Validating New Ideas

You launched a startup. Our MICRO grant provides small amounts of funding to entrepreneurs who are testing a big, new business idea.

Through small, project-based grants, NC IDEA MICRO awards $10K in funding to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea. We have found that funding, paired with mentorship and guidance, early in a company’s lifecycle, can make a significant impact on future success.

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

**Note: You may only apply to either MICRO or SEED (not both) during a grant cycle.**

Geography

NC IDEA MICRO 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 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.

Industry and Company Type

NC IDEA MICRO grants are awarded to companies bringing an innovative product or business model to the market. We prefer companies with proprietary intellectual property or other means of sustained competitive advantage that are solving large problems.

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

Market Opportunity

NC IDEA MICRO grants are awarded to companies 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 in 5-7 years.

Stage of Development

Companies are working to demonstrate proof of concept (existence of a problem, market readiness and an MVP) and are prepared to leverage a $10K grant to move to a quantifiable next step of validation.

Team

Competitive applicants must have at least one full-time founder living in NC within 6-12 months of applying for the grant. It is preferred that all founders live in NC. 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. Experience working in or on a previous startup, as well as domain expertise, is favorable as well – but not required.

Revenue

Companies that have revenue in the last 12 months of more than $50K are less likely to be considered.

Prior 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 growth potential. Therefore, companies that have received greater than $50K in equity investment or over $1M in non-dilutive grant funding at the time of applying 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.

Impact of Grant

The grant will enable the company to validate key assumption(s) and catalyze the development of the business.

 

See a comparison of eligibility criteria between NC IDEA MICRO and NC IDEA SEED. **Note: You may only apply to either MICRO or SEED (not both) during a grant cycle.**

NC IDEA solicits MICRO grant applications twice per year, usually in mid-February and mid-August. We typically receive 150-200 applications each grant cycle. Applications are reviewed by the NC IDEA team, investors and other partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Companies are notified of their status and receive specific feedback on their application. From each applicant pool, approximately 20-30 companies are selected to progress to the finalist phase. Finalists are invited to participate in an in-person interview. Ultimately, 10-15 companies are selected and awarded an NC IDEA MICRO grant.

Preview the MICRO application and review specific dates and deadlines in the tab below.

One of the criteria that NC IDEA uses in evaluating grant applications is customer discovery. Our Customer Discovery Guide is a great resource for not only writing a better application, but giving your company a better chance at success.

**Note: You may only apply to either MICRO or SEED (not both) during a grant cycle.**

NC IDEA MICRO couples $10K in funding with a six to eight-week program to accelerate your company’s progress.

After MICRO grant recipients are selected, the program proceeds as follows:

  • Each company works directly with NC IDEA staff to implement a six-month timeline of meaningful milestones and an impactful use of grant funds.
  • The grant agreement is signed and the company receives 75% of their grant funds.
  • Companies participate in a six-week customer discovery and product launch program.
    • Customer discovery is focused on clearly identifying the early customers, their pain point, reaching them, and their solution.
    • Product launch will include fundraising strategies, marketing, and meeting with 15+ mentors who can provide advice and/or connections.
    • The program will require approximately 3 hours per week of seminar participation, plus additional time to talk to potential customers.
  • Companies have at least four check-ins with NC IDEA staff or volunteer mentors, spread across the six weeks of programming.
  • Two months after a company’s grant agreement is signed, the remaining 25% of the grant will be distributed to the company.
  • Companies will make a final presentation to NC IDEA staff, mentors, and other companies in the cohort, about six months after the end of the customer discovery and product launch program

 

One of the criteria that NC IDEA uses in evaluating grant applications is customer discovery. Our Customer Discovery Guide is a great resource for not only writing a better application, but giving your company a better chance at success.

During the grant period, and continuing once companies become MICRO alumni, grant recipients can take advantage of:

  • Opportunities to participate in monthly seminars and workshops on topics such as marketing, sales and meeting with fellow founders
  • Access to NC IDEA staff to get feedback on pitches, funding opportunities, market pivots and other topics facing your startup
  • Introductions to potential partners, mentors, advisors, funders and customers

July 25 – Info Session via WEBINAR – Watch Now or View Slides

July 27 – Asheville Info Session

July 28 – Winston-Salem Info Session

August 1 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Application Opens – Preview MICRO Application

August 1 – Research Triangle Info Session – Register Now

August 2 – 26 – Fall 2022 Virtual Office Hours – Reserve Now

August 3 – Charlotte Info Session – Register Now

August 8 – Wilmington Info Session – Register Now

August 29 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Application Deadline
*All applications must be submitted and received by 5:00pm EST – No Exceptions*

September 30 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Finalists Selected and Notified

October 10-20 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Finalist Interviews

October 21 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Recipients Selected and Notified

**Note: You may only apply to either MICRO or SEED (not both) during a grant cycle.**

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