MICRO and SEED Grant Applications Open July 29th!

Validating New Ideas

You launched a startup. Our MICRO grant provides a small amount of funding to entrepreneurs who are testing assumptions about their business.

Through small, project-based grants, NC IDEA MICRO awards $10K in funding to startups actively moving their companies forward by validating assumptions and developing a business model. We have found that funding, paired with mentorship and guidance, early in a company’s lifecycle, can make a significant impact on future success.

Fall Applications Open July 29th

Fall 2024 Grant Cycle

The NC IDEA MICRO evaluation process is rigorous and extremely competitive.

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.**

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 event venue and management companies; traditional staffing agencies; traditional publishing companies; consulting practices or agencies; training companies; tv/film production companies; distributors; franchises; resellers; local, service-oriented small businesses (i.e. restaurants, retail stores); trucking, hauling, and freight and other “lifestyle” companies; and not-for-profits. Also excluded are businesses that are illegal in NC, even if legal in other states or countries.

Market Opportunity

NC IDEA MICRO grants are awarded to companies that are bringing an innovative product or business model to market and on a path to become a multi-million dollar company or receive institutional investment, such as venture capital (VC) and private equity, within 5-7 years.

Stage of Development

Competitive applicants have already been actively moving their startup forward by conducting customer discovery, developing initial prototypes, testing a product/service, bringing in initial revenue, or other activities. The grant will enable these companies to validate key assumption(s) around the existence of a problem, revenue model, size of their target market, market readiness, team skill set, or other area(s) to determine a company’s ability to catalyze its business development.

Revenue

Competitive applicants are on a path to generate revenue within 12 months of receiving a MICRO grant. However, many MICRO grant recipients have initial revenue when they apply (see below). Companies, excluding food and beverage startups, that have revenue exceeding $50K in the last 12 months are less likely to be considered.

MICRO Grant Recipients: Last 12 Months Revenue at Time of Application

  • Consumer Products – Food and Beverage
    • Average: $37K
    • Revenue-Generating: 100%
  • All Other Business Categories
    • Revenue-Generating: 30%-50%
Team

Applicants must have at least one founder living in North Carolina, and it is preferred that all founders live in NC. Competitive applicants should have a founder who will be full-time 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 spend more than 15 hours a week, either 1) working at another company; 2) working at a different startup run by the founder(s); or 3) on school-related activities (including class time and homework).

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

Since NC IDEA has two MICRO grant cycles every year, NC IDEA and its reviewers assess the timing and impact for each company to receive $10K and participate in programming during a specific grant cycle.

Competitive applicants will clearly describe how MICRO funds will be used to achieve measurable milestones during the grant period to validate key assumptions about the company’s business, such as revenue model, market readiness, customer profile, and sales. The goal of MICRO is for a startup to move its business forward to be competitive for SEED within 2 years; or to secure growth through other channels, such as revenue, debt, or equity investment.

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 from eligible companies are reviewed by the NC IDEA team, investors and other partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Companies are notified of their status and eligible companies receive specific feedback on their application. From each applicant pool, approximately 25-30 companies are selected to progress to the finalist phase. Finalists are invited to participate in a virtual interview. Ultimately, 15 companies are selected and awarded an NC IDEA MICRO grant.

View 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 an eight-week program to accelerate your company’s progress.

MICRO grant recipients engage in the following process over six months from the time of award:

  • 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 an eight-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 3 hours per week of seminar participation, plus additional time to talk to potential customers.
  • Companies schedule check-ins with NC IDEA staff or volunteer mentors, throughout 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 22 – Info Session via WEBINAR

July 23Winston-Salem Info Session

July 24Charlotte Info Session

July 29Wilmington Info Session

July 29 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Application Opens – View MICRO Application

July 30 – Triangle Info Session

July 31Asheville Info Session

July 31 – August 23 – Fall 2024 Virtual Office Hours

August 26 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Application Deadline
*All applications must be submitted and received by 5:00 pm EST – No Exceptions*

September 27 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Finalists Selected and Notified

October 7-16 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Finalist Interviews

October 22 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Recipients Selected and Notified

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

Spring 2024 GRANT RECIPIENTS
MICRO GRANT RECIPIENTS
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FEMALE FOUNDED
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FUNDING RAISED
$ 0 M+
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