RUNWAY is a pre-incubation program at the Santa Fe Business Incubator designed to assist early idea stage individuals and teams in assessing the market potential of their idea and equipping them with the necessary information to make an informed go or no-go decision.
Pre-incubation programs are specifically for individuals or teams that have been working on a business idea for a short period of time and who are ready to better form the idea into a working business concept and test the idea by speaking with potential customers and networking with business leaders in the community.
RUNWAY was initially designed as an individual one-on-one program with tailored meetings between the Santa Fe Business Incubator's staff and someone with a business idea. RUNWAY followed a set packet that guided these interactions. The Santa Fe Business Incubator relaunched RUNWAY as a cohort-based program bringing in business experts and mentors to guide participants through a six-week curriculum to introduce participants to important startup business topics, guide them through a process of customer identification, along with ideation and market validation, and network them into the entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem of Santa Fe.
From the PITCH your way to RUNWAY event held on February 20, 2020, the Santa Fe Business Incubator invited 6 to 7 participants to the RUNWAY cohort. The cohort started approximately two weeks after PITCH your way to RUNWAY. Invitees were chosen based on the amount of time they have been working on the idea, how far along the idea is to become a business, the overall quality of the pitch, and the ability of the Santa Fe Business Incubator's staff and advisors to help accelerate the growth of the idea if the founder chooses to move forward. RUNWAY as an individual one-on-one program of the Incubator will continue and even if someone is not invited to the cohort they are still able to register for the original iteration of RUNWAY. The fee for the one-on-one program is $200 with that amount eligible to be used for other incubator services once the program is completed successfully. There is no charge for the invite-only RUNWAY cohort.
The six-week RUNWAY cohort looked like this:
Market Research & Validation Lessons 1 & 2
- Concentrate on being able to adequately describe the product or service
- Emphasis on speaking to the whole cohort and receiving feedback from the group
- Emphasis on identifying the problem that is being solved by your new business idea
- Does the idea make sense? How can the crucial aspects of the idea be boiled down and made simpler? Does a layperson understand?
- Homework: practice explaining the idea. Come back with a 60-second WOW statement or elevator pitch prepared
Market Research & Validation Lesson 5
- Now that the idea has been refined, take a look at the competitive landscape
- What are the basic things that need to be done and what sets the idea apart? Use the productivity frontier and/or blue ocean strategy
- Use the group to help source competitors. What is already out there? How is your idea better than the competition?
- Homework: Continue working on competitive landscape and strategic differentiators
Market Research & Validation Lessons 3 & 4
- Use the customer map to identify personas of ideal customers
- With the group, think of ways to validate whether those people exist and whether they want your product or service.
- Who is your customer? How will you find them and what will you ask to validate that your idea solves a problem for them? What will you do with the information? What connections can the SFBI, mentors, etc. provide to help?
- Homework: Go and start collecting information
Pricing, Strategy, & Cash Flows Lessons 6 & 7
- How will the product or service be priced? What will the market bear? Is it a luxury item or a commodity?
- How will you calculate the margin on your product or service? How can you keep them consistent?
- Use the cash flow spreadsheet to begin inputting numbers and figuring out how many sales need to be generated at a certain price to account for expenses and bring in a profit.
- Homework: Draft a proforma cash flow for your idea
Pricing, Strategy, & Cash Flows Lessons 8, 9, & 10
- Review the elements of a SWOT Analysis and use your idea to execute the SWOT of your business idea. Use this as an opportunity for group work
- Discussion on the types of funding available and how each individual idea can begin the process of accessing funding
- Homework: Research funding available for the individual idea. Use the cash flow proforma to drive the research based on how much startup capital you will need.
- Recap of everything that has been covered over the previous 5 weeks
- Discussion on the types of business entities and the benefits they bring to the marketplace
- Discussion on the resources available in the community for startups and aimed at particular businesses
- Take time to answer any questions and for everyone to fill out a brief survey on the program
All meetings took place every Wednesday from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm from March 4 - April 8. Cohort participants had access to the Incubator's workspaces throughout the week and were able to schedule meetings with mentors, potential customers, etc. in the Incubator's meeting room space.
After the RUNWAY program, each participant was able to make an informed decision about whether their idea is the right fit for a business and whether it had a reasonable chance of success in the market.
Based on the feedback from the participants and the success of the program, the Incubator hopes this will be an annual offering. Because this was generously funded by a state grant, we will know more in the future about the continuation of this program.
If you have any questions or want to know more about the RUNWAY program, please contact Jessica Moose at firstname.lastname@example.org.