Start-up Validation Programme
Designed specifically for students and recent graduates of Lancaster University, this programme will equip you to launch your new venture with confidence.
Every start-up journey is different...
Anyone who has undertaken a start-up project will testify to both the challenges and the rewards it brings. And while every journey is different, driven by different ambitions and timescales, capabilities and constraints, passions and values, there are familiar paths to be trodden and common pitfalls to avoid along the way. One thing we know for sure, the journey is harder when you take it on your own – setting your direction and keeping going when things get tough, staying focussed on your priorities when everything demands your attention at once – it’s all easier when you’ve got other people around you to talk to.
What's special about SUVP?
These factors underpin our Start-up Validation Programme, designed to support you in defining a clear business case and business model for your start-up project so you can make the critical decision to launch your new venture with absolute confidence. And while there are many start-up development programmes available elsewhere, this one has been designed specifically for students and recent graduates of Lancaster University, with three distinctive features that combine to ensure you get the best start possible...
Aspiring founders on the programme are never alone, as members of both a small trust-based cohort and the wider Work in Progress community of innovators and entrepreneurs. You will have access to a wealth of peer learning and experience, networking and development opportunities, resources and workspaces. Over time, you’ll find your own contributions of experience and perspective will make a difference to others as a valued member of this diverse community.
The blended delivery model means you can access what you need when you need it and where you need it, from 1-2-1 time with professional experts and regular progress review meetings to workshops and other group activities developed in response to emerging needs, all underpinned by a dedicated online platform to guide you through the process of defining, testing and validating your business model for start-up. Regardless of your other commitments as a student or graduate, this programme will fit around you.
The programme is built on the same contemporary approaches to start-up and business innovation applied by sector leaders such as Stanford d.school and MIT, combining Human-Centred Design, and Lean and Disciplined Entrepreneurship, as well as a structured approach to identifying and tracking the development of your own Entrepreneurial Competencies. These transformational methodologies will enable both new and experienced founders to see themselves and the world through new eyes and take effective action.
Core Programme Elements
The following elements provide the framework around which you'll build your own programme, according to your requirements and at your own pace:
Personal Needs Analysis
Your personal capabilities and mindset are the most significant factor in the success of your start-up project. For this reason, your first activity on the programme will be to identify your baseline Entrepreneurial Competencies using our dedicated self-assessment tool ECHO. This will provide you with a rich and insightful profile, based around the 15 dimensions of the EntreComp Framework.
This baseline understanding will help you to focus on your priority development needs throughout the programme, whether it's Financial Literacy, Planning & Management, Coping with Risk, Ambiguity & Uncertainty, Creativity or Visioning.
At the end of the programme, you will be asked to undertake the assessment process again, which will reveal how you have grown and where to continue focussing your self-development activities. This process alone is incredibly powerful in helping you take ownership of your entrepreurial learning journey.
Cohort Orientation Workshop
The programme kicks off with an orientation workshop with two clear aims: i) to ensure that you and your fellow cohort members know each other and can function effectively as an Action Learning Set, and ii) to ensure that you know how to access all components of the programme and take full advantage of everything that is available.
This is a full-day event, and will be scheduled according to the availability of you and your cohort members. You'll find out all about the other cohort members' ideas, ambitions and start-up journeys. And based on your ECHO profiles, you'll be able to easily see whose strengths and development areas best complement and reinforce your own as you go forward together.
You will also have the opportunity to meet and ask questions of members of the programme delivery team, and learn how to use the resources you'll need throughout the programme, such as our online Business Model Canvas and financial planning template.
1-2-1 Action Planning
While you will not be on your own during the programme, you will be working independently to validate your own business idea. One of the most challenging aspects of being your own boss is managing your own progress and performance. To assist you with this, you will have access to a dedicated Start-up Advisor.
The first time you meet them, they'll undertake a diagnosis of where you are now and where you are trying to get to, to identify your goals and priorities. They'll help you to produce an action plan that will include both independent research and development tasks and timely access to the programme resources. They'll also agree a check-in date with you reflect on what you've discovered, identify new priorities and agree a new plan.
Through this, you will be able to ensure your actions lead you effectively towards the validation of your business case for start-up.
Online BMC Platform
All participants will be issued with an exclusive licence to use SimVenture Validate. This is an online Business Model Canvas, but with some extremely helpful self-access features. Firstly, it will guide you through each block of the BMC, asking you the questions which will ensure you've caputured all the key information. Once you've done this, the system will challenge you to identify the assumptions you've made that may put your business case at risk if they are not validated.
Once you've identified these, the system will help you to design the tests you need to conduct to validate or invalidate your assumptions. Each time you run a test, you can update your canvas with the results, and gradually eliminate the associated risks.
Finally, you can export your canvas as an online slide deck that you can share easily with others - customers, suppliers, business partners, investors, etc - for example as part of a pitch event. (Hint: you'll want this ready for when you pitch at the end of the programme!)
To ensure that you get the most our of your cohort membership, you'll be expected to meet together on a regular basis to provide peer support. During the Activation Workshop you'll be introduced to the basic principles of Action Learning, but this is where they will really start to make sense and make a difference.
The power of this approach is that it helps you to identify what's at the heart of the issues and obstacles that you'll inevitably be encountering on your journey, to identify practical steps and solutions that you can take to address them, and to really own these. This vastly increases the chances of you taking the approaches that work for you, regardless of whether they are right for other people.
Of course, everyone's contexts and challenges will be entirely different, but you'd be amazed how much you can help people with things that you don't have personal experience of, just by learning to ask the right questions.
Customisable Programme Elements
Once you've got the foundations in place, you can draw on input and take part in activities that align with your development needs:
We have a number of professional associates on hand for you to book 1-2-1 meetings with. They are ready to listen to you, and provide insights and advice from their own professional expertise and experience.
You can book 1-2-1 time with one of our advisors to discuss any of the following:
- Start-up formalities and company structures
- Business legal considerations
- Tax & accounting
- Financial planning
- Digital Development & Prototyping
- Social Enterprise
- Creative Enterprise
- Intellectual Property (IP)
While the vast majority of your business case can be explored via the Business Model Canvas, we will run additional activities to support your thinking around this. The most common ones are:
- Environmental Analysis: Your business model will not exist in a vacuum; a wide range of factors will have an influence on the validation of your business case and potential for success, including political, environmental, social and technological (PEST).
- Risk Management: Your business model will have to survive the unexpected, as well as the expected. This requires you to anticipate things and plan your response in advance, taking steps to avoid, transfer or even let them happen and embrace them.
We will schedule these workshops and other according to sufficient common need and mutual availability.
As a SUVP participant, you will have privileged access to the Work in Progress facilities on Alexandra Square. You will be able to use this as a co-working space, a creative studio, a meeting room or a video-conferencing facility. You can configure the space and furniture to suit your requirements and access the resources on hand, for example, prototyping kits and our Build A Better Business canvas library.
We will also ensure that you are on our invitation list for other events that will be of relevance to you as a member of the wider Work in Progress community, for example networking events, panel discussions, masterclasses and celebration events.
Once you've determined that you've validated your business case for start-up, you can apply for an opportunity to pitch to a panel in the hope of securing a Start-up Award of up to £500 from our partner, Santander Universities.
You'll get invaluable experience from pitching and invaluable feedback from the panel, regardless of whether you are successful. If you are, then the award will go a long way to covering your start-up costs when you are ready to take that leap!
Applications Currently Closed
Browse the FAQs accordion below, but if you can't find the answers you are looking for, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
What will I actually get?
This programme is designed to lead you to one outcome - your ability to confidently make the decision to take your start-up idea forward to launch, pivot, or put it on hold.
Along the way, you will have had access to countless hours of professional advice, peer support, and online resources worth thousands of pounds, entirely for free. Abstract as this may seem now, you’ll really appreciate the value of it once you’re up and running and find yourself constantly drawing on what you’ve learned throughout this process. As entrepreneurial competencies and experiences are hugely transferrable to other professional contexts, this will be true even if you decide not to pursue your idea further.
Will I get any funding?
All students and recent graduates who determine that they have a viable business case for start-up will have the opportunity to pitch for a Start-up Award of up to £500 provided by Santander Universities. This can be used to cover essential costs associated with start-up, for example, company registration, insurance, web-hosting, professional services, etc.
Do I have to pay to join the programme?
The programme is entirely free and open to all eligible students and recent graduates of Lancaster University with an idea for a sustainable start-up venture, regardless of whether its purpose is commercial, social, or environmental.
Because the programme is resourced via the European Regional Development Fund project, U Start, to be eligible you must be based in Lancashire, or would otherwise be, were it not for COVID-19, and willing to register or operate any resulting businesses in Lancashire should you decide to proceed to launch as a result. We can support you with securing a Lancashire business address via our local partners.
Will I get a Start-up Visa if I follow this programme?
All potential applicants for the Start-up Visa must undertake this programme as part of our process for making endorsement decisions. At the point of application, will we be checking to see if you require a visa to operate a business in the UK and will flag up any immediate issues we can see regarding the suitability of your idea this scheme.
Please refer to our Start-up Visa page for more information on this before you apply.
- Will you want to take a share in my business?
- Does this social learning model really work?
Is this an accelerator?
Yes and no. The programme content is inspired by some of the world's leading start-up incubator programmes, but many of these are aimed at people who have already launched businesses. This programme is aimed at ensuring you don't have the burden of managing a pre-revenue business while you are still studying, working part-time and wondering whether this business idea is really viable.
And because you are in the driving seat, deciding your own pace and direction, the rate at which you are accelerating is really up to you!