Idea TestLab

Have a cool idea that you want to turn into a business?

The first step in taking your idea from concept to business is figuring out if you have identified a problem worth solving.

Our 4-week virtual Idea TestLab helps you:

  • get a better handle on what problem your customer really has,
  • figure out where potential customers hang out, and
  • identify the value you can provide that others can’t.

Participants have:

  • access to up to $3000 for customer discovery
  • access to 1-on-1 mentoring

This program will be an all-virtual program and will require the following to participate:

  • Access to a computer with audio and video capabilities
  • A stable internet connection

Startups will meet virtually from 6-8 PM on the following dates:

Mar 16, 23, 30, and Apr 13.

Applications close Feb 19th, 2021.

Educational materials for the Idea TestLab have been provided through a grant from the Penn State Bookstore.

Learn from your customer.

Successful startups begin by spending time with potential customers to figure out exactly what the problem is and how much “pain” they are having.

As part of the Idea TestLab, you will:

  • Talk with at least 40 potential customers
  • Validate your customers’ needs/pain
  • Identify key customer characteristics
  • Determine where they hang out (physically and virtually)

Figure out where others fall short.

It’s critical that you understand where other solutions fall short from the perspective of your target customers.

The Idea TestLab helps you:

  • Evaluate current solutions
  • Identify the tangible results you provide
  • Draft a value proposition

I’ve had the idea in my head for a few years now, but I needed that push and direction to turn that idea into something real.”

Dan Hansel
Founder, TrophyTracks


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We take no equity. We charge no fees.

Our programs are free. We take zero equity in your business.


Access to our network of advisors

We’ll connect you to experts who can provide advice based on experience.


Optional 1-on-1 coaching.

Sign up for weekly 1-on-1 mentoring sessions to get additional help building out your idea.

You're fast-tracked into our Accelerator.

Individuals/teams who have successfully completed the Idea TestLab program will be fast-tracked into interviews for our  Accelerator program.


The Idea TestLab is best for individuals who have identified a problem (or idea) they want to work on, but have not yet systematically collected data to validate the problem/need and who has it. We look for scalable ideas that have an unclear, or unknown business model, do this program is not a good fit for individuals wanting to open a traditional business such as a restaurant or retail store.

We are looking for teams or individuals who…

  • …have identified a problem (or idea) they want to explore as a potential business.
  • …need help to clearly define their target customer and the value they can provide to them.
  • …are willing to learn from others by working through the customer discovery process, which includes holding 10 business interviews (customers, experts, competitors) each week.
  • …are looking to build their entrepreneurial skills by participating in a structured program that focuses on moving ideas from concept to potential viable businesses.
  • …are struggling with identifying an appropriate business model.

Our programs are best suited to non-traditional businesses where the business model is unknown or unclear.

If you are looking to open a traditional business, we do offer many resources to help you:

You can set up appointment here. All clinics are co-located in our down town facility.

Nope. We welcome individuals who are looking to better define an idea for their business.

In fact, we hope that you might be able to find others to work with by participating in this program and hanging out at the LaunchBox.

The number of applicants varies, however, we typically see between 30-60 applicants for each program cycle.

  • 4 weekly 2-hour sessions where all teams learn about customer discovery tips and techniques and receive guidance on how to apply those techniques to their specific idea
  • Access to up to $3000 in customer discovery funds
  • Optional 1-on-1 mentoring
  • Successful teams may also be fast-tracked into interviews for our Accelerator program

A lot depends on who you asked and what you asked them. A good way to see if you have a clear understanding of your customer is to see if you can clearly articulate the answers to the 5 questions below?

  1. What are 5 key characteristics of your target customer (not demographics only)?
  2. What is the job (problem/need) your customer is trying to do (solve/meet) and why are they unable to solve it sufficiently today?
  3. What are the best channels for reaching your target customer?
  4. What other solutions have your customers tried, and what do they say about those solutions?
  5. What assumptions are you making about your customer that could “tank” your business if your wrong?

If you are unable to clearly answer all the questions in detail, based on real data from potential customers (not your friens and family), or if others can’t easily understand what you’re talking about, then the Idea TestLab would be a great place to start.

If you have talked to numerous potential customers and can answer the questions based on what you’ve learned from those customers, and others can easily understand what you’re talking about, then the FastTrack Accelerator may be the best program for you.

If you’re not sure, set up a time with us to talk about it.

That’s hard to say. We can tell you, however, that by the end of the program, you will:

  • have verified your assumptions about the problem and who has it,
  • have a clear statement of the problem or job your customer is trying to accomplish and the root cause of that problem/need,
  • know what your customer is doing to try solve the problem today and how that’s working for them,
  • understand what motivates your customer to keep looking for a solution, and
  • be able to pinpoint how you can provide value with your solution.

With all that under your belt, you’ll be ready to start building a minimum viable product and start testing the market.

Yes. It’s not automatic, but qualified teams can apply for up to $3000 for customer discovery purposes from the NSF I-Corps program.

No. We take zero equity and charge no fees.

  1. You complete the online application by the defined deadline.
  2. Our Selection Committee reviews all applications and selects 10-15 individuals/teams to participate in the program.
  3. Individuals/teams are notified via email of acceptance to the program.

That’s it. Simple.

It is our expectation that all participants are serious about, and will be dedicated to, testing their idea. Participants in the Idea TestLab should be prepared to spend between 7 – 12 hour a week during the program.

Time commitment includes 2 hours a week in a weekly group meeting and 5- 10 hours preparing for and carrying out customer discovery.

Not required, but recommended.

If you have others that you are working with, or might want to work with, the 4-week program is a great way to get everyone on the same page and see how well you work together.


Benjamin Nason

Not a day goes by when Ben isn’t thinking about how to turn cool ideas into viable businesses. His first venture, started as an undergrad, was the Blue and White potato chip company, Tailgater Taters (which you can buy at the Creamery). His next startup venture was as COO of Phospholutions, an agricultural technology company focused on reducing phosphorus runoff. While there, he helped grow the team, support research trials, and sales across the East Coast. Ben is now bringing his passion for the early-stage startups here to the LaunchBox as the Idea Catalyst where he is building new programs to support blossoming entrepreneurs.

Interesting in meeting with someone about your idea? We'd love to hear what you're working on.