NC IDEA SEED provides $50,000 in non-dilutive funding to selected companies. Through this grant funding, NC IDEA SEED supports business activities that validate target markets, reduces risk associated with early stage companies and helps companies get to the point of suitability for growth funding; be that crowd funding, angel or venture capital investment.

Program Details

NC IDEA SEED has two grant cycles each year. Our Spring grant cycle typically opens in mid-February, while our Fall grant cycle typically opens in mid-August. The below timeline includes the important dates and deadlines for our current Spring 2018 Grant Cycle.

Spring 2018 Grant Cycle

February 12 – Spring 2018 NC IDEA SEED Grant Cycle Opens

February 26 – NC IDEA SEED Grant Application Submission Deadline
*All pre-proposals must be submitted and received by 5:00pm EST (no exceptions)*

March 16 – Notifications and Full Proposal Invitations Sent

March 26 – Full Proposal Submission Deadline

April 18 – Notifications and Finalist Invitations Sent

April 23-25 – Pitch Scrub Sessions

April 27 – Finalist Presentations

May 2 – Notifications and NC IDEA SEED Grant Recipients Announced

Application Process

NC IDEA solicits seed grant applications twice per year, typically in February and again in August. The application window is open for approximately 4 weeks. All applicants are required to complete NC IDEA’s pre-proposal, which can be accessed online during each active application cycle. NC IDEA uses an online application portal that allows applicants to create an account so applications may be saved, reviewed and submitted prior to the stated deadline. The pre-proposal asks you to provide detail on various aspects of your company. The pre-proposal application has character count restrictions requiring you to provide clear, concise answers. Typically, between 150-180 companies will apply and submit a pre-proposal each grant cycle.

Following the application deadline, pre-proposals will be reviewed by a review team including NC IDEA staff, NC IDEA fellows, investors and other partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Companies will be notified of their status and receive specific feedback on their application. Typically, 20-30 applicants will be selected to progress to the semi-finalist phase. Semi-finalists will have a week to 10 days to complete a “full proposal” allowing them to elaborate on information in their pre-proposal and incorporate feedback from the reviewers.

Full proposals will allow semi-finalists to update their previous application without restrictions on character counts, although being concise is still highly encouraged. Each semi-finalist will also schedule a 15-minute phone interview with NC IDEA.

Full proposals are then reviewed by a review team. Approximately 10-12 semi-finalists will become finalists and be invited to pitch to NC IDEA’s review team. Each company will be given 10 minutes to pitch and have 15 minutes for Q&A. Ultimately, 5-6 companies will be awarded a grant.

NC IDEA SEED Grant Recipients

Each grant cycle, NC IDEA will select between 5-6 companies to receive a $50,000 seed grant. Companies selected will spend subsequent weeks after their award date working with NC IDEA to solidify an appropriate use of funds, milestones and a timeline. Grant funds will typically be released over the span of 6-12 months in four separate milestone-based tranches. Grant recipients will provide written and in-person progress report updates prior to the release of each tranche. Beyond grant funding, NC IDEA partners with grant recipients to provide advice and make introductions to our wide network of advisors, partners and investors. Grant recipients are also invited to participate in workshops and speaker sessions when NC IDEA LABS is in session.

Eligibility Criteria

The NC IDEA SEED evaluation process is rigorous and extremely competitive. Companies must meet the following criteria in order to be considered for grant funding:

Grants are specifically targeted at young ventures in the State of North Carolina. Applicants must either 1) conduct a majority of corporate operations in North Carolina or 2) plan to relocate to North Carolina.

Selected companies must agree to maintain the majority of corporate operations in the State of North Carolina for at least 2 years after receiving grant funding.

NC IDEA provides seed grants to innovative companies with proprietary intellectual property or other means of sustained competitive advantage that are solving large problems.

Qualified companies typically fall under one of the following business categories:

  • Biotechnology
  • Cleantech/Greentech
  • Computer/Digital Hardware
  • Consumer Products
  • Digital Media
  • Healthcare IT
  • Medical Device
  • Medical Diagnostics
  • Nanotechnology/Advanced Materials
  • Semiconductors
  • Social Media
  • Software

Companies with high capital requirements and a long runway to commercialization, such as pharmaceutical companies, are less likely to be considered. Other companies that are considered out of scope and not eligible for grant funding include consulting practices or agencies; local, service-oriented small businesses (i.e. restaurants, retail stores) and other “lifestyle” companies; and not-for-profits.

Market Opportunity
We prefer companies addressing large, rapidly growing market opportunities, with a unique value proposition and a scalable business model.

Stage of Development
The optimal stage for a company is between proof of concept and first institutional funding. Ideally, an applicant will have demonstrated external validation of efficacy or utility for its intended product/service. NC IDEA does not fund “science projects” that have not yet demonstrated a clear path to commercialization.

Competitive applicants have at least one or more fully committed team member. Experience working in or on a previous startup, as well as domain expertise, is favorable as well – but not required.

Prior and Future Investment
Our funding is intended to help early stage companies accomplish specific milestones that demonstrate to investors and other funding sources that the company has high potential. Therefore, companies that have received greater than $250,000 in investment at the time of applying, particularly from sophisticated angels or institutional investors, are less likely to be considered.

We do however, consider founder and “friends and family” funding differently, and such funding will not negatively impact consideration.

Application Criteria

When evaluating an NC IDEA SEED grant application, we assess the strengths and weaknesses of a company across the following areas:


  • Size and significance of problem being addressed
  • Benefits, strength and uniqueness of solution
  • Risk


  • Innovation
  • Stage of development
  • Intellectual property

Market and Business Model

  • Customer profile
  • Revenue and pricing models
  • Size of market and market opportunity
  • Sales strategy
  • Competitive advantage
  • Number, size and strength of competitors


  • Stage of development
  • Current/expected revenues
  • Customer discovery
  • Accomplishments to-date


  • Quality of management team
  • Experience of management team
  • Completeness of management team
  • Commitment of team
  • Quality of advisors

Grant Request and Funding

  • Use of grant funds
  • Impact of grant funds
  • Milestones
  • Prior funding
  • Future funding potential

Preview some of the questions on the NC IDEA SEED application here. Click here for more tips and examples.

Back to NC IDEA SEED program page