What is ILT Academy?

Written by: Fargo Inc

By ILT Academy

Entrepreneurs are the life force behind economic growth in North Dakota. According to a 2022 report from the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, North Dakota is home to 75,256 small businesses that employ 55.7% of the state’s workforce. This March, early-stage entrepreneurs in North Dakota will gain a powerful new education resource joining the ranks alongside programs like gener8tor and Emerging Prairie.

ILT Academy (an acronym for “I Like That”) is a virtual platform for business education scheduled to host its inaugural North Dakota virtual cohort, the first in a 2-year partnership with the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Each cohort gathers between 20-30 students who learn together in a digital platform, eliminating constraints for innovators based outside metro areas like Fargo-Moorhead. Entrepreneurs starting businesses in North Dakota are welcome to apply before the application deadline on March 05, 2024. 

Since its founding in 2020, ILT Academy has championed the growth of over 500 founders in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. The free, 10-week intensive training allows for hands-on learning and networking events with ecosystem partners, investors, lenders, and other entrepreneurs. The program gives participants an innovative framework for moving from idea to product while validating their business model.

Program Success Stories

Clare Richards, Co-Founder and CEO, Impacks

Photo by Kim Windschitl

“ILT Academy has offered a number of opportunities to Impacks within the startup ecosystem. We’ve been able to hone our message and pitch investors through the ILT Academy programming. One of those pitches ultimately led us to a VC firm investment of $745,000, which has allowed us to grow to 5 employees and break into multiple markets faster.”

Olamide Olatunbosun, Founder and CEO, Eso

Photo by Olamide Olatunbosun

“Applying for the ILT program was the best decision I ever made for my business to date. I was at a critical inflection point in my business when I joined. Through the lean startup course, and with ILT’s mentorship, I have been awarded almost $100,000 in capital.”

Ramsey Shaffer, Co-Founder and CEO, upTrends.ai

Photo by Ramsey Shaffer

“​​Since completing ILT Academy, we’ve launched our v1 website, have crossed 20,000 beta users, starting making revenue, raised our first round of $350,000, and hired our first employees; none of which would have been possible in this amount of time without ILT.” 

ILT Founder Nick Tietz 3 Keys for Developing for Scale

Nick Tietz (photo provided by ILT Academy)

For people with business ideas who are ready to take the next step, ILT’s founder, Nick Tietz, gives these three keys to developing an idea into a business with potential for scale:  

Key 1 – Early Validation

Validate. Validate. Validate. Get your ideas in front of your customers and get feedback early and often.

Key 2 – Fail Forward

Fail small and fail forward. In the early stages of product and business model development, you have a lot to learn. Try and spend the least amount of time and money on building out your product. Listen to your customers and find out where you can deliver the most value, and then build as fast as possible.

Key 3 – Focused Sprints

Building a business is a marathon of sprints. You can’t get it all done in one day, but you can get a lot done every day to move your business and ideas forward. It’s all about being an activated entrepreneur and finding ways to get the right things done while giving yourself the grace to know that you only have so many hours in the day. 

“We’re excited to work with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, SBDC, and economic development group partners to deliver strong programming across North Dakota,” said Tietz. “We share a vision of lifting up underestimated entrepreneurs, tech founders, and small business owners and see incredible untapped potential across the entire state.”

To apply for ILT Academy’s first North Dakota cohort, learn more here.

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Brady Drake is the editor of Fargo INC!