who go forward with their ideas after completing the program.
The Venture School program also connects communities by inviting local stakeholders to partner under a common program. These partners include but are not limited to; Small Business Development Centers, Chambers of Commerce, University of Iowa resources, Workforce Development officials, marketers, attorneys, investors, local community executives, and state government resources. In turn, startups and early-stage companies elevate their communities with their successes, including creating jobs for others. Venture School is comprehensive, and our alumni have done some amazing things in Iowa already, which is the ultimate validation.