NC Idea Grant Opens Today for Entrepreneurs

August 12, 2013 at 6:31 AM

What Could Be Better Than Free Money?

We know that promises of “free money” are highly suspect. But, there is one exception: NC IDEA grants. Even better than “free”, an NC IDEA grant is “smart money”. I’ll explain, but first a few facts.

NC IDEA seeks grant applications from NC-based entrepreneurs and startups, and those looking to locate to North Carolina, for its fall 2013 Grant Cycle, which opens on today (August 12). Companies focused on software, information technology, medical devices or materials sciences are encouraged to apply at

NC IDEA generally makes five awards of about $50,000 in each grant cycle. The money is “free” because it is a grant, not an investment or a loan. The money is “smart” because the selection process is rigorous, includes substantive feedback for applicants, and provides great connections and visibility for winners.

At Ventureprise, we have worked with Charlotte area companies that have successfully competed for NC IDEA grants. Our observation is that winners are capital efficient meaning that they can build substantial businesses with modest cash investment and that they have the potential to grow rapidly and quickly. If your business requires a long and costly product development cycle, NC IDEA is not for you. If your business serves a strictly local or regional market, NC IDEA is definitely not a good match.

Persistence can pay off for NC IDEA applicants. Your first application may not be a winner, but you will receive insightful critique and feedback. We know companies that have acted upon the feedback, refined their business model, and won NC IDEA grants in a subsequent grant cycle.

How successful are Charlotte area companies in this statewide competition? In the early years (2006-2009), only 5% of the grants were won by Charlotte companies. Since 2010, however, local ventures have received 17% of all NC IDEA grants. Since there are usually five awards per grant cycle, we might expect on a Charlotte winner each cycle.

The NC IDEA program is worthy of consideration by early stage ventures. A $50,000 grant can be meaningful and the validation and connections may be worth more than the cash. The early application deadline is August 23 and the final deadline for fall cycle is September 6.

NC IDEA will host info sessions to give interested applicants an overview of NC IDEA's grant process and criteria, what NC IDEA looks for in an application, the types of companies eligible for funding and how to apply. To participate, sign up for the August 14 info session webinar (10:30 a.m., REGISTER HERE). Or, sign up for the Charlotte info session on August 16 (noon, REGISTER HERE). For more information, visit

-        Paul Wetenhall

About Paul:

Paul Wetenhall joined the Ben Craig Center May 2008.  Paul led the transformation of the Center into Ventureprise, the region’s conduit to entrepreneurial development.

Paul comes to The Ben Craig Center from High Tech Rochester, Inc. (HTR) in Rochester, New York where he served as President and Director. Paul started with HTR in 1997 where he launched and managed the Lennox Tech Enterprise Center incubator. As HTR's venture coach, he worked with over 100 start-up and early stage companies. He began his service as HTR's President in January 2004 and was responsible for all aspects of the organization's work, supporting innovators, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers in the nine-county Finger Lakes region. He worked closely with HTR's Board of Directors and with academic, economic development, government and private sector partners. Paul was an adjunct lecturer in entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester's Wiliam E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration and a regular guest speaker at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has been director of Odyssey Software, Inc. and a director of a statewide economic development initiative, New Jobs for New York.

Prior to joining HTR, Paul founded and was president of QSoft Solutions Corp., a business software company formed in 1993. In 1985, Paul co-founded Microlytics, Inc., a Xerox-funded software company formed to commercialize technology from Xerox' Palo Alto Research Center. As Chief Operating Officer and a Director, he managed rapid growth, mergers, Hong Kong manufacturing, and public company issues. Previously, he held a variety of management positions in pricing, marketing, and operations during 13 years at Xerox Corporation.

Paul is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering with Honor and earned a Master in Business Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Paul is not all work and no play.  When not mentoring entrepreneurs or speaking to city council, he is traveling to adventurous places; most recently Egypt, Jordan, China, Poland and the Ukraine.  He can also be found relaxing with his favorite Jazz station or attending a regional theater or dance performance with his wife.

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