How to Win Grant Funding for Your Startup
Hosted by OpenGrants CEO Sedale Turbovsky, this webinar covered the nuances of securing public funding and working with the government. You will learn how to find grant funding for your startup, evaluate opportunities, and develop relationships with government agencies.
In This 1-Hour Session, We Covered:
- How to prepare your company to receive grant funding
- How to find, win and manage grant funding
- Managing issues of IP, liability, etc when working with the government
- Managing cash flow with government grant agreements
- Accessing your civil servants
- Understanding the basics of submitting competitive grant applications
- How to know if grants are a good fit for your startup
- How to prepare your company to receive a grant
About the Speaker
Sedale Turbovsky is the CEO and co-founder of OpenGrants, a venture-backed startup focused on building modern infrastructure for funding. He has been an entrepreneur since childhood. After honing his leadership skills as an outdoor guide in his younger years, he started his professional career as an independent consultant focused on delivering data products and digital strategies to enterprise clients in South America. He is experienced in independent grant writing and public/private partnerships at the highest level, having worked directly with OpenGrants’ current strategic partner, Momentum.
Read the Transcription
Please note, this transcription is automatically generated and may contain some spelling and contextual errors.
All right folks, we’re going to get things rolling here. I have been working in the public funding space for about seven years. As a management consultant, I spent a lot of time building public funding strategies for companies, large and small seed stage tech companies up through, post, post series C and large corporations even and really became super fascinated by the role that government plays in deploying capital, supporting innovation, and also just how bad they were at it. Historically Silicon Valley itself was built on the backs of government contracts and government grants. And there’s a huge opportunity here, but there are a few things that lie in the way. And so our mission at OpenGrants is to really, bring back that golden age of partnering with the government building really productive public private partnerships, and turning out really incredible innovation that will continue to support not only startups and founders, but economic development in general and will continue to move the needle for all of us.
As we work together to solve really challenging problems. I was super inspired the other night as I was listening to the president’s address to Congress here in the United States and they talked about solving cancer. That’s a really great, it’s a really great and admirable goal. One of the problems that we’ve seen as we have unpacked this space is that, a lot of that cancer funding, it’s not getting to teams of scientists that are women or scientists that come from underrepresented communities.
And so there, there is really a lack of diversity, a lack of equity in this space. And that is what our team is focused on is making sure that we are investing as a government in the opportunities that really make sense. And so that’s a little bit about the company. Just wanted to give that high level kind of context for y’all and now dumping jump into the topic at hand, which is, Hey, grant funding, what is it?
How do we get it? And how can we get it more more efficiently and be better at leveraging this as a part of your capital stack. So for those of you who might not know, grant funding is non-dilutive capital, which means that you don’t have to give up ownership of your company in order to take that money on.
It also doesn’t require any repayment. So that’s really cool, right? There’s lots of non-dilutive capital out there, but most of it, me, most of it, you have to pay back eventually grant funding is effectively a gift. And so it sounds great, right? Why doesn’t everyone use it? Why isn’t it? The part of every capital stack for every founder out there?
The big problem. The application process can be super long. A lot of times founders don’t even know that the funding is available to them and managing the grant post award can be a real pain as well. So there’s these huge hurdles that have plagued founders for quite some time. And myself as a founder, four times over in my first startup, we funded with a grant and we actually had to hire an entire management consulting team to come in and deal with that relationship.
That’s how complex and and burdensome it was. And so I just want to give some context there as to, some of the potential challenges here, but also of course this is the cheapest money you’ll ever find for building your innovation and grants. They really are. They’re a lot more than just.
Funding. They are a huge opportunity for you to send up a market signal that says, Hey, we have been validated someone like the national science foundation, the us department of defense, the gates foundation. And, we can even talk about foundation grants today a little bit, if you want to someone really significant has seen fit to fund our company because we had this really great idea.
And so grants are not just, the non-dilutive capital is a reason. That’s the end of the list here. Grants are money, but there’s so much more than that. They are validation that you can demonstrate to your investors. You can demonstrate to your community. You can demonstrate to other, customers that Hey, someone significant believes in us and they’ve given us a bunch of money to do something with it.
Grants are also a sale, ultimately. Grant funding when it’s deployed it results in a contract, right? So you have signed a contract that you have sold something to either the government or this foundation is giving this grant. And sometimes it says minimal as just doing some reporting.
Other times you’re supposed to generate some outcomes, above, above all of that is it’s a sale. So that’s a big deal. Anyone who’s ever built a company and got their first sale, I’m sure you were just as stoked as I was the first time someone paid you money for some crazy idea that you came up with and hack together.
So grants are that. And then they’re hugely important thing above and beyond the capital is grants our relationship. So one of the really cool things that we’ve seen. Our companies, deploying capital or deploying their technologies using grant funding, and then ultimately selling, larger contracts that sort of follow on that initial relationship.
A great example is a really popular pipeline, of course, is the DOD where you can go and get some grant funding to do something interesting. And ultimately that leads to a relationship where the DOD purchases, your your technology or your solution. And that goes across the board, in California where we’re based, a really popular configuration is, Hey, we went out and we got grant funding to demonstrate, some new energy technology.
And ultimately then that really results in you being able to sell that to utilities and other folks who might be involved in that grant project itself. So not only is it the singular relationship with the funder, but frequently if you’re partnered up with a university or a utility or whoever might be.
Potentially demonstrating or supporting your research could be a national lab. Those relationships can really grow above and beyond what what is initially just Hey, this is a, a transaction of capital. So grants are much more than just this, just this non-dilutive source of capital.
And I think that’s really important. And I wanted to really bring that home for everyone. A natural progression of things. Where can you find grants? The first thing I’ll say here is that, full disclosure, open grants is a platform where you can find grant funding and we’re pretty proud of what we built and we think it’s very exceptional.
But there’s a lot of places you can find grants especially public grants. Funding from the federal and state and local government, that is all publicly available information. And I’ll flash up a few bits and pieces of a few logos in a moment here. But the first thing I want to say is, grant funded often people are just unaware that it exists for whatever they’re working on.
And they may think that it’s only for non-profits or they may think that, Hey, couldn’t possibly be for what we’re doing. And I just want to, throw this out there that, most of the time we find really great matches for grant funding for a variety of things, whether it’s, whether you’d be working with.
Sort of impact based impact focus, work. So maybe you’re trying to solve homelessness or educate educate children, what have you there’s also grants for really improving the improving the state of something. Whether that be supporting main street businesses with dishes, digitization, or improving the state of health care.
And then there are grants that I think are what people most typically think of when they think of grant funding, where the grants are specifically designed for research and development of new technologies and they’re science focused. So lots of different opportunities. And I wanted to bring this up because I think the first place that you can really find grants is reaching out to, other founders other folks who are working in what you’re working on and asking them especially if you’ve spent a lot of time in your industry, you probably know a few different, a few different.
Avenues to go pursue that grant funding. The next place that also, Google, it’s a great place to go look for grant funding. And then, here are. A bunch of different places where you can look for grants. So there’s a few government websites here that you can see grants.gov is probably the one that most people know about.
You may not know about beta Sam. That’s another place where you can find big government grant opportunities. America’s seed fund is powered by the SBA, as it says there that is specifically an NSF, a website where you can go and find all the SBR grant opportunities in that space. Grant station and instrumental are interesting.
Grant station is an aggregator of both state, federal and foundation grant funds. Instrumental specifically focuses on foundation grant funding, and then obviously the California grants.gov portal is grants for the state of California. Very similar to grants.gov. And then finally, and, full disclosure of course, that, we, I am CEO and founder here of open grants, but open grants is a free resource that you can use to look at all of this grant funding all at once instead of having to work through any kind of paywall.
Just want to throw that out there. It’s a really great resource. We’re very proud of what we built there and really excited about the fact that we’re able to provide it for free to founders and folks looking for funding because ultimately this is your tax money at work. Yeah, so lots of places to find great.
As you look for grant funding, a couple of things I want to bring up is, you want to get really specific grants are really great strategic funding. They are not good if you don’t know what you are doing. So if you have a specific program or a specific product you’re developing or specific research you want to accomplish, that’s where grant funding really comes into into play.
So as search for grants, you might think instead of searching, grants for startups that’s going to return a lot of very generic results. But if you search for, grants for companies doing economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa, then you’re going to find really specific results.
Or have you searched for grants for medical devices or grants for clinical trials for autism interventions. Then you can like really start to drill down. So the more specific you get the more. Success. You’re going to have when you’re looking for grant funding. And I just want to bring up this is an important distinction, right?
Is grants unlike venture capital and other kinds of non-dilutive money, where you can use it for whatever you need. It for grants are always tied to very specific outcomes. And as you’re looking for grants, you want to keep that in mind that you’re not going to go find a grant that’s like general operating capital for.
Although, with all of these things, I do offer the caveat that there are exceptions to basically everything I’m about to say in some cases, but you’re not going to go typically find grants that say operating capital for X, but you will find grants for, we want to solve homelessness for, the communities in the, in west Sacramento, California.
That’s a really specific outcome that, you could even get more specific. We want to find housing for 500 people who are currently unhoused in west Sacramento, California, so that. That’s the level of specificity you want to get to, as you’re looking for grant funding and a corollary to that is that you want to, as you look at grant funding, this is not a funding source that moves quickly.
It is not a funding source that comes with. Restrictions typically. And so you want to think of grant funding in your capital stack as a strategic move, to advance specific efforts forward, not as, not the same way that you’d go out and get a line of credit or a loan or a or venture capital grants are really specific to accomplish really specific things.
That’s, in a nutshell, as you’re looking for grants, the first thing you want to do in a similar way to how you plan out going after venture capital is you want to define the things that you’re going to use that capital for very specifically. And then you’re going to want to look for alignment between what you’re trying to accomplish and what the public sector or the funder funding entities trying to accomplish.
And that’s really important. We’ll talk about that a bit more in a moment here. These are just some notes on places you can look for grants. And I’m just going to keep going ahead. So after, after you’ve gone through the process of planning and finding that grant, how do you become successful?
I want to speak to just real quickly, once again, in, in my career, I worked on a team that over, over about eight years developed five, $5 billion in projects value using grant funding and the team, we had a 99% success rate which is an interesting number to say. It sounds way more impressive.
Then it actually is. And the reason for that is that, what we knew going into any project is whether or not it would be successful. And then we would just not write projects that we thought would be unsuccessful. And that sounds a lot simpler than it actually is. And I want to go over some of the rules and the kind of methodology that we pursued in order to do that.
And there’s two main, there’s two main buckets here. One is you need to be successful. You’d need to follow the rules. What that means is typically when there’s a grant solicitation. So when there’s a request for proposals and sometimes it doesn’t, it’s sometimes there’s funding opportunity notices.
Sometimes it’s another acronym, but typically it’s an RFP or an FOA or some kind of G F O when there’s a request for grant proposals that gets put out there, it comes in typically a document that’s anywhere from 30 to 180 to 380 pages of information. And it’ll be background on why they’re doing it and what they want to see out of it.
And there’s just like this big, thick document full of rules. And funnily enough, Every time and it doesn’t matter. Who’s doing it. Every funding cycle, we would see companies, big ones, big, McKinsey, Deloitte, these, the level of companies that would submit applications that just got disqualified for not following the rules.
So the first thing that you want to do to put yourself on an even footing with everyone else who is competing for grant money is be really good at reading these documents closely and following the rules sometimes. The sometimes the instructions are specific as what size of gutters you can have on your pages and what font you can use.
And the reason for this the agencies will always say, oh, we reserve the right to, bring a proposal forward. Even if it didn’t follow the rules, but you gotta, you have to put yourselves in the shoes of these civil servants that you’re trying to secure money from, or the foundation folks as well.
They’re looking at thousands of applications, they need to make decisions quickly, and they’re looking for any reason to throw stuff away, to just access it. And when you give them that out with, by not following the rules, they take it right away every time. And so that’s like the first thing that’s going to put you on puts you on a good footing and get you above, at least 50% of the applications that come in is just following all of the rules.
That’s the first thing that will make you really successful in terms of accessing grant funding is being really good at reading closely understanding the rules and then following them. The interesting thing about following the rules is it puts you, it doesn’t put you above anyone else. It just puts you on an even footing.
And so this next part is really that, that where in the nuances and the opportunities to, to score really high and be successful. So the rules that give you a, they literally give you a scoring rubric and they tell you, Hey, this is worth X amount of points. This is where the X amount of points.
So as you read through that, The first thing you need to do of course is follow the rules. But the next thing you need to do is understand how to answer questions and how to align incentives with your funding partner. On a level that really helps them, feel really confident and excited about funding, your project and this this second point of being a good partner is really where the art of grant writing comes in.
I’d say that the rule following is all about the science of grant writing. So you’re, you’re being organized, you’re filling out documents. You’re making sure you have all your forms filled out. But the second thing of being a good partner, and I’m just going to forward over here to our full process here.
Being a good partner starts from the very beginning with doing your research, understanding who is giving out this capital, why they’re doing it, what their strategic goals are moving forward. I’ll tell you that as a consultant, we spent a lot of time just meeting with people who were giving, who were deploying grant funding to understand why they were building the programs in the first place, what kind of things they were looking for, how they were, thinking about applications and thinking about solutions to the problems they were interested in solving.
So really understanding that ecosystem is really important. And and alongside the research aspect is, and I’m going to skip from one to four here alongside that research aspect is this part, this idea of being a partner The title of most of these people above and beyond whatever other titles they have is civil servant.
They’re there to serve you and they have a really hard time doing their jobs, unfortunately, and it’s not really through fault of their own, the government for, unfortunately it doesn’t have a lot of great tools to engage industry and engage their stakeholders and they rely on the stakeholder groups to provide them feedback and input so that they can do their jobs better.
Both in terms of deploying capital as well as rulemaking and deploying services. So if if you can imagine the plight of one of these individuals who is, trying to support economic development, for example, and they’re trying to understand the businesses in the region and what’s going on and what they need.
And they have these really helpful companies that are showing up at all these meetings who are providing them information and helping them understand the problem that they’re trying to solve. And then there’s all these other companies who only show up for grant funding, but never come to the meetings and never submit any information when it comes time to deploy the capital guess who gets funded.
I, it’s very obvious. It’s the folks who are at the table, who are being good partners who are providing inputs. And so this is something that I think, if you take anything away from our conversation today, I hope it’s this, that as entrepreneurs and founders, It not only does it behoove you to go out and build these relationships, but it really is important both for the success of just democracy.
But also for the success of your company to, to really inject yourself into this space. I think a lot of times it’s something that we gloss over as investors and as founders, especially in the tech world we gloss over sort of regulatory things because we don’t really need to think about them until we’re a lot bigger, one of the, one of the things that I’m very.
On and bullish about when it comes to grant funding is the opportunity that you have at an early stage to take your unique lens, to whatever issues you’re solving and bring that to government. Because ultimately those are the folks who are going to be funding and moving these industries forward.
They’re the folks making the rules. You can see it right now with crypto, right? You can see it happening around the world with other things like transportation and mobility. These are markets that for better or for worse, get driven by government. Being a partner involves much more than just showing up and following the rules.
It means providing value to the agencies, really engaging with them. And there’s a ton of great resources out there. I’m highly recommend. If you have no idea where to start, I highly recommend checking out two organizations. One is called engine and one is called the center for American entrepreneurship and highly recommend checking those out.
If we don’t get those links in the chat today we can even send out some emails about them, but they’re incredible groups. They specialize in advocacy and support for startups and they are they’re a great jumping off point as you look to build out these relationships. Doing your research.
First and foremost oh, and it looks like we have someone from the center for American entrepreneurship in there. I’ll just repeat these real quick. Cause I saw them pop up the center for American entrepreneurship and engine incredible groups and they can really start, start you down the right path with some of this stuff.
So doing your research starts out, understanding, aligning yourself with those goals, following the rules. And then finally, the other thing that’s really important as you are communicating with these agencies and building rapport is to just be really honest. I know this sounds like a basic sort of, schoolyard counsel, but be honest, don’t lie, don’t front use clear, concise language, make really human connections because these are ultimately human beings who are driving this process forward.
And they, they want to feel like they’re doing a good job. They have a lot different incentives than you’ll find in the corporate America. Do the work to understand what’s going on to be a good communicator and to tell a story that’s really gonna move the needle for them.
And in that context you’re going to want to. And then, wrap this all together, right? So once you have all of these pieces of the puzzle, this all gets distilled into a, a concise application that goes in and hopefully you get funding and I do want to bring up two other points and then I’ll open it up for some questions.
First is, if you’re not successful, there’s a couple of really important things. You should do. One, you should reach out and find out why and frequently they’ll get, you’ll get lots of good feedback and you’ll get an opportunity to reapply. And the second thing is. The exercise of organizing not only your startup, right?
So there’s, as you look at the following the rules aspect, there’s a lot of things you may end up needing to, or need to organize, including your accounting. You might end up needing time tracking for all of your employees. You might need to really revamped some of your HR and put in some really important policies.
You might need to formalize some of your relationships. You’re definitely gonna need to go out and register for things like a DUNS number and a Sam number for any kind of federal funding on the foundation side, not so much, but there’s a lot of things you’re going to end up needing to do as a founder that will help you build a better and more robust and resilient company.
And so those are, those are some of the other reasons on top of the other things I’ve mentioned why I think that grant funding is just such an idea. Funding source for founders and for folks in this space. So I’m going to go ahead and open it up to some questions. I’m going to first pass it over to Kate Newton, who is our head of partnerships here.
And see if there’s any questions that you saw come up Kate, that I should address first and then happy to go through. Whatever’s been submitted via chat, and then maybe we can open it up with Mike’s as well. Sounds like a plan. We did have a couple of questions come through. One of the ones that got the most was will there be a recording?
The answer is a yes for everybody. If you RSVP to this event I have your email and I will send it out after the event. Couple ones that came up Taryn asked a little while ago. Are there any stipulations on types of industries that can receive grants? He’s asking specifically, for example, they have a startup in the alcoholic.
Sure. So there are definitely restrictions to different kinds of money. Federal funding, for example, frequently alcohol is like a no-no. There could be foundations that are super interested in that for whatever reason. A lot of times it has to do a lot with what kind of impact you’re doing and what you’re what you’re accomplishing.
So one of the places that I’ve been seeing really cool stuff is one of my friends is a one of my friends works for maps, which experiments with using psychedelics to deliver therapy, therapeutic solutions to veterans. They can’t get really much federal funding, but they get lots of foundation funding.
And so as explore as you explore solutions for your startup, in terms of that kind of capital, you might look at alternative alternatives to federal funding, especially if it happens to be a controlled substance or something like that. And as you’re putting the boon booze, we had another one, we had one from Elliot.
I’m wondering what’s a good way to estimate the time and costs required to apply and get government wise, the government moves really slow. Once again, this is good strategic money. If you need capital to pay payroll next weekend, this is a bad place to go looking. So a good rule of thumb that we’ve always had for government grants is six months to a year.
So unfortunately they do not move very fast. Foundation funding can go a bit quicker. Awesome. And then Andrew had a question and this was another one that, that comes up a lot. Is this mostly just for folks based in the U S or U S markets and problems? He’s asking, cause they’re aiming to solve some global problems and projects that could be implemented anywhere in the world.
Yeah. So a lot of federal funding, especially is focused on the United States. However, the United States does maintain robust missions to other parts of the world. So there’s a lot of USAID and other U S economic development money, primarily that goes outside of the country in the form of grants.
And then there’s foundations that work globally, of course. On our platform, we have all kinds of opportunities from people like gates and Sloan foundations to federal. And we do address both federal and foundation funding. Awesome. And I guess the other part of that is if you’re not based in the us or, what kind of, is there any money that might be available to you to get access to you?
Yeah. Lots of capital for companies, not based than us. However, typically it’s in the form of USA, economic development money. And often those are programs that are actually administered by the embassies themselves. So there’s opportunities. It’s a little more complex. One thing that we’ve seen a lot of interestingly enough, during the pandemic is Canadian companies coming to the United States for research grants.
Canada really did a deep dive on and allocated a lot of capital to solving COVID. And there was a lot of companies that, of course then missed out on some of their research funding. So they came here and there’s some really interesting partnering work arounds to that. One of the best ones of course, is to partner with a university or a research lab that’s based in the United States.
And then they can use the money to do the research and you get to participate of course and do your project.
We have a question from Megan here. Is there a good checklist available to make sure you have completed all the necessary requirements before you submit your proposal? I really so that checklist will be inside that RFP. And the reason I say that is, unfortunately there’s not a lot of standardization in grant funding.
However open grants is rolling out a beta in the coming months called open capital where there will be a standard checklist for all of the grant funding available through that platform. But for the time being the best checklist you will find is within the RFP and it is different for every agency and it’s it’s even different between the different programs within agencies that have different checklists.
It’s quite frustrating. And I wish there was a better answer, but that’s the best that I can say. All right, we have another one from Raj here. What are the best practices around applying for and D for higher chances to secure multiple grants simultaneous. So there’s some things to unpack there.
One thing is if you apply with the same project to multiple federal agencies, it’s actually a felony and you can get arrested and blackballed and find lots of money. So don’t do that. However it’s, that’s like fraud basically, and they do not like it. However, if you want to say you have a research project that’s fairly complex or a development project or an impact project that’s complex and there’s multiple stakeholders and multiple things you’re trying to accomplish.
Sometimes agencies actually do enjoy like the ability to leverage capital. So if you can go get money from the USDA and get money from a local government and get money from another federal agency to do economic development, and maybe some of that money is going to buy land. And another bit of that money is going to educate the community.
And another bit is going to, you can put together these very comprehensive projects and the government does like to see those. So that’s a good best practice is to think about ways that agencies might be able to collaborate and stack capital. That being said, there’s also agencies that actively say you can’t do that with their money in particular.
So there’s a lot of navigation and strategy work to approach that. But I think the best thing to say is build those relationships out and talk with the agencies because they talk amongst themselves as well. And so they can help you understand that.
Maria has a question for those practice in federal and foundation grants, looking to step out on their own, what are the best types of seed grants available for starting in grants, writing and consulting business? So there are a variety of programs out there. This is a cool question because the federal government in particular actually provides funding to educate folks about how to navigate some of these programs.
Some of the more complex programs, especially so a lot of HUD and like housing and urban development programs are quite complex and onerous to the point that they really provide funding to train people on how to navigate those programs. This is the best way. The best answer I can give you here is to go.
You can go look and it really depends on the space. You’re trying to have an impact then. Nice. Doug is wondering, are cannabis adjacent businesses eligible for grant funding? I believe that’s the question. Once again, this really depends on what you’re doing. If you’re doing research then yes. If you’re just like opening a dispensary or trying to move money around, then maybe if, maybe on the FinTech side, definitely not on the dispensary side.
It really depends on what you’re up to. Yeah, a lot. A lot of it’s depends the name of the game here. Another question here, how do you approach getting foundation funds? And many say you shouldn’t go after unsolicited proposals. Yeah, that’s a tough one. So for example a lot of foundations don’t even accept unsolicited proposals, so they reach out and fund people.
And this goes back to doing your research and being a partner similar to the government foundations tend to exist within their own little like space. And they fund a lot of people just within their network. One of the things that open grants helps with is we do have a really cool marketplace full of consultants who bring to the table.
A lot of these relationships, both on the federal and foundation side. So if you don’t have any ends to some foundation, a consultant who does have those ins can be the answer. But yeah, just getting on the foundation side, especially getting really good at networking and telling your story is the best advice I can give Yeah, that’s the, the best way to do it.
Amanda’s wondering, is there a cap for how many grants you can receive? Typically, no. Just generally speaking, no there’s there’s different sort of requirements. So if your company grows really huge, you might no longer be eligible for funding, but the team I work with helped get Amazon grant funding.
So everything, I would say there’s no cap. No. This is a question more about our tool at Oakland grants. Do we help finding foundational and federal opportunities? And if they have a foundation in mind, do we assist in making any of those roles? Yes. So we do track both federal and state and foundation funding as well as local grant funding.
Although I’d say our local grant funding dataset is a little bit light but we have really great coverage on federal and state and foundation funding. We not only will help connect you to the right kind of grants and navigate that space. But as I mentioned, there’s also a marketplace where you can go and actually you can go and get connected to a grant writer or grant consultant who can help you build the relationships.
Do all of these things we talked about, right? So the kind of your options really right, are you can DIY it and tackle it that way. Or you can hire an expert who can do everything from, they could just help point you in the right direction and just be like, hanging out with someone like me for an hour and helping you like go deep on questions.
Or, maybe you want to hire someone to do everything for you. Nice. Eric has a question around finding specific grants in his field. He has a innovative photo business, how to go finding grants related to photo arts. So this is about finding grants in your field. Yeah, the best place.
So generally speaking, if you are in a specific industry, you can reach out to whatever group might organize information for your industry. So if there’s some kind of union or lobbying group or consortia around your industry, those are always a good places to reach out to because they have once again, lots of experience specifically to your question, the other place for the arts is just the national endowment for the humanities.
They’re really cool. And they fund all kinds of interesting art projects. Nice. Jessica is wondering how we provide services for actually getting the grants. And what fees, how do we get started? Maybe a good time to talk a little bit about more about our marketplace. Yeah, so the marketplace we’ve been talking about is exactly that it is a marketplace of vetted and curated experts who will help you dive in and understand your opportunities.
They’ll propose something to you and you can then choose to engage with them or not. Just every other sort of engagement with a consultant, right? How the marketplace functions right now and there is a pretty significant update coming, but other marketplace functions right now, as you can get into the open grants platform, you click on a button that says apply and there’s a $99.
And the marketplace is within the open grants platform. There’s a $99 fee that is reimbursable. If you choose not to work with that, but it’s basically a credit, right? So you put down a deposit for $99, but connects you to an expert. You meet, you discuss, they submit a proposal to you within a few days after that.
And if you decide you want to work with them, that $99 gets credited to your account. If you decide that, Hey, this isn’t a good fit, or we don’t want to move forward, we reimburse you that money. So that’s how it functions right now. Full transparency, open grants takes 20% of what is paid to those to those consultants.
And we No, we help facilitate those transactions and make sure everything’s running smoothly with the platform. But the consultants are all, private contractors. They do set their own rates and choose the projects they want to work on. And they have all been through some form of interviewing and review by our team to ensure that they are of the highest quality.
One of the really important things. One of the really important qualities we look for in fact with these consultants is that they will say no, instead of just taking any old project that’s really important. It’s the reason that they have the success rates they do is because they also know when a project is not going to succeed.
So they’re not out there to just take your money and shoot a shot. They want to they want to see it go forward and succeed. Fee range. These are premium folks that we’ve recruited out of places like Deloitte and Booz Allen. We’ve recruited them out of the agencies themselves.
We recruited them out of consultancies. So they tend to be. Between about 103 hundred $90 an hour. I’d say the, I’d say the median cost probably is right around one 50 an hour.
All right. We have a question from Frank here. You mentioned engaging with the funders before and during the process of seeking grants. What are some strategies to engage with the funders? The big one is to look at the funder and see what ways you can deliver value. So government agencies is pretty straight forward because typically they’ll put out opportunities for public comments.
They’ll put out opportunities for even public meetings about the grant program. And even if you know everything and you literally have no questions, those are opportunities for you to make your voice heard and support what they’re doing at the very least. So highly recommend, as a first line of kind of engagement is participating in those projects.
So if there’s a survey, if there’s an opportunity for public comments published in the federal register or on a state website respond as a consulting team in my past career, we would submit like three to four pages of really well-organized comments about things, even though there’s probably unnecessary and over the top, it, it provided some value hopefully, but also just, got our name in front of these people who were, deciding on this funding.
The other way to support them is just to look at what problems they’re solving and try to educate them, help them do better at their job. Submit information send them the occasional thing, have a meeting with them and ask them, Hey, what is going on with your space?
How can we be helpful? Just be a good once again it’s all about being a good partner and providing some value and there’s, get creative with it. We’ve done all kinds of really interesting approaches. Everything from creating like little educational videos to do internal education for a department about a new technology that they didn’t understand in the government space to just, taking folks out for coffee or whatever.
So you had a clarifying question here from Elliot around evaluating the cost and time requirements needed to apply for a grant. If he has a veteran has a limited time to spend, he needs to know how much time money he would need to devote to the process initially, any tips on that front. So I’ll just try to address this.
Generally speaking if you’re going after anywhere from 250 to about 1.7, $5 million in grant funding, and this is typical is you’re looking at anywhere from. 30 to 40 hours of really like solid like work, like where you’re flowing. And that might be more or less depending on the opportunity and depending on how organized you are.
So a big part of this is if you’ve never written a capability statement and you probably will need one for a lot of grants, then you’re going to need to write that. If you don’t have a clear idea of what your direct and indirect costs are, you need to work with your accountant to then probably figure that out.
So depending on how organized you are, there’s a big range. But I would say typically, if there’s a 40 hour project and the consultant is doing all of the heavy lifting, then the founder and the founding team can expect anywhere from three to five hours a week of kind of engagement in order to support that process for the consultant.
And they’re probably not working full-time so that’s, a kind of a good rule of thumb that we’ve seen on our platform over the last. But it really does vary heavily, right? We have some teams that are highly technical and they’ve hired a highly technical consultant and together they have to collaboratively put in a lot, the same amount of hours to work on these really deep tech science-based, formula and they’re building a research plan and they’re building methodologies and they’re really diving in deep, if you’re trying to buy a house somewhere to house some homeless folks, it might be a lot less.
And there’s some applications that literally are just about filling out some paperwork. Others are about telling a very complex story. So there’s a huge variety of huge variance in terms of the time commitment. Yeah. And he, I saw he followed up in there. Would that, with the fee range, is there a typical number of hours it will take?
And I think, the answer is still that it varies, but when we get questions like this, I think having an initial meeting with a consultant can be really valuable if you hire them or not, because they’re going to be able to scope out that project and give you a sense of how much time and money it’s going to take whether you do it on your own or whether you hire them.
So I think that’s usually a really good place to start. But hopefully we answered that question. Elliot, feel free to chime in some more if we didn’t get the whole thing. And there are a lot of questions here and we’re going to try and get through as many as we can. So feel free to, if you want to move on and cover some slides, let me know, and we can loop back.
If for any reason we don’t get to your question please reach out to us and we will follow up on it and make sure you get the answers that you need. Popping back up here. Corey is wondering what is the best approach as a founder to start cultivating relationships with government agencies that oversee the grant.
Yeah, this is a great, this is, I tried to touch on this a bit earlier, but I think that and once again, I think this is probably the most important thing you can take away from today’s session. You should be building relationships with the people who are developing rules and policy around whatever you’re doing.
And while it might seem really early, I like once again, I really do think for founders, especially, this is a huge opportunity for you to build really significant relationships with people who can, not only help you advance, whatever things you’re working on, but also you can really design funding that will support your business strategically over the next few years.
There are a lot of strategies to this, but, first and foremost is figuring out who is doing what, so if you’re working on technology for robotics, like what agencies are even interested in that and what are they doing with it? And then figuring out who the leadership is there and building those connections, one thing that is a really easy, especially even now as the pandemic is still in there’s lockdowns and other things still in effect.
It’s been really easy to schedule time with these folks. I’ve been able to meet with the heads of several federal agencies that probably would have taken me a lot longer in the past to get on their calendar. But since there’s not like fleets of lobbyists hanging out all day It’s been really easy to access these folks and build relationships.
First of all, I was doing the research, figuring out who it is, and then setting up a meeting. And most of the time they have to take meetings with you since you are a part of their constituency. If you’re not feeling like you’re getting any traction you might think about reaching out once again to people like engine or the center for American entrepreneurship.
And I might be able to pull some levers for you, the other place or, help you develop a deeper strategy. The other place that you should reach out to of course, is your local kind of congressperson. So you’re definitely in their constituency and their office can help you navigate at other levels of the federal and state government.
And that’s kind of part of their job. So that’s the other resource that is often very undervalued or under utilized. And that’s a good place to start is figuring out who your local elected officials are reach out to their offices and get some meetings.
Awesome. Pep is wondering if USAID has grants to combat global climate change. And if so, who do you apply? So there are USAID grants. Typically they are once again, focused around economic development. There are sort of climate change lenses to some of these projects. And you will often, so USA typically I’ll just give this kind of a real briefly USA typically ends up going to some sort of NGO with boots on the ground.
That has a pretty solid history. We don’t see like a lot of diversity at all in terms of the recipients of USAID packages. So typically when they’re out, you see them go and, exactly, who’s going to pick up that package of funding. A good strategy. If you want to use some USAID money is to really figure out the NGO.
That’s typically taking those packages and and get on, get build a relationship there and work with them because there’s a lot of, different sort of operating requirements for USAID. And it can be a bit hefty to now.
Yeah. Michael is wondering he has a non-profit business accelerator to help other startups expand internationally. His question is around, are there grant opportunities to deploy into portfolio companies? Is that a thing for accelerators? Yeah. Yes, but probably not in like the VC sense of deploying capital for your portfolio.
But there’s certainly non-dilutive grant funding that your portfolio companies can get. And that’s actually something that open grants does is we partner with accelerators frequently and help them deliver this kind of intelligence to the portfolio company itself. And Kate is a master of structuring those things.
Andrew’s wondering where you would direct someone that might be a good candidate for a marketplace. Please feel free to send them over to our website or put them in direct contact with us and that’d be great, but there’s a sign up. If you go to opengrants.io, that’s a great place to send someone.
Grant funding is not free money. There’s a pretty significant opportunity cost. However, it is the cheapest money that he will ever find for your company. It also represents a really cool opportunity to build significant relationships, the government, however, it does require. Organized, and it requires thinking very strategically about funding.
Those are the big takeaways. I hope you can bring away from this. And I will also say that in all of this, please do not sign a contract with the government or anyone else without having your attorney review it. I’m not gonna say anything else about IP or anything other than to say that you need to hire an attorney and have them look at this or have a good friend.
Who’s an attorney one or the other, but definitely have an attorney look at this stuff before you sign it. And to be clear, you haven’t signed anything when you’ve submitted a grant proposal. So that’s all good. So submit a way without any fear. However, when you get that contract and they actually give you the money, that’s when you’re signing some things.
And so be sure to have an attorney review it before you just agree to take money from anyone.
Always good lawyer advice. Generally John is wondering after our beta in California, when can we expect the open capital platform to be expanded? This is a bit of a new initiative, but do you wanna speak to open capital? Sure. Yeah, we’re really excited about it. Effectively what we’re doing is pioneering a new way to get grant funding that is both efficient and only requires a single application and then connects that application to all of the various funding sources that are out there.
So think of, instead of having to apply to NSF and NIH and DOD and gates foundation, you just submitted one application and all of those folks gave you money for whatever reason. So really excited about open capital and the beta that we’re rolling out. We will be piloting it with a few communities here in Northern California.
We expect to have wider kind of national deployment in Q4. But here in Q2 we’ll be focused on Northern California, probably expand out to California at large and then probably target a few specific kind of pilot communities across the United States, before a national rollout towards the end of the year, stay tuned.
Does the grant typically cover R and D only, or sales and BD as well, what congrats cover entirely depends. There’s grants for all of those things, but it depends. This is a good question. Are there any public records of successful grant applications in previous rounds of funding for a specific grant?
Yes. That’s a great question. On the topic of doing your research, this is definitely something to do depending on the agency. Yes. You can typically go find past applications, download them and look at them. That’s, something that they’re a matter of public record, so you can go request those.
If they’re not published somewhere that you can download them directly.
Ali’s wondering which grant providers are more suited for EdTech for-profit startups. It’s already got an MVP patent and working with. SBAR is probably the best for profit startup focused grant program. And then from there, it’s once again about doing your research, it really ed tech.
Doesn’t really describe if you get really specific in your saying, Hey, we’re educated, educating educating adults and helping up-skill adults into digital economy jobs. That’s a whole different department than, Hey, we’re educating children about the dangers of smoking.
Ag tech is a really big space, of course. And depending on what you’re tackling, you’re going to find the alignment with different agencies that are doing different things. Yeah. And then looping back to Doug’s question here. This was the canvas adjacent product their grow lights energy efficient row light manufacturing.
Would that be. Counted out as associated with the cannabis industry or might that be a good, yeah, I’ll tell you two things, Doug. One on the subject of being real, of course you want to be honest, however, sometimes too much honesty is very bad. So if you have energy efficient lights that grow things, maybe don’t tell people you’re growing cannabis with them.
However, if they’re specifically designed for cannabis crops, then you know you probably not going to get a lot of play from the federal government state of California actually has a lot of really cool energy, efficient ag focused programs. So the California energy commission might be might be very receptive to that.
Phillip was wondering, do you know how complex it is to get funding with power Africa or DFC for projects in Africa and whether one needs professional help with their grants?
I’m not personally familiar with those programs. I know that there are a couple of really incredible consultants on our platform that are and encourage you to reach out to them. I unfortunately had, I’m not familiar with those programs myself.
Do we have any attorneys that we recommend for government contracts?
Not specifically I recommend attorneys who have experienced with government contracts, so that is an important nuance that you can, you can certainly find attorneys who don’t spend a lot of time in this space and wouldn’t know, wouldn’t know what to tell you about this space, but typically.
All right. Thank you everybody. We will see you all in the hopefully on the platform at sometime here in the near future.