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

NC IDEA is particularly interested in supporting 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


Evaluation Criteria

Requests for proposals are intentionally non-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 following their application.

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 learnings 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? i.e. what does “success” look like for this initiative?
  • Will milestones and metrics validate the outcomes?
  • How does the applicant plan to measure related metrics?


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


  • To what extent will an award from NC IDEA be leveraged by other funds from the organization (or outside financial contributors)?
  • 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?


Back to NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM program page →