NC IDEA pouring $1.175M into 9 entrepreneurship efforts

September 08, 2016

With grants ranging as high as $250,000, the NC IDEA Foundation is providing direct funding support for nine entrepreneurship programs across North Carolina.

The grants, which total $1.175 million, are the first in its new Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Partners program.

The recipients were selected through a “request for proposal process” and augment an early-stage startup seed grant program (up to $50,000). Since launch in 2006, these grants total more than $4.5 million and have been awarded to 109 companies. (The latest round of applications opened Wednesday.)

Winners include a new group focused an uniting angel investors across the Triangle’s three largest universities to programs in Charlotte, Catawba County and the Triad.

Thom Ruhe, who took over as CEO of NC IDEA earlier this year and led its change to become a foundation from a group focused strictly on economic development, says the new grants are part of the foundation’s plans to move beyond supporting startups to offering financial backing for organizations focused on boosting entrepreneurship.

“The seed grant program could be characterized as our Business to Consumer (B2C) strategy; namely us supporting entrepreneurs directly. Doing this also gives us great (unfiltered) insight into the entrepreneurial landscape of NC,” Ruhe explained.

“These grants represent our Business to Business (B2B) strategy; namely us supporting other organizations that serve entrepreneurs directly.

“One theory for doing this is to determine whether or not we can support more entrepreneurs in the aggregate by this mixed portfolio strategy vs. simply funding the seed grant program at a higher level. Time will tell if this is the way to go.”

Some 50 applications were received for the grants, and Ruhe says nearly 20 merited funding.

“Today’s announcement begins a coordinated effort to link the many great activities happening within the state to improve the economic potential of nascent firms,” Ruhe said in announcing the winners.

“From citizens to policy makers, society has a vested interest in helping more people succeed at pursuing their entrepreneurial aspirations.

“By working with the organizations that support a diverse group of individuals, we have a great opportunity to share and learn from one another, which ultimately serves the best interest of our communities and the economy.”

The winners

Grant winners include:

  • American Underground – $100,000 for STAMPEDE, an incubation program for consumer product companies
  • Catawba Valley Community College – $150,000 for StartHub NC, a three-part effort including: Innovation Fund NC, Entrepreneur in Residence program, and Talent JAM
  • CED – $150,000 for continued support of the Connections to Capital program
  • Duke – $150,000 for the Triangle Venture Alliance, a network of Angel Networks at UNC CH, NC State and Duke University
  • First Flight Venture Center – $100,000 for LiftOff, a non-dilutive funding support program for innovation-based companies
  • HQ Raleigh – $100,000 for HQ BAM, a multi-faceted incubation effort for entrepreneurs across the state
  • NC RIoT – $100,000 for events, training, promotion, and talent attraction statewide for the Internet of Things (IoT) sector
  • Ventureprise – UNC Charlotte $75,000 for Ventureprise Launch, a program focusing on customer discovery, business model generation, and related lean start-up methodologies
  • The Greensboro Partnership Entrepreneurs Connection – $250,000 for a multifaceted (multi-partner) start-up company pipeline development and a seed stage funding mechanism

NC IDEA, which recently took over operations of SoarTringle (a group focusing on female entrepreneurship), also offers support to startups through its Groundwork Labs program.

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