Have an idea to start your own business? A University of Iowa program coming to Des Moines this fall can help. 

The Venture School program is part of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and helps entrepreneurs to quickly build and test their products and concepts. Registration for the first session is required by Aug. 1.

“The best validation of your business model is having somebody actually buy a product, and if you wait a year to do that, that’s really too late,” said Lynn Allendorf, director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa.

So the Venture School program speeds up the process by using a lean startup methodology developed in part at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley and supported by the National Science Foundation.

“Basically it’s a way to help entrepreneurs vet their ideas before they write a business plan and spend a year developing a product,” Allendorf said. 

That vetting process includes things such as defining who the businesses’ customers are and how they are going to reach customers, and how they are going to distribute their product.

The class is for entrepreneurs who want to examine their business model. It doesn’t have to be a technology-focused startup, but it should involve a scalable idea. In other words, a local restaurant may not qualify.

Teams that join the program will spend an “intense” two and a half days in training initially, and will then spend three hours one night a week in meetings for five weeks. The final component is one and half days of participants pitching the final version of their product or idea to angel investors and venture capitalists.

Throughout the program, teams are expected to go out and meet with potential customers to get enough feedback to put together a minimum viable product to get in front of customers. 

Classes will be led by instructors from the University of Iowa, including Kurt Heiar, a lecturer with the Pappajohn center, as well as by local entrepreneurs. 

The program started as a pilot program in Iowa City last fall, and seven teams went through it. The university was not planning on doing a second round of the program in Iowa City that school year, but there was enough interest to do a second class in the spring, 

Allendorf is aiming for 12 teams in the Des Moines class this fall, which starts on Sept. 2. To apply, go to www.iowajpec.org and click on “Venture School” under the drop-down heading “Entrepreneur Support.”