Are you the founder of a startup? Are you based in North Carolina? If so, you’ll want to keep reading...NC IDEA’s coveted startup grants are currently ripe for the taking. In startup terms, that’s what we call free money. The kind that doesn’t require you to forfeit equity in your company. The kind that just might make the difference between growth and failure. NC IDEA is traveling the state offering up information sessions for companies interested in applying. Here’s what their team recently shared at Charlotte's Packard Place:
NC IDEA is a North Carolina-based not-for-profit organization serving young, high-growth tech companies by providing early financing in the form of grants. To date, NC IDEA has awarded 77 grants totaling over $2.9 million. In addition to grants, the organization provides mentorship and networking opportunities to support its grant winners.
There are two grant cycles per year, each awarding $10-$50k to anywhere from four to six companies. In a good year, that could mean up to $600k going toward the best of North Carolina’s startup community. Currently, the Fall Grant Cycle is open for application.
The Application Timeline
8/23: Early Deadline (this means a longer period of consideration - that’s a good thing)
9/06: Final Deadline (don’t miss it - no exceptions)
09/27: Notification of Semi-Finalists
10/11: Final Deadline (10-page mini business plan)
11/01: Notification of Finalists
11/08: Finalist Pitch Sessions (10 minute pitch; 15 minute Q&A)
*Winners announced in early December.
To qualify for an NC IDEA grant, your company must:
- be based in North Carolina
- be in one of the following industries: IT, Medical Diagnostics and Devices, Material Sciences, or Green Technologies
- be able to demonstrate proof of concept
- be seeking first institutional funding (no prior funding)
- be able to show use of funds (there are several things you CAN’T use the funds for...read more here)
Terms for Grant Winners
If your company wins a Grant, you must:
- be Incorporated (no individuals; only entities)
- remain in North Carolina for two years
- provide quarterly updates to NC IDEA
- present final report to NC IDEA
- provide statistical information to NC IDEA for five years (employees, funding, revenue, etc…)
Winning Application Criteria
- Idea: Clearly state what you are trying to accomplish and define the size and significance of the problem you are solving. What the are benefits, strengths and uniqueness of your solution?
- Technology: What stage of development are you in? Is your technology evolutionary or revolutionary? What intellectual property do you have?
- Market: What is the size and growth potential of your total addressable market? What does the competitive landscape look like, and what is your competitive advantage?
- Strategy: What is your revenue model? Your sales and marketing plan? Your operational plan?
- Team: What experience does your management team have? What sort of advisory team do you have in place? This is your opportunity to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a team - NC IDEA can connect you with the people you need to fill any holes.
- Funding: Do you have any prior funding? If awarded, how will you use NC IDEA grant funds? Basically, convince NC IDEA that their grant is going to have significant impact on your business objectives and growth. Note that grant funds can NOT be used for research activities or Founder salaries...
- Impact: What milestones will NC IDEA grant funds help your company to achieve? Tip: do not say that without the grant funds, your company will cease to exist. NC IDEA wants to know that whether or not your company wins this money, you will continue to execute on your idea.
- Momentum: What traction or recent developments can you share? Think on broader terms - this isn’t limited to customers and revenue - at this stage of your company, any step toward moving the ball forward is an achievement worth reporting on.
NC IDEA grants are not easy to come by - it's a difficult process for a very rare award - equity-free money! Many companies apply several times before winning an award, so be patient. If your idea and strategy are sound, NC IDEA has the resources to help you develop the technology and team you need to hit the ground running.
Be honest on your application - by identifying your weaknesses, this demonstrates that you are flexible and coachable - traits that are crucial in any startup environment. For more information on the Grant Program and to apply, visit the NC IDEA website. Good luck!