Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about VentureLab North, the Business Development Program, the Groningen entrepreneurship ecosystem, and more. Don’t see your question answered in this list? Then get in touch!

What do I need to get into the VentureLab North program?

Getting into the program is simple: all you need to bring is an innovative business idea with a focus on impact, a compelling video pitch, and ambition and commitment. The pitch video is part of the application process, after which you are invited for an interview. If you get into the program, there is a participation fee, and you will need to be able to attend the Friday workshops on-site at Startup City on the Zernike Campus in Groningen.

Who is this program for?

The VentureLab North Business Development Program is for innovators and ideators. Not sure if that’s you?

  1. Do you have an innovative idea but don’t have the business knowledge or resources to turn it into a company?
  2. Do you want to valorise your research and create impact beyond academia?
  3. Do you have a product but need help to take the next steps in your entrepreneurial journey?
  4. Are you in the early stages of building a company and want to learn from experts and industry leaders?

If you answered “yes!” to any of these questions, the VentureLab North program is for you. So come join your fellow founders every Friday as you learn to build and grow as entrepreneurs and impact generators together.

Is there a test?

You do not need to take a test to get into the program. The application process requires you to make a pitch video, and based on this you will be invited for an interview to discuss your goals for your idea and the program.

There is no test at the end of the program either. Your progress is measured across the program through three Business Panel Presentations in which you pitch your idea or company to a panel of experts from the University of Groningen, the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, business, and industry. How successful you are is directly related to your idea and how you implement what you learn in the program.

Can I fail the Business Development Program?

This program is not pass/fail — you will get out of it what you put into it. The requirements for continuing with the program are a 70% attendance rate, taking part in the Business Panel Presentations, and being a conscious and conscientious participant.

How long is the Business Development Program?

The full Business Development Program runs for almost exactly a year: excluding holidays, there are approximately 10 months of the year in which there are Friday workshops. This is also the period of time in which you can access the mentoring and expert coaching hours — these lapse once the program ends. However, you can also enrol in the three modules of the program — Idea Ignite, Startup Launch, and Fund Ready — separately, joining the program for the training that you need.

How many hours of course material are there?

Each Friday workshop is 3 hours, and runs in the morning or the afternoon, sometimes both. Sometimes there are assignments to be completed before the workshop, but not all trainers assign preparation work. So any week there may be an additional hour of coursework on top of the Friday workshop hours.

In addition to the workshops, participants are expected to complete a proposition and a weekly diary. The proposition is your business plan, which you develop and grow through the program, and the weekly diary is the place where you record what you have done during the week, what you have learnt, and what you need to do. The diaries also help your mentors guide you from week to week.

We also expect that participants are working on their companies outside of the time they spend during the workshops. This program is designed to provide innovators and ideators with the tools and competencies they need to build a business plan — we believe the best way to learn is to do, and implementing the lessons of the course into your business every day is what will grow your idea into a reality. We want founders with ambition, so if you aren’t truly committed and passionate about your idea, you may want to reconsider whether this program is the right path for you.

How is the assessment carried out? Will I be pitching to investors?

There are no traditional tests in this program; instead, you will have the opportunity to pitch your idea and company to a panel of experts and leaders in business, industry, and the local entrepreneurship ecosystem. We call these pitch days Business Panel Presentations, and they happen three times throughout the year: after four months, after eight months, and at the end of the program.

In the Business Panel Presentations, you will pitch to a panel of three to five experts who will evaluate your proposition on the viability and potential of your idea and the professionality and capability demonstrated by you. They then provide invaluable, actionable feedback on all aspects of your business for you to take with you into the next Business Panel Presentation or into the world.

Who are some VentureLab North alumni?

VentureLab North alumni come from a range of business sectors, including energy, sustainability, AI, technology, health, SaaS, fintech, industry, and more. Follow this link to find our alumni page and learn more about their companies.

I have a startup idea, how do I start?

You can start by joining our program! Just head to our application page and check out what you need to do.

Can you fund my business?

VentureLab North does not provide any funding for the participants or their companies, but what we do provide is a gateway to networking with the important players in the startup ecosystem of the north. VentureLab North is a key part of that ecosystem, and when you join our program you get access to trainers, mentors, expert coaches, and panel members who can be valuable points of contact for your company — if you show yourself to be a dedicated and diligent entrepreneur with a viable vision.

What does VentureLab North provide participants?

You bring the idea or company, we bring the training: Friday workshops, a dedicated individual mentor, and access to expert coaching (for Startup Launch and Fund Ready participants) are provided. The information provided in these sessions is also available for the participants to access at all times. We also provide a catered lunch on Fridays with a morning and afternoon session, meeting rooms that can be booked for mentoring hours, working spaces on Friday so you can develop your company with the input and energy of the other participants in your group, and the ongoing support of the VentureLab North staff.

Do I have to be in Groningen for the whole program?

The workshop program runs every Friday at Zernike in Groningen. These workshops are not available online; it is therefore beneficial to be in or close to Groningen during the program, or to be able to come to Groningen for a 9am start every Friday. Workshops do not run on holidays or over the summer break, but you are expected to attend 70% of the classes for each module.

What language is content delivered in?

All workshop content is delivered in English, and the online platforms we use for the program are also in English. Mentors and expert coaches come from a variety of backgrounds, however, so should the mentor or coach speak your preferred language it is of course not mandatory that these meetings be in English.

How do you choose which companies get accepted into the program?

The application process has two phases: the pitch phase and the interview phase. We take the pitch and the interview together to determine whether you are a good fit with the core values, mission, and vision of VentureLab North. We look for ideators who are innovative, creative, disruptive, but also long-term thinkers — this isn’t about what is currently buzzing or making a quick buck, we want founders who want to make a difference because it is the smart or right thing to do.

Do I need to send in a business plan?

The goal of completing the VentureLab North program, content-wise, is a viable and robust business plan. So you don’t need to have a business plan at the start — we hope to work with you to get you there. Applications do require a pitch video though, so find a clear wall or nice set of shelves, grab a spotlight, and get filming!

What is your program’s domain expertise or focus if you have one?

Our focus is early stage startups, more specifically pre-seed startups and ideas that are yet to find their business footing. Beyond that, our program provides a thorough grounding in the business principles and market expertise that any company will need to succeed. We welcome ideas from all domains — science, technology, health, industry, social impact, energy, software, hardware, wetware, you name it — and if you are unsure whether we are a match, you can always reach out and ask!

Do mentors have specialist expertise or are they general entrepreneurship experts?

Every participant is assigned a mentor who is matched to them based on their background, expertise, and what we see as the best fit in terms of personal goals and attitude. In addition to the hours with your own mentor, participants in the Startup Launch and Fund Ready modules are also able to request ‘expert coaching’ in specific domains. If you need in-depth training on networking, presentation skills, financial management, product prototyping, market analysis, you name it, our expert coaches can provide it.

What kind of access might I expect with my mentors (on-on-one, group, weekly, monthly, ad hoc, etc.)?

You have a 6 (Idea Ignite) or 8 (Startup Launch and Fund Ready) hours of mentoring available to your over the course of the module, which comes to about an hour a fortnight. These hours are yours and yours alone: you will have one-on-one meetings with your mentor. This also goes for the hours of expert coaching for Startup Launch and Fund Ready participants.

Do you provide networking and the chance to meet investors?

During the program, participants have access to the trainers, mentors, coaches, and panel members during workshops, mentoring, panels, and networking events (Christmas drinks, summer BBQ, for example). For participants, this ecosystem is a rich network of contacts and connections to advisors and investors. VentureLab North also runs a number of events alongside the Business Development Program, including VentureClasses and VentureLab Weekend, that provide even more opportunities to network. The Business Panel Presentations also allow you to test your business pitch and get feedback that will help prepare you for any investor meetings in the future.

Can I attend online?

We do not provide the option to attend online. Workshops are not just lectures — they are interactive sessions that require in-person participation, so virtual attendance is not possible.

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