We’ve covered a lot of entrepreneurship and business programs in our blogs, as they have become a vital part of education - fostering creativity, innovation, and real-world problem-solving skills. In this post, we’ll be covering the Leangap Summer Program, a program that guides you through the process of building and selling a product. It's a hands-on experience that offers a real taste of entrepreneurship.
Admissions officers are looking not only for academic prowess but also for your ability to solve real-world challenges. If you are looking to launch your own small business, or are considering a career in business or venture capital, you can consider participating in programs like Leangap.
What is the Leangap Summer Program?
Leangap started in 2015 with its 4-week Summer Program. Since then, it has evolved to provide both residential and virtual experiences, and eventually opened its doors to global participants. It is designed with a single objective in mind: to guide participants to launch a startup with real impact in just one summer. It helps you achieve this over four phases:
Validation: You and your peers will spend the first week ideating individually and then shortlisting the best ideas, and then forming teams to work on delivering a first proof of concept.
Creation: The second week is when things will start getting hectic, as you will have to create a minimum viable product (MVP) with guidance from mentors, and then beta test it with real customers!
Traction: Incorporating the feedback from customers into your MVP, you will have to register your company and show sales.
Pitching: In the final week, you will demo and pitch your startup to a judging panel of investors, CEOs, technologists, and more. Companies will be judged based on product-market fit, market size, traction, and pitching.
Logistics of Leangap
Wondering how Leangap’s programs are organized? The details are as follows:
What is the duration?: 4 weeks, both virtual and residential
What are the dates for Leangap’s cohorts?: Campus - July 17th to Aug 11th 2023 | Virtual - June 19th to July 14th 2023
What is the cohort size?: 40 students per program
What is the location of the program?: Leangap’s campus program takes place in San Francisco, either at San Francisco State University or UC Berkeley
What are the fees?: Campus - $7,950 | Online - $5,950
What is the time commitment for Leangap?: For both program types, classes begin at 9 am with the first half being dedicated to lectures and guest speaker sessions. This is followed by students working on their products with their teams for the rest of the day. While Leangap does not specify a daily time investment, considering the short duration and difficult final deliverable, you will likely have to put in several hours a day and a few nights too.
Leangap - Is It Prestigious?
If you’re a high schooler with a real, clear passion for entrepreneurship and want to get into the nitty-gritty of innovating, developing a product, and starting your own company, then Leangap is a good option. A few factors that make Leangap a sought-after program by young entrepreneurs is its:
Focus on delivering, not pitching - From start to end, and even on a daily basis, Leangap is designed to force you to spend more time working on your product idea, developing prototypes, collecting consumer data, iterating, and making sales. Even the final evaluation is not a pitch deck, it is an incorporated company with a minimum viable product and actual sales. Arguably, there is no stronger test and evaluation of entrepreneurship than being able to deliver an idea that sells.
Close-knit mentorship - While every summer program attempts to provide a solid roster of industry professionals, Leangap can be said to have achieved it. The list includes innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, software engineers, technologists, Y-combinator founders, CEOs, and consultants. All of these are individuals with experience in getting things done, which is exactly what they teach in the numerous guest lectures at Leangap. The small cohort size of Leangap works to your advantage here, as you get to interact more deeply with these stalwarts, drastically enhancing your learning.
Wide range of resources - In keeping with their focus on execution, Leangap provides you with several tools to get your business idea running as soon as humanly possible. They have partnerships with Webflow for website building, ICONS8 for media assets, GoDaddy for website hosting, and Clerky for legal work. Additionally, Leangap supports and encourages you to participate in Entrepreneurship Challenges like the Diamond Challenge and the Conrad Challenge, further honing your leadership and innovation skills.
Their self-reported statistics indicate that 82% of their participants intern at major tech companies and 65% get admitted to top-rated colleges. All of these point to the program being valuable for you if your prime focus is on cutting your teeth in hands-on entrepreneurship and/or readying yourself for intense startup competitions.
Considering Pros and Cons
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to apply for Leangap, here is a list of pros and cons to keep in mind.
You will gain practical experience - a good chunk of your time at Leangap will be spent learning practical skills critical to entrepreneurship, like product prototyping, customer research, feature iteration, sales, company registration, and developing go-to-market strategies. All of these will be crucial when you actually establish (or take forward) your startup.
You will have access to networking opportunities - Leangap’s small cohort size of 40 students will allow you to network effectively with both your peers as well as your mentors. A strong network is as important to a budding entrepreneur as any physical resource.
You will build and sell a product - possibly the biggest draw of Leangap’s program is the focus on physically creating a product prototype and securing initial sales from real customers. This is the trial-by-fire experience of business building that many other entrepreneurship programs lack, and at Leangap you will tackle it head-on and derive full learning from it.
You will enhance your profile - Getting through to the cohort of 40 and physically working on making your business idea a reality will give you a real edge when it comes to applying for college entrepreneurship programs.
It is accessible - the availability of the online program, as well as the option of being able to secure up to 80% of the tuition fees in financial aid, make Leangap very accessible to international students or to those lacking funds.
It can be expensive - if you’re unable to secure a financial needs scholarship, Leangap is among the more expensive entrepreneurship programs out there, and the steep tuition fees may put it out of your reach.
It is intensive - if you are not fully committed to the idea of building a business from ideation to execution, then you may not appreciate the level of rigor and commitment the program has in store for you.
We’ve read positive reviews of Leangap from people who have claimed to have attended the program. What’s appealing about the program is that it pushes you to go beyond ideation and actually produce a functioning business, while learning from mentors who have practical experience as entrepreneurs.
Other programs that are considered in the same breath as Leangap are the MIT-spinoff LaunchX and BETA Camp. If you are interested in interning with startups, then another program you can consider is Ladder Internships. Each of these programs offers unique takeaways. The key difference is that while LaunchX focuses on entrepreneurial education and BETA Camp focuses on the art and science of business development, Leangap is designed around the practical application of business concepts. Between these three, Leangap is the only program where it is required to establish a company, a product prototype, and make sales. This also makes Leangap’s on-campus program the priciest, with the online option being more comparable to the others. You can check our blog on BETA Camp here to help you make a more informed decision.
While its limited cohort size makes it highly competitive to obtain admission, the same feature works in your favor in building professional networks as well as extracting as much learning as possible from your mentors and professors. Several alumni have mentioned the enormous learning they have derived from Leangap, creating marketplace web apps like Crow or 3D printed products like PillDrops. If your end goal is to learn everything about how to start your own firm, make your first sale, and potentially interest a few investors in your idea, then Leangap should definitely be on your radar.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on aspects of business, strategy, and entrepreneurship, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image Source: Leangap logo