Frequently Asked Questions

What is ICAP?

ICAP is an intensive startup assistance program targeting early-stage, high-growth potential companies. We teach startup teams how to identify their initial customers and develop business models that investors will fund. Great startups are in love with their customers: they know their problems and how they would like them solved. ICAP helps to uncover this winning formula and develop a road map to early success. We then work with teams to keep them focused on attaining key milestones on this path, so they become attractive investment opportunities. ICAP uses Lean Startup as its principle methodology.

Who is eligible?

ICAP supports Virginia businesses, entrepreneurs, universities, and research centers, who are commercializing innovations.

Which businesses can benefit?

The main type of businesses ICAP will benefit are early-stage, high-growth potential, technology-focused companies looking to develop a customer base and business model, and will begin to seek funding within the next six months to a year.

What to expect from the course.

During this 3-week program, there is extensive work done outside the classroom. In addition to the two class meetings, participants should expect to spend another 10-15 hours per week on customer discovery and course assignments. At the conclusion of the program, you will remain connected with your ICAP trainers and SBDC Business Advisors to continue your progress on the Five Steps to Startup Success.

The program is designed to generate a maximum impact over a relatively short duration and should be considered a required first step for anyone interested in commercializing a technology or product, whether through a startup or licensing arrangement. Some graduates of this cohort may be eligible to apply to NSF’s full National Seven-week I-Corps Program, which includes non-dilutive grants for customer discovery and prototype development. Additionally, this program can help teams develop better submissions for SBIR and CCF grants from Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technologies.

What is Lean Startup?

Lean Startup is a scientific approach to creating and managing startups, stressing the customer's role as the center of business purpose and helps accelerate product and market development with few mistakes and less risk.

How does a virtual cohort differ from an in-person cohort?

ICAP has recently launched virtual cohorts that will be conducted fully online. Applications will be accepted from teams across Virginia. Course content will remain the same as in-classroom sessions, however supporting activities will be enhanced to ensure individualized team support. Participation will initially be limited to 20 teams per session and inclusion will be on a selective basis.

What do you receive from participation?

Throughout the time a participant is an active ICAP client, they should expect: to develop a business model built from customer input; a go-to-market strategy; have access to experts, advisors and angel investors; become prepared for funding; get help obtaining non-dilutive funding; and receive ongoing counseling and strategic guidance.

How to apply?

If you are not already an SBDC client, you will need to register online at Select the location nearest you and complete the signup process. SBDC clients can apply for ICAP by completing the form linked here:

Does ICAP provide funding?

ICAP does not provide funding to participants. By becoming an active ICAP client, you will create the business model and infrastructure that investors would want to fund.

What happens after the short course?

The short course is just the beginning. After completion, teams develop a roadmap to help them navigate the first year or two of their startup’s life. This roadmap includes a timeline for teams to follow along with key milestones they need to achieve to be successful. Teams will continue to interview customers, because customer discovery NEVER STOPS! Teams are required to attend monthly check-in calls with instructors to track progress and provide ongoing guidance.

Virginia SBDC