Being a student entrepreneur is a tough gig.
It always feels like there are a million things you need to do at any given time ... and there are. Not least of which is securing early-stage grant funding in order to put your best laid plans into action.
As he does with many facets of life, John Mulaney captures the mindset of a student founder best:
Even just taking the time to identify relevant opportunities can be stressful. But it shouldn't have to be. That's why I've curated a database of funding opportunities that student entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for.
You can access the entire database here (filtered by open/rolling opportunities), but I wanted to take the time to highlight my Top 4 October Opportunities below. Check them out and feel free to share with a student entrepreneur in need. After all, you can imagine what kind of stress they are under.
1) Baylor New Venture Competition
Eligibility: All undergrads + graduate students (any accredited institution)
Prize Money: A pool of over $250,000 (!!)
Deadline: November 1st, 2020
The Baylor New Venture competition is one of the largest student entrepreneurship grant opportunities in the country. The 2020-21 academic year marks the 10th annual iteration of this competition - and it's not one to be missed. The grand prize winner will receive a whopping $50,000 non-dilutive grant, not to mention $100K+ in in-kind services. Additionally, the Top 10 ventures will receive at least $1,500 in cash and the Top 50 will receive $1,000 in AWS Promotional Credit.
In order to enter, you just have to submit a two-page executive summary by the deadline. The Top 50 teams will then be invited to submit a full 10-page business plan by January 4th, 2021. No matter what stage your venture is in, this is not a competition you want to miss. Shoot your shot!
Have more questions? Consult the Official Guidebook for the answers that you seek.
2) WBENC Cummins Grant for Black Student Female Founders
Eligibility: Black Female-Led Student Entrepreneurs (or graduated within last 6 months)
Prize Money: Grants between $2,000 - $6,000 (exact quantity of grants unspecified)
Deadline: October 23rd, 2020
>> Application Link <<
Black women are starting businesses faster than any other segment – in 2019, 1,625 new businesses were started by women of color every single day. Despite this, these businesses experience greater difficulties in securing access to capital and receiving funding to grow their businesses. That's why the WBENC launched the Cummins Grant for Black Student Female Founders.
The kickoff webinar will take place on October 7th (register here) and that opens up a two and a half week sprint to turn in the inaugural application by October 23rd. Other than being a Black female founder, the Cummins grant gives preference to businesses in the STEM field, those that address a sustainable future, and which have a demonstrated need for funds. Given that this is a brand new grant opportunity, in addition to having a narrower eligibility pool, the Cummins Grant may be the perfect opportunity to get a couple thousand of dollars for your student venture.
3) IFundWomen Idea Grant
Eligibility: Female founder-led teams
Prize Money: Six different $2,500 grants for idea-stage entrepreneurs
Deadline: October 31st, 2020
>> Application Link <<
In honor of National Women's Small Business Month, IFundWomen has launched a grant program geared towards idea-stage entrepreneurs in their member network (and don't worry - you can join their member network right now for free!) This grant is open to all female-founder led teams - not just college students - but it's worth keeping on your radar if you're looking to get some early stage grant funding for your concept. It can often be so hard to get that first grant because you're often competing against much further along ventures ... this is a great chance to get the ball rolling.
Additional criteria outlined on their website:
- Pre-revenue companies with a strong proof of concept/prototype
- Solving an interesting problem with an innovative solution
- Strong digital presence and visual media
- Must have a website & at least one active business social handle
Furthermore, when IFundWomen brokers a grant with a partner, they match the partner’s grant criteria to those businesses who have applied through their Universal Grant Application. If you’re a match, they may request that you apply for that partner’s specific grant program, and you will be notified. So it's a fantastic way to throw your hat in the ring for dozens of grants you may have never even heard of!
4) Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition
Eligibility: Black-founded companies from across the U.S. (headquartered outside of Silicon Valley, Boston, and NYC)
Funding: $2,000,000 in investment funding (winners will join Revoltion's Rise of the Rest Seed Fund portfolio)
Deadline: October 25th, 2020
>> Application Link <<
Revolution - the Steve Case-led network of funds - is dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs who operate outside of Silicon Valley, Boston, and NYC. Those three regions receive 75% of all VC funding, proving their slogan that talent is well distributed, opportunity is not. Revolution puts its money where its mouth is and has dedicated the vast majority of their resources towards empowering entrepreneurs who are innovating around the rest of the country.
While this opportunity is not open exclusively for college students, nor is it a non-dilutive grant, The Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition is too great of an opportunity to pass up. However, it's not for everyone. In addition to having a founding team member who identifies as Black, your venture should be in the place where you can make a realistic ask for a six figure investment and be ready to accept that investment should you be chosen as a finalist. This opportunity will culminate for its finalists on December 3rd with a $2 million dollar pitch competition - you don't want to self-select out of shooting your shot on that virtual stage!
Introducing: The Interactive Funding Database
Those are the Big 4 with October deadlines. Below are all of the rest of the open opportunities, along with eligibility, funding amounts, deadlines, and more. I recommend you click View Larger Version in the bottom right hand corner and use the filter features to sort through and find the ones relevant to you. This database will be updated monthly - in tandem with these blog posts - so feel free to bookmark and keep coming back.