NC IDEA currently offers two grants for entrepreneurs: NC IDEA MICRO and NC IDEA SEED. MICRO offers $10,000 and SEED offers $50,000 in non-dilutive funding to selected companies. Learn more about MICRO and SEED.
Grant solicitations for both MICRO and SEED take place twice a year, with the Spring cycle typically opening in early February and the Fall cycle opening in early August. Read more about both the MICRO and SEED application process and timeline.
A company can only submit one grant application per grant cycle. This application can either be for MICRO OR SEED—but not both. However, a company can apply to a different grant in a future cycle. A company is welcome to apply to NC IDEA LABS in addition to either MICRO or SEED, if LABS is accepting applications during the grant cycle.
Yes. We expect that many of our MICRO grant recipients will apply to SEED once they have gained market traction and meet the SEED eligibility requirements. MICRO grant recipients are able to receive the full $50K for SEED.
MICRO and SEED are targeted to innovative, scalable companies based in the state of North Carolina with a sustainable competitive advantage. Retail stores, restaurants, catering companies, cleaning companies, and other lifestyle companies, including consulting firms, fall out of the scope of NC IDEA grants. Nonprofits are also out of scope. Learn more about the eligibility criteria of our MICRO and SEED grants.
NC IDEA’s mission is to foster economic development in North Carolina by helping young startups commercialize their innovations. While we recognize the importance of all entrepreneurship to North Carolina’s economy, our grants are awarded to companies with high-growth potential bringing an innovative product or business model to market and on a path to become a multi-million dollar company, have 50+ employees or be investable. These companies often grow by first focusing on and excelling in one thing before moving onto the next most profitable related product, service or market.
When submitting an initial application, please remember that this is the first impression you give to the reviewers and often our only exposure to your company. The application covers many areas about your business including problem/solution, customer discovery and acquisition, market size, competition, revenue and more. Our reviewers will assess the competitiveness of your application in comparison to other applicants and against the eligibility requirements to determine the impact a MICRO or SEED grant will have on your startup. As a result, the application may often take a considerable amount of time as you work with your team and advisors. View the application templates for both MICRO and SEED.
We highly recommend that you attend one of our virtual or in-person information sessions which are held at the start of each grant cycle. We keep the recording of the most recent virtual information session on our MICRO and SEED pages throughout the year. Attending information sessions provides a thorough overview of the requirements for the grants, as well as a review of best practices. You can also take advantage of virtual office hours that are also offered while MICRO and SEED applications are open. You can register for information sessions and schedule virtual office hours on the MICRO and SEED Resources pages, when they are available.
As we mention in the information sessions, make sure to review your application for clarity of thought, general proofreading errors and concise, well-articulated concepts. Having others review your application before submission is also recommended. We ask that you thoroughly evaluate your eligibility for either the MICRO or SEED grant prior to applying.
While we do recommend that you have someone review your application before you submit it, NC IDEA staff are not available to do so. However, NC IDEA does offer virtual office hours to answer questions about the MICRO and SEED process, including feedback on which grant to apply to. These are available while MICRO and SEED applications are open. Links to scheduling virtual office hours during an active grant cycle can be found on the MICRO and SEED Resource pages.
While we do try and match reviewers to applications based on their backgrounds, there will be some reviewers who may not have knowledge of your industry or market. Our MICRO and SEED reviewers have knowledge of issues facing early stage startups and have backgrounds in funding startups through grants or investment, advising startups, working with startups and running startups. However, even if a reviewer has experience in your industry, they may not be familiar with your technology or product category. For this reason, avoid using unnecessary industry terms and make sure to explain any such terms that you do use. Keep in mind that the application is your opportunity to convey the viability of your business and the market opportunity, in addition to explaining the product or technology.
All NC IDEA reviewers sign confidentiality agreements and conflicts of interest and hold NC IDEA’s review process in the highest esteem. A list of potential reviewers that may be helping us in a grant cycle is linked to from both the MICRO and SEED applications for applicants to review. If anyone appears on this list that should not be assigned to review your application for a particular reason (i.e. current employer, competitor, etc.), you can indicate this on the application. Although we work mostly with the names on this list, please be aware that we sometimes add reviewers throughout the process when we need certain expertise, therefore, a specific name may not appear on this list prior to you submitting your application. If there is someone in the community not on this list who should not be asked to review your application, you may include their name(s) as well.
Our grants are intended to help startup ventures overcome the often high barriers encountered by funding gaps. MICRO allows young companies to validate and advance their ideas. SEED offers early stage companies the critical funding they need to scale faster. For both grants, the funds, along with mentorship and guidance, push companies forward and reduce risk associated with growing startups.
Some examples of uses of funds from our past grant recipients include customer discovery activities, website/application development, prototype development, A/B testing services, marketing services, legal services (including intellectual property related costs), business development expenses (including travel and trade show attendance), consultant fees and staff salaries. NC IDEA considers the impact of the total proposed use of funds, including how it will support a company to achieve the outlined milestones during the grant period and move a company to the next phase of its growth.
Companies do not have to be incorporated to apply for a MICRO or SEED grant. However, if a company is awarded a MICRO or SEED grant, the company must be incorporated in the United States prior to receiving any grant funds. A company does not have to incorporate in NC, and an LLC is considered incorporated.
Patent protection is not a requirement, but companies that have proprietary intellectual property (not necessarily patent-protected) or other means of sustained competitive advantage are more competitive. If a company’s business is dependent on use of a patent, the patent must be owned by or licensed to the company.
For companies awarded a MICRO or SEED grant, the funds can only be used to cover approved expenses incurred after the grant agreement between NC IDEA and the company is signed.
No. Applications are assigned to reviewers at the same time once the deadline has passed. However, we recommend that you do not wait until the last minute to finalize and submit your application, as this process can take longer than expected. Many applications are submitted in the final minutes before the deadline, and there is always the chance for technical difficulties.
For SEED, competitive applicants have at least one full-time founder, and for MICRO, competitive applicants should plan to have at least one full-time team member within 6-12 months of applying for the grant. NC IDEA defines a full-time founder as one who works 40+ hours a week on their startup and does not have regular employment at another company, including a different startup run by the founder, more than 15 hours a week. Read all the MICRO eligibility requirements here and all the SEED eligibility requirements here.
If all of your company founders do not reside in North Carolina, you will be asked to explain on the application how your company meets the geography eligibility criteria that “NC IDEA MICRO and SEED grants are specifically targeted at companies headquartered in and that conduct a majority of corporate operations in the State of North Carolina. All publicly facing materials, including their website, social media, and other marketing materials and channels should identify the business as a North Carolina company. Selected companies must agree to maintain the majority of corporate operations in the State of North Carolina for at least the 12-month period following completion of the grant.” Read all the MICRO eligibility requirements here and all the SEED eligibility requirements here.