Growing Innovative Startups

You are looking to grow and scale. Our $50K SEED grant may be just what entrepreneurs need to advance their startup, gain customers or attract future investment.

NC IDEA SEED offers early stage companies the critical funding they need to scale faster. Our $50K grants are awarded to innovative startups with a proven concept — even if they are not yet profitable. The funds, along with mentorship and guidance, push companies forward and reduce risk associated with growing startups.

Fall Applications Open July 29th

Fall 2024 Grant Cycle

The NC IDEA SEED 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 and make a strong case that $50K will have a strong impact in the life cycle of the company in order to be considered for an NC IDEA SEED grant.

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

NC IDEA 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 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 SEED grants are awarded to innovative 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 SEED grants are awarded to companies addressing large, rapidly growing market opportunities, with a unique value proposition, and on a path to become a multi-million dollar company, have 50+ employees or be investable in 3-5 years.

Stage of Development
Companies have demonstrated proof of concept (existence of a problem, market readiness and an MVP) and are prepared to leverage a $50K grant to scale the business.

Applicants must have at least one full-time founder living in NC. 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 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).

Companies that have revenue in the last 12 months of more than $250K 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 $250K 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 scale to the point that it could raise institutional investment, win grants or increase revenue to ensure its continued growth and sustainability.

NC IDEA solicits SEED grant applications twice per year, usually in February and August. We typically receive 130-180 applications each grant cycle. Applications from eligible companies are reviewed by the NC IDEA team, investors and other partners in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. At the end of the initial application review period, companies are notified of their status and eligible companies receive specific feedback on their application. From each applicant pool, approximately 24 companies are selected to progress to the semi-finalist phase. Semi-finalists are given 10 days to complete an updated application allowing them to elaborate on information provided in their original grant application and incorporate feedback from the reviewers. Each semi-finalist also schedules a 15-minute phone interview with NC IDEA. Approximately 10-12 semi-finalists progress to the finalist phase to present in person to a group of 35-40 reviewers. Each company gives a 10-minute in-person pitch followed by 15 minutes of Q&A. Ultimately, 5-7 companies are selected and awarded an NC IDEA SEED grant.

View the SEED application and review specific dates and deadlines in the tab below.

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

NC IDEA SEED awards funding in the amount of $50K to innovative startups to support business activities that reduce risk associated with early stage companies and help companies grow and scale. Grant recipients work with NC IDEA to implement a timeline with impactful use of funds and meaningful milestones. Grant funds are typically released over the span of 6-12 months in separate milestone-based tranches. Prior to the release of each tranche, grant recipients report on their progress. In addition to funding, grant recipients also receive support from NC IDEA through mentorship, introductions and programming.

In addition to funding, grant recipients also receive support from NC IDEA through mentorship, introductions and programming, including:

  • 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 

TBA – Charlotte Info Session

TBA – Winston-Salem Info Session

TBA – Triangle Info Session

TBA – Wilmington Info Session

TBA – Asheville Info Session

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

TBA  – Fall 2024 Virtual Office Hours

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

September 20 – NC IDEA SEED Semi-Finalists Selected and Notified

September 30 – NC IDEA SEED Semi-Finalist Revised Application Deadline

October 25 – NC IDEA SEED Finalists Selected and Notified

October 31 – November 4  NC IDEA SEED Finalist Pitch Scrub Sessions

November 8 – NC IDEA SEED Finalist Pitches

November 14 – NC IDEA SEED 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
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