August 30, 2019
Written by NC IDEA Program Director Amy Bastian

In conjunction with our current (Fall 2019) application cycle for NC IDEA MICRO and NC IDEA SEED, we recently wrapped up another round of statewide information sessions. (Friendly Reminder: Grant applications are due by 5:00pm on Monday, September 9, 2019!). By holding these info sessions, our goal is to reach entrepreneurs where they are while increasing the quality of applications. During our travels, we are usually joined by MICRO and/or SEED grant recipients in each host city who share their experiences as an applicant and grant recipient with the attendees. While NC IDEA has lots of information to share at these sessions, hearing from a founder who comes from the local startup ecosystem makes an impression.

Here are just a few of the tips shared by previous NC IDEA grant winners during our recent road trip:

  1. Have someone read your application before you submit it to make sure it is clear, concise and appropriately answers the questions that are asked. (We always, always stress this, so it’s nice when a grant recipient says it too!) You want the reviewers to have the information that they need to fully evaluate your application. You don’t want feedback that the application was unclear, confusing or distracting due to many grammatical/spelling errors.
  2. There is value in applying even if you don’t receive a grant. The application makes you think about and concisely describe the information that you will need in a business plan or in a deck you would present to partners or potential funders.
  3. Put the time into your application–and it does take time. 
  4. If you advance in the grant process, be prepared for direct feedback. This is especially true of the SEED pitch scrubs. This is where you have 90 minutes to practice your pitch and Q&A, and then the pitch coaches take apart and help you reassemble your presentation, slide by slide.
  5. Applying multiple times before receiving a grant is common. Let the reviewers know what progress you’ve made since the last time you applied.
  6. For SEED especially, make sure the LinkedIn profiles of all founders are up-to-date. It’s certainly helpful if they see the company listed that’s applying for the grant.
  7. If you become a grant recipient, take part in the programming and networking.
  8. If you are planning on pursuing the route of raising capital for your company, having non-dilutive funding early on is valuable. If you can use the NC IDEA grant to delay fundraising until your company has more traction, you will receive a better valuation when you do get to that point.
  9. For more tips, check out this webinar or slidedeck.
  10. For even more pointers and advice, we highly recommend listening to one of these podcasts – get inspiration from our CEO, Thom Ruhe and hear application best practices and mistakes to avoid from NC IDEA Senior Director, John Austin.

Finally, a big thanks to the following entrepreneurs who took time out of their VERY busy schedules to speak with the potential applicants at our info sessions: Jeanna Carr of Rent Assured (Winston-Salem); Fabio Ayala of Vizla (Charlotte); Jason Moore of EliteHRV (Asheville); Bernard Worthy of LoanWell (Durham); Keith Markfield and Aaron Rovner of Moor for Less (Wilmington), and Hal Atkins of Companah (Raleigh).

Good luck to all who are applying! And if you are not planning on applying, please share these tips with someone that you think might! Don’t forget, APPLY for the Fall 2019 grant cycle of MICRO or SEED by September 9, 2019 at 5:00pm EST!