The Innovation Lab is an intensive, mentor-based, customized 4-week course that helps established Eastside businesses (more than one year in operation, have revenue, located in Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Redmond, and Renton). The course is taught by Bellevue College instructors Leslie Lum and Judith Paquette. Like UW Foster’s Ascend program, which is in part based on the curriculum that Lum developed, it is structured as an MBA crash course that – depending on the composition of the cohort – may cover topics ranging from business model design, customer journey, product life cycle, pricing, government contracting, business processes, loan readiness, finance, and negotiations.
Each participating business is paired with a one-on-one mentor, all of whom are accomplished Eastside business leaders. Mentors are expected to help businesses for at least six months after the program ends. Business Impact NW is partnering with the program to provide graduates with support in accessing financing.
The pilot cohort of the Startup 425 Innovation Lab served 10 businesses, all of which were women- or minority-owned. The second cohort, in October 2021, served 20 businesses.