Grants of $10,000 and in-kind support to North Carolina startup companies to assist in advancing business ventures. Startups participate in an accelerator program that provides guidance and mentorship. The purpose of the program is to make a significant impact on the future success of startup companies.
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
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
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.
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; 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. Also excluded are businesses that are illegal in NC, even if legal in other states or countries.
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.
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 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 $50K are less likely to be considered.
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. However, founder and “friends and family” funding are considered 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.
The following companies are not eligible for NC IDEA MICRO.
- Companies in industries with high capital requirements and a long runway to commercialization, such as pharmaceutical companies
- Event venue and management companies
- Traditional staffing agencies
- Consulting practices or agencies
- Training companies
- Television/film production companies
- Local, service-oriented small businesses (i.e. restaurants, retail stores, catering, cleaning companies)
- Other “lifestyle” companies
- Businesses that are illegal in NC, even if legal in other states or countries
- July 21 – Info Session via WEBINAR
- July 24 – Triangle Info Session
- July 26 – Charlotte Info Session
- July 27 – Winston-Salem Info Session
- July 31 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Application Opens – Preview MICRO Application
- July 31 – Wilmington Info Session
- August 2 – Asheville Info Session
- July 21 to August 25 – Fall 2023 Virtual Office Hours
- August 28 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Application Deadline
*All applications must be submitted and received by 5:00pm EST – No Exceptions*
- September 29 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Finalists Selected and Notified
- October 9-19 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Finalist Interviews
- October 24 – NC IDEA MICRO Grant Recipients Selected and Notified
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. NC IDEA typically receives 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.