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Venture Incubation Program

A space to call home for lean startups

The Venture Incubation Program (VIP) is a keystone initiative that is designed to help entrepreneurial teams to test and validate their business models. The early stages of a startup are full of questions and unknowns. Who is my customer? What can I do for my customer? How does my customer acquire my product? How do I make money? How do I scale? VIP aims to help founders answer these questions and identify and validate the foundational assumptions of their business model.

The 12-week, mentor-led program combines mentorship, workshops and a community of startups to create a holistic approach to testing and validating a business model.

Run on a bi-annual basis, the program selects 10 startups based on a few key criteria.

  • Stage of idea
  • Market research conducted
  • Team ability and commitment
  • Investment potential

The program is based on lean methodologies of testing and validating the business model. The lean model teaches entrepreneurs to shorten the development cycle, effectively allowing them to minimise the use of resources and maximise their models chances of success.

Additionally, participants have access to a range of resources (co-working space, private workshops, mentor-matching programme, weekly check-ins and staff advisors), and a community of peers who learn and grow together.

Application Dates

We run VIP twice a year, in the summer and winter terms. Key dates for each application process are given below.

VIP Summer School Applications

  • Applications released: early December
  • Applications due: mid January
  • Decisions announced: February
  • Venture Incubation Program: 1 March – 31 May 2017

Apply here

VIP Winter School Applications

  • Applications released: early May
  • Applications due: mid June
  • Decisions announced: July
  • Venture Incubation Program: 1 August – 31 October 2017

Apply here

Selection Process

Once your application has been submitted online, our VIP committee will evaluate your application and produce a shortlist of founders to pitch their business to our selection committee.

If you are unable to attend the pitch in person we will interview you by Skype or phone. We endeavour to tell you within a week of the pitch whether you have been successful.

Selection Criteria

The following criteria apply in the selection for the Venture Incubation Program.

  • Team: At least one of the co-founders will be full-time consistent participant on the program.
  • Commitment: We look for demonstrated dedication to the venture’s growth and implementation thus far and going forward, for example, time and money invested to date, rigor in testing the business concept, understanding of target market, etc. Teams must have time to commit to the full three month program and engage with mentors and other participants.
  • Coachability: At this stage of development, feedback and the ability to listen and reflect is crucial. We have seen the most success with entrepreneurs who are willing to take feedback from experienced entrepreneurs and mentors and apply this information to their business. We look for coachable founders and participants who are willing to take on feedback and rigorously test their assumptions.
  • Idea: We are looking for ideas that have high growth potential and are innovation-driven. We are particularly interested in ideas that will lead to an inclusive and vibrant society. We do not focus on a specific sector at this stage.
  • Stage of development: We focus on idea-to-early-stage ventures. We look for evidence that you have spent some time researching and developing your idea. You might have a business case, a product, a registered company and a couple of employees and a few customers.

Have further questions? Here’s where to look for the answers.

How long is VIP?

  • 3 months

Do I need to participate in the full program?

  • If you are accepted to participate in the VIP, we will ask that you attend the VIP in its entirety.

What does a typical week look like?

  • Monday weekly check in or a masterclass
  • One-on-one sessions with mentors scheduled depending on their availability
  • Lunchtime or early evening events during the month

How much does it cost?

  • There is currently no fee for the program.

Does VIP take equity?

  • The Venture Incubation Program takes no equity, and there are no restrictions on participating in other incubator/accelerator programs.

Who decides the final participants?

  • The competitive process for team selection is done by our selection committee and a panel of expert evaluators.

Startup Testimonials

This program literally saved us hundreds of thousands of Rands we were about to spend on something that we didn't need - Mygrow

Not only did we grow as a company, we also have found new confidence in what we are doing and the direction of Utyre" - Utyre