Step 1 : Apply and Learn

Our application process is as much about education as it is winning funding.

It’s no secret that many entrepreneurs have to apply to an Innovation Fund a few times before they get funding. This is actually a great thing because entrepreneurs learn something new about their business every time they apply. And any applicant who isn’t ready for funding is handed to a regional entrepreneur-in-residence who helps them adjust their business idea and re-apply. We’ve heard time and time again that applying for an Innovation Fund award is time well spent regardless of the outcome, because every time an entrepreneur applies their business gets better. 

Here’s what makes our application process different:
  • Our financial experts help you complete what's often times the most difficult part of the application—the financial workbook.
  • Even if you don’t get funding on your first try, you still walk away from the process with real-world tools and feedback to move your business forward.
  • Our regional entrepreneurs-in-residence will help you craft your presentation materials and pitch.
  • We’re always accepting applications (LCCC and MCC only) and you never have to “know someone” to apply. 
Step 2 : Accept Friendly Funding

Innovation Funds are the first place entrepreneurs go for funding because our money is geared toward their needs.

We’re a safe jumping-off point for anyone with an innovative technology or business idea. The most promising startups win some really entrepreneur-friendly funding ($25,000 for A award recipients and $100,000 to B award recipients) that is used to complete a specific project.

What makes our funding so friendly? We don’t take any equity. This is really big for startups, especially the companies that we invest in, since they'll have to raise more money after  us and our investment doesn't dilute their ownership. We don’t want equity. We just want companies to succeed.  

Here’s how our funding is different:
  • We are incredibly early stage. Not many funds are taking this kind of risk on small startups.
  • We don’t take any equity in your company. Plain and simple. 
  • The $25,000 is a grant, so it never needs to be repaid.
  • The $100,000 award does not need to be repaid if the company isn’t successful. (And if your company is successful you need only repay up to the award amount.)  
Step 3: Set and Reach Milestones

One of the most important pieces of an Innovation Fund award is the creation and completion of project-based milestones.

Every company that receives funding will need to set initial goals and benchmarks. The dissemination of money is tied to those milestones within the project, so entrepreneurs get portions of the funding as they meet their goals. This is one of the main ways we help companies use (relatively) small investments of up to $100,000 to make a big impact. 

This is how our milestone approach is different:
  • Entrepreneurs have a network of resources connecting their region’s entire entrepreneurial ecosystem. This helps them create achievable milestones and meet their goals for funding.
  • Our dedicated team of resources helps companies use the funding in the most impactful way. 
Step 4: Raise More and Give Back

What does success look like for an Innovation Fund portfolio company? 

Well, when an entrepreneur ends his or her $25,000 or $100,000 project, they should have moved their technology closer to commercialization and prepared their company to raise more money. If the entrepreneur received an A award, they should be ready to apply for a B award. If they received a B award, they should be ready to raise a Series A from angel and venture capital investors. Helping a company move from one level of successful funding to another level is what the Innovation Fund is all about. 

Helping others succeed is also at the heart of the Innovation Fund experience. That’s why we require all entrepreneurs to give back to the school by taking on student help and participating in educational activites. We call it Entrepreneurship Experiential Education and it helps create enhanced educational opportunities for students and faculty to bridge the gap between classroom instruction and the real world. We’ve learned that “returning the favor” is one of, if not the, most rewarding part of the Innovation Fund. 

Being an Innovation Fund portfolio company is different:
  • Entrepreneurs use their money to move closer to commercialization, making their companies more attractive to investors. Again, we don’t take any equity. So when you’re ready for subsequent rounds of funding you’re still in control of your business.
  • Entrepreneurs partner with students for the chance to learn first-hand what being an entrepreneur is all about.  

A Award Recipients ($25,000) 

Recipients provide an unpaid independent entrepreneurship project opportunity for a student for one semester (16 weeks) for 7 hours/week for a minimum of 112 hours, and participate in a group activity involving students such as classroom presentations, guest lecture series, group projects, etc.

B Award Recipients (Up to $100,000)

Recipients provide a paid entrepreneurship internship for a student for one semester (16 weeks) for 10 hours/week, at $10/hour, for minimum of 160 hours, and participate in a group activity involving students such as classroom presentations, guest lecture series, group projects, etc.

Funding options, requirements and resources vary between funding locations. Learn more by selecting a funding location.