NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM supports organizations executing on innovative and transformational ideas that can strengthen North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

For our 2018 NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM solicitation, we are particularly interested in proposals from organizations who serve under-resourced entrepreneurs building scaleable businesses. Under-resourced is intentionally vague; the lack of resources may be due to factors of geography, gender, race or limited economic means. Organizations who primarily serve audiences of high technology, venture-backable businesses are still invited to apply but are herewith informed that the number of grants targeted for that sector will be limited.

It is not our intention to create funding dependencies. This effort is intended to validate vital activities and demonstrate that continuing (supporting) those activities, beyond the period of the grant, would be in the interest of the communities served.


Eligibility Criteria

We invite proposals from nonprofit and for profit organizations within North Carolina that primarily help people start and grow high potential firms. High potential firms are companies that have the potential to grow into seven figure companies and/or employ more than 50 people within 5-7 years. Organizations working with small and lifestyle businesses are not the focus of this program, as we believe there are other entities around the state that are serving those firms.

The following entities are not eligible to be awarded an NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM grant:

  • Endowments, capital campaigns or other fundraising events
  • Lobbying organizations, political parties or labor organizations
  • Fraternal groups
  • Individuals


Available Funding

Applicants may request any amount of funding up to but not exceeding $100,000. Scheduled payments should align with specific activities, and funding may be allocated according to milestones and scheduled payments between 12 and 36 months. NC IDEA does not allow grant awards to include indirect or overhead costs.


Evaluation Criteria

This request for proposals is intentionally not prescriptive and evaluation is subjective; at the sole discretion of the foundation. Applicants are encouraged not to assume they will receive funding and not to represent or make other funding initiatives contingent upon winning a grant from this action.

NC IDEA does not presume how to best serve the diverse communities of North Carolina. We have however, supported dozens of organizations around the state and have observed common practices with promising results that will factor into our evaluation. These include but are not limited to:

  • Education and training (accelerator) programs wherein participants work specifically on their company, whilst following some curriculum or structure
  • Coaching and mentoring to help participants focus on long-term value creation, culture, work life balance and other founder related topics
  • Technical assistance for specific tasks:
    • Hiring
    • Marketing and sales
    • Social media
    • Intellectual property protection
    • Product development
    • Funding options
  • Networking communities of common entrepreneurial interest
  • Sharing learning from all of the above and generally promoting entrepreneurship

Proposals will be subjectively evaluated using the criteria that follows. Other factors may be considered at the sole discretion of NC IDEA.


  • Will the proposed grant outcomes further NC IDEA’s ambition to support a diverse population of individuals pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities?
  • Does the applicant, and their proposed activities, compliment NC IDEA’s growing network of ecosystem partners?

 Ability to Execute

  • Can the applicant’s team successfully execute the program?
  • Does the applicant’s team have a track record of success?

 Outcomes & Metrics

  • What are the specific outcomes proposed?
  • Will milestones and metrics validate the outcomes?


  • How will this program be sustained into the future – beyond the funding period of the grant?


  • To what extent is NC IDEA’s participation leveraged?
  • Will other resources (and/or partner organizations) complement the activities proposed?


  • Is this the right moment to be executing this program?
  • Are there other time specific dependencies?

Submission of an application does NOT obligate the foundation to make any grants. It is anticipated that many applications will be submitted, and few will be awarded (In 2016, we received 50 applications and made 9 awards). If you do not receive a grant, please understand that our decision is not a reflection on the merit of your application or your organization. We receive more grant requests than we have the capacity to support, and therefore select the one/s we feel best meet our criteria. Due to the number of requests, should you be declined, we are unable to provide specific reasons/comments.

Preview Application Template

Progress on applications can be saved and resumed and submitted at a later time. All final submissions are due via our online application form by 5:00pm EST on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. NC IDEA will not accept applications via email, fax, mail or in-person.


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