Idea development

Applications Closed for 2024 Explore Program

Pre-Accelerator Program

For entrepreneurs to turn ideas into businesses.

Are you brimming with innovative ideas but uncertain about their potential?  What to do next? Our Explore program is tailor-made for visionary entrepreneurs like you. Gain the confidence and clarity you need to move forward. Our tailored curriculum, expert mentors and industry veterans will provide you with personalized guidance, market insights, and rigorous feedback, helping you refine your concept into a viable business proposition. Don’t let doubt hold you back; join us and turn your vision into your venture!

The program consists of 3 rounds of instruction and application and is designed to prepare (idea) early-stage entrepreneurs to launch new businesses with the ability to scale regionally, nationally or globally. The curriculum focuses on the Ideation, Discovery, Competitive Analysis and Customer/User Validation stages.

Round A:  Discovery – April 8, 2024 – May 29, 2024  (8 weeks)

Focus: Idea development, competitive analysis, point of pain definition, Unique Value Proposition (UVP) development.

  • Module 1: Startup Basics
  • Module 2: Understanding Problems and People –
  • Module 3: Creating Value and Solutions
  • Module 4: Reaching Users Effectively
  • Module 5: Money Matters
  • Module 6: Measuring Success and Improving
  • Module 7: Finding Your Edge and Building Prototypes
  • Module 8: Testing and Tweaking
  • Module 9: Getting to Market and Growing
  • Module 10: Summing It Up

Round A Program Delivery: in-person at Winston Starts offices, online self-learning and mentoring sessions.

Participants in Round A are expected to commit to an estimated 65 total number of hours including in-person sessions, self-learning online, and mentoring.

Round B: Testing & Validation – June 3, 2024 – October 25, 2024 (up to 20 weeks, as needed)

Focus: Validating unique value proposition from Round A

In Round B you will be engaging with prospective customers via interviews, surveys and meetings to validate and refine your UVP. You’ll also be able able to identify specific areas where additional concentration may be necessary to bring your idea/concept to life.

  • Check In 1: Startup Basics
  • Check In 2: Understanding Problems and People
Round B Program Delivery: in the field.  You will be able to use the space at Winston Starts as a “Landing Zone”. Program Instructors will be available to assist you and provide feedback on your work.

Round C: Finalize the Roadmap –  October 28, 2024 – November 22, 2024  (4 weeks)
Focus: Go to Market (GTM) plan
  • Presentation Decks: Pitch Deck and Go to Market Deck
  • User and Technical Requirement (Product) Decks
  • Lean Canvas 1.0

Round C Program Delivery: in-person at Winston Starts offices and online self-learning

Participants in Round C are expected to commit to an estimated 25 total number of hours including in-person sessions, self-learning online, and mentoring.


$995 per participant.

Fees cover access to our online learning platform, expert facilitator workshops, expert mentor sessions and all materials.

AJan 15 – Mar 8Apr 8May 29
B Jun 3Oct 25
C Oct 28Nov 22

We use the following criteria to evaluate Explore applicants:

  • Desire: A passion for entrepreneurship, innovation and building something that will make a difference
  • Potential: An idea about how to uniquely solve a real problem using a regionally or nationally scalable business model
  • Experience: Relevant experience and/or knowledge
  • Commercialization: A reasonable path to sales and profitability
  • Local Presence: demonstrate a commitment to the Winston-Salem ecosystem
  • Participatory: willingness to lean into Winston Starts and ecosystem resources
  • Coachable: open to mentor, advisor and potential investor feedback on how to iterate and build the business
  • Attendance: participants must attend instructional modules in person at Winston Starts

Program Leadership Team

Ready to Get Started?