Startup Calgary and Innovate Calgary have partnered to launch NEXT, a five-week pre-accelerator program to help early stage entrepreneurs turn their ideas into full-fledged startups by validating the market, acquiring customers and building minimum viable products.
Developed by Steve Blank, Startup Weekend, Techstars and Google for Entrepreneurs, NEXT is built around in-person interactions with potential customers and is driven by mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs.
Program participants engage in weekly workshops and present customer discovery insights gained while fulfilling their prescribed assignments. Key to the assignments will be meeting face-to-face with customers to validate assumptions on their business model, as well as receiving critical feedback from their mentors and peers.
“We are very excited to bring this initiative to the Calgary Startup Community,” says Steve McIlvenna, Director of Entrepreneur Development at Innovate Calgary. “While developing new programming for entrepreneurs we found we already had a great alignment with Steve Blank’s approach and his thought leadership. We were fortunate for his direct support and endorsement during the launch of the Innovator’s Toolkit Series last year; however, while listening to our entrepreneur customers we realized a program like NEXT was also needed.”
“Now with this launch, and great collaboration with Startup Calgary, the power of this alignment can benefit the whole community,” he added.
The NEXT curriculum is unique in that it relies on peer accountability; the most effective and direct way to expose potential risk areas for ventures and challenge any pre-existing assumptions that participants may have. Mentors include Evan Hu, Founder of Ideaca and Board Member at the A100; Alex Raczenko and Mark Williams, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at Innovate Calgary; Ray DePaul, Director at the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University; Scott Valentine, Founder of ereverent; and Christian MacLean, Founder and CEO of BeauCoo.
“Most early-stage startups we come across are focused on product development and raising capital, instead of customer development and achieving product-market fit,” says Lloyed Lobo, Board Member at Startup Calgary. “Talking to customers makes most of us uncomfortable, but it is a crucial part of starting a business. A program like this is long overdue in Calgary and there couldn’t be a better partner than Innovate Calgary to work with.”
NEXT will launch in Calgary on Thursday, October 3 Assembly Co-working Space. Graduating startups will also have the opportunity to pitch on stage at Startup Calgary’s Launch Party. NEXT will alternate every five weeks between Innovate Calgary and Assembly Co-working space. NEXT will alternate every five weeks between Innovate Calgary and Assembly Co-working space See more details and register here.