We just received a CalSeed grant to build a platform for financing electric vehicles. Working with OpenGrants was definitely the way to go. Their expertise and support was invaluable to winning these funds, and our company is moving forward as a result.
Kevin Favro, Co-Founder, EV Life
We’re grateful that someone took a hard look at the unnecessary complexities of the grants market and decided to fix it. We value OpenGrants’ ability to provide us timely information on grants we otherwise wouldn’t have time to look for. This helps us provide relevant info to our startups, partnerships and Chicostart. We’re excited to pursue a partnership that will benefit our ecosystem in the future.
Eva Shepherd-Nicoll, Executive Director, Chicostart
OpenGrants is the best platform I’ve seen to find grants. This is a seriously powerful platform that makes grant funding accessible and easy to understand. I recommend it to everyone I meet who’s looking for grants.
The costs of writing and submitting a grant application—as well as your chances of winning—depend on many factors, including the program you’re applying for, the granting agency’s rules, your industry, the amount of the award, and whether you do it yourself or hire a grant writer.
As a very general guide, a $200K award might cost around $8K, a $500K award might cost around $15K, and a $2M award might cost around $30K.
One thing is certain—working with an expert improves your chances of winning by 3X. That’s why we curate a marketplace of talented freelance grant writers who can help guide you through your process. We also offer payment plans to help amortize your investment in a grant.
How do I know if I am eligible for grant funding?Sedale Turbovsky2020-09-20T17:53:09+00:00
There are loads of great resources out there to help you assess eligibility for the breadth of available grant programs. The fastest way is to sign up here. We will evaluate your situation and match you to eligible grants in five minutes.
The next best place is grants.gov. You can filter and search for federal grants and get a general idea of your eligibility. Once you find something that you think is a fit, you will want to download the RFP document, which is usually a PDF.
Inside, search for the eligibility section and read it carefully. NOTE: RFPs are updated and changed from time to time, so double-check with the listed program contact to ensure you are eligible before investing time and resources in an application.
Are grants the same as government contracts?Sedale Turbovsky2020-09-20T17:54:03+00:00
While a grant does result in a contract with the government, when people in the public sector talk about government contracting, they are not speaking about grants.
Governments all over the world contract out everything from laundry to national defense. Contracting can be a great way to land big customers with deep pockets. For all of your contracting needs, check out our friends at The Knowledge Stack!
No, they are not. Grants are a financial award typically given by the government or a charitable foundation. Tax credits are a deduction from Tax owning. OpenGrants is all about grants. To claim tax credits head over to our friends at MainStreet.
A grant is a method for the government to fund ideas and projects that provide public services, fuel innovation, and stimulate the economy. Grants support critical recovery initiatives, innovative research, and many other programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).
The grant process follows a linear life cycle that includes creating the funding opportunity, collecting applications, making award decisions, and implementing the award.
Grants are non-dilutive and do not need to be paid back.
There are billions of dollars in grant funding available from both public and private sources. Startups can typically expect to be able to compete for funds required to de-risk and develop early-stage, innovative technologies. Startups that are not science-based can often find funding for solutions that provide a public good or solve social issues. Awards can be as little as $500 and as much as $100M. Our average award size is $1.75M for science-based, innovation funding.
What are my chances of winning a grant?Sedale Turbovsky2020-11-05T21:30:05+00:00
The chances of winning a grant vary widely depending on how competitive the program is that you’re applying for, and how well positioned you are to leverage that funding. Some programs have a 10% win rate, while others may have an 80% win rate.
Experienced grant writers can outperform the average success rate by 50 points or more thanks to their familiarity with the nuances of the program, and their ability to navigate the paperwork.
The best advice we can give is to hire an expert who knows the program you’re interested in, or someone who can recommend a program you may not even be aware of. On average, hiring an expert will increase your chances of winning by 3X.
How long will it take to receive grant funding?Sedale Turbovsky2020-09-20T17:59:09+00:00
Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from 6 months to one year to receive federal funding. There are exceptions to that, but a good rule of thumb is to plan on one year for federal funding, which means you must strategize well in advance. Local and foundation grants may arrive significantly faster.
Vesto was founded in 2019 with the goal of creating a simple and easy-to-use digital banking platform powered by cryptocurrency. They’re now focused on banking-as-a-service to help financial institutions take advantage of blockchain and digital currencies.
Aaron Brown, Co-founder and COO:
There’s a lot of compliance that a financial institution needs to do, and blockchain provides a much higher level of security than typical databases. Being able to have financial products on the blockchain based on smart contracts is the next generation of the financial institution. We have collateralized interest income and loans based on the digital wallet holder’s balance. Blockchain really makes finance consumer-centric rather than institution-centric.
We have IP that we think is very unique. Regulators around the world are trying to figure out how to audit to make sure transactions are real. The grant that we just worked on with the help of a consultant we found on OpenGrants will be used to establish a technology that we patented, that allows for those regulators to successfully audit transactions.
To me, as a small business person, whether it’s grants or any other sort of bureaucratic regulatory issues, it’s difficult to become an expert. You’re the chef, cook and bottle washer in a small business. Partnering with a company like OpenGrants means you don’t have to understand all the nuances of how grants work, and you don’t have to go find the grants.
What I’ve learned is that it’s not just about having a grant writer, it’s also having someone who’s knowledgeable in the space and has connections and relationships with the state and federal governments that are providing the grants. Also, things move around and budgets change. Having an expert partner to be that resource, rather than having to learn and do it all yourself, is so useful.
OpenGrants helps to cut through the bureaucracy. It doesn’t feel like you’re working with a government entity. Those were nightmares for me going back 10 or 15 years. My goodness, the applications are ridiculous. OpenGrants cuts through all that.
The fact that OpenGrants help small businesses with this stuff was music to my ears because I’m a third generation small business owner, and if you can learn how to take advantage of free non-dilutive money, that can make all the difference. Especially because there’s a lot of money that people don’t even know they’re eligible for.
ChargeNet Stations' Story
ChargeNet Stations has built a software platform that integrates and optimizes EV Fast Chargers and solar and energy storage with point-of-sale systems at restaurants and retail locations.
Tosh Dutt, Founder and CEO:
We’re an early-stage, pre-revenue startup focused on electric vehicle charging, specifically for fast food, restaurants, parking lots, and retail spaces. Our innovation is optimal control of EV chargers and the ability to use restaurant operation data to charge at lower cost while generating more revenue for owners.
You have to integrate solar and batteries to be able to support the energy demand and the stress it puts on the grid, so we’re creating a modular solution that’s hardware agnostic and gives our customers the option to have us deliver the infrastructure, or to procure the infrastructure themselves through their existing procurement relationships.
It gives us the opportunity to say “Hey, we’ll take all these things, integrate them, and get them to make more money for you than if you did it individually with software that was designed for one particular technology.”
Where the grants come into play for us is that we’re trying to validate our technology, and we’re trying to get certain aspects of our solution developed a lot quicker than originally planned because there’s immediate need for it. Getting grant funding puts us in a position to scale faster and get a feature-ful product on the market a lot sooner.
There’s a lot of focus from the California Energy Commission on EV charging infrastructure, and a lot of money that’s been earmarked for these types of technologies. Even with the amount of players that are in the market, my understanding is that there’s still a challenge in spending the money because there’s so much of it. At the same time, they don’t want to just spend it on anything. They have very specific areas that they want to spend on.
In the experiences that I’ve had, grants are a bit of a black box. Certain agencies have very clear judging criteria, and others have none at all. You have to be hyper-focused on what to deliver, how to deliver it, how to say it, how to frame it, and how to present it, and that’s not necessarily something we have experience with.
Just looking at the five-page abstract that we got assistance with through you guys and Momentum, the way I would have written it would have been completely different than the way it ended up. The result of that is that we scored well compared to the rest of the folks applying. Now we have confidence in that resource to pursue the full application and have a fair chance of getting awarded the funding. It was a good experience.
EV Life's Story
EV Life is a fintech platform that uses incentive-based financing to save drivers up to $200 per month with an EV Climate Loan. The average American qualifies for thousands in EV incentives that take months to recoup. With an EV Climate Loan, EV Lifes apply a driver’s incentives upfront as a down payment on an EV loan so they can start saving the moment they drive off the lot.
Peter Glenn, Co-Founder, Marketing & Business Development…
We’re building a web platform that makes it easier for anyone to find and finance an electric vehicle. Switching from a gas car to an electric car can seem really tricky at times. There’s a lot of questions that customers have. And then there are all the incentives. A lot of people don’t know that in California you can get about $10,000 in incentives to buy an electric car. They come from federal, state, and local sources, like utility rebates. We pull all that together and allow people to “try on” an electric car and see if it’s a good fit for their life.
The innovation we’re building is a platform that allows customers to put those incentives on the hood of the car. Instead of waiting six to 18 months to get them back, we’re working with lending partners to offer loans that would allow you to save that money up front. That’s what we want the grant to enable. It’s basically seed funding to build the platform to make that possible.
I successfully applied for grants with other startups. I worked at a solar startup that was focused on solar for people living off grid in East Africa, so I was aware of how powerful grants can be, especially for funding a new product.
I would say the majority of EV grant funding out there seems to be directed toward charging, which is really important. It’s critical infrastructure that’s going to allow EV adoption to take off, but we’re not developing solutions that address that, so before we started talking with OpenGrants and other advisors, we weren’t sure if there were grants out there for us because we’re more focused on EV adoption.
OpenGrants was one of a handful of tools we used to search for and track grants. We actually went down some rabbit holes trying to apply for grants that were more for deep tech, like developing an algorithm that’s one-of-a-kind. We spent a lot of time going down rabbit holes that were not necessarily useful. Chatting with one of the experts we found on OpenGrants, and a couple of other advisors, helped us narrow down what was a fit for us and understand that those deep tech grants were not the best fit. We were trying to force a square peg through a round hole, and we actually had a chance to compete for other grants, like the grant that we recently won with the CalSEED grant from the California California Energy Commission.
We weren’t exactly what they’re looking for, but by working with the expert from OpenGrants and a couple of other advisors, we figured out the best way to present ourselves to win. A lot of that came from talking with people that had been there before, whether they’d won a grant, advised a team, or served as a judge.
Once we honed in on the opportunity to apply for, we cleared out a week of our calendars, and me and one of my co-founders hunkered down and spent a lot of time thinking about what we wanted to propose, and how we wanted to go about answering the questions. We also brought in the expert we found on OpenGrants. This person had been a judge for the grant before, and they were able to give us invaluable advice in terms of making sure that we had our metrics and language right, down to the verbiage to align with what the grantmakers were looking for. Having a guide who knew the grant making process was really key.
It was a good thinking process, too. For anybody who’s applied for a startup accelerator, like a Y Combinator, a grant like this is similar in that it asks important questions about your technology, your business, and your go-to-market strategy. Even if we didn’t win the grant, it would have been a valuable process just to force us to think about what we’re building and why.
I think a lot of people know this, but it doesn’t really register that it takes time after you apply. There’s an incubation period where you don’t know how you did, and there isn’t a strong feedback loop until you actually find out. Patience is a virtue in the application process because it could take several months before you hear back. Be prepared that it could take months or even a year between the time you apply and finding out. I have to say it’s been a worthwhile process though. Non-dilutive funding and the power it gives you to build while being in control of your own destiny is really powerful.
For other founders, the big piece of advice I can give is, whether you end up working with OpenGrants or finding your own advisors, I recommend not going about it on your own. Hustle to find out more and try to find people who can hold your hand. I don’t know if we would have gotten the grant if it hadn’t been for the feedback and counsel that we got from OpenGrants and other advisors who had been through the process before and helped usher us through it. Seek people who can provide advice and experience for that specific grant opportunity.
I’d also say, seek conversations with funders, even if they aren’t an exact fit for the grant you’re pursuing. Don’t be afraid to reach out and create personal connections with these folks, because it’s so important to form relationships. Sometimes you might actually be doing things that are so innovative that they haven’t developed an RFP or funding source for it, but after getting to know you, they might want to. So I would urge you to form personal relationships with grantmakers. Really try to get yourself out there. It’s a whole other realm of business development that I think is quite worthwhile.