Our mission at OpenGrants is to democratize public/private funding. This means making funding more fair and efficient for everyone involved. For more information on the impacts of this goal—and why it’s so important—see our memo. In this post, I’ll share how we plan to tackle what has historically been an intractable problem. I will present features in order of expected release, along with general timelines (subject to change) for each feature.
Why A Platform Approach
We’re now two years into this project. Based on our understanding of the market, and hundreds of customer interviews and surveys, we strongly believe that a single platform is the best way to unite traditionally siloed organizations, gather the necessary data to create ecosystem level efficiencies, and solve the marketing problem that plagues all grant makers: access to a reasonable quantity (not too few, not too many) of qualified yet diverse applicants.
We’re focusing on the U.S. market to start. We believe that major components of this platform can and should extend globally to help standardize and streamline global grant making. This market opportunity scales into the billions by solving existing grant distribution inefficiencies. We expect the majority of revenue to come from data products and financial management.
Primary User Types
Funding Demand Side
- Grant seeking organizations, including startups, nonprofits and small businesses
- Consultants who can support grant demand, including grant writers and public funding experts
Funding Supply Side
- Grant making organizations, including government agencies and private foundations
- Other funding organizations, including VC’s, angel syndicates and banks
Funding Demand Side Products & Features
Grant Search Engine
Target date: Live
Description: The first step in creating a platform that attracts grant seeking organizations is to provide one place to easily find grants, and make it free. We’ve assembled a database of thousands of public and private grants from hundreds of websites across America. New listings are added daily via APIs as well as our team of human researchers. We then built a search engine to make these grants easily discoverable. We’re now developing ML capabilities using AWS Comprehend to improve natural language search and match users directly to grants based on their profile. This is becoming the strongest and most user-friendly grant search tool in the country.
Upcoming: ML-powered search and matching is expected in Q2 2021.
Education & Resources
Target date: Live
Description: Grants are a murky subject for most people. To help solve this, we’ve partnered with NorCal SBDC and Granite City Accelerator to offer weekly office hours, 1:1 advising, a resource library, and grant application guides—all free of charge. This is currently available on our website and gated with email capture.
Upcoming: All resources will move to be hosted directly in the platform in Q2 2021.
Target date: Live in BETA, open release targeted for April 15, 2021
Pricing: Hourly billing varies by consultant, OpenGrants charges a 20% platform fee
Description: Grants are a notoriously difficult type of funding. Every grant program has different requirements, provides different amounts of funding, and has different timelines. There are often unwritten application rules that only an experienced professional would know, and would be nearly impossible to automate using software. That’s why we’ve decided to build a curated marketplace of freelance grant professionals who our users can hire to help with a grant application. This helps freelance grant writers grow their businesses while serving the long tail of grant seekers who can’t afford a high-end consultancy, but don’t want the uncertainty of searching for a grant writer on the internet. The marketplace is in BETA with 40+ active freelance grant writers and 30+ active projects averaging $20,000 in billables.
Upcoming: A full-featured marketplace including searchable profiles, 1:1 messaging, hour tracking, and weekly Stripe-powered billing is in development and expected by April 15, 2021.
Target date: Q2 2021
Pricing: Free for Demand Side Users
Description: We aim to partner and integrate with existing grant management tools, to provide a simplified and networked end-user application experience. Users will be able to create an OpenGrants profile to apply for select state and local grants. They will then be able to use the same profile to apply for multiple grants across different entities and programs. Agencies will be able to use OpenGrants data to source new applicants who were previously out of reach. This will be the first cross-agency, data-driven, networked application system.
Target date: Q3 2021
Pricing: Free for Demand Side Users
Description: This feature will send users invitations to apply for OpenGrants Capital programs and/or external grant programs. Invitations will be opt-in/opt-out enabled, and sent based on a grant maker’s requirements and how well they match a user’s profile. See Funding Supply Side Features for more information.
Funding Supply Side Products
Target date: Low code pilots launch Q2 2021. Platform integration expected in Q3 2021.
Pricing: Sliding Scale: Management fee (% of funding) minus time in escrow. The longer funds are held and manageable by OpenGrants, the lower the fee.
Description: OpenGrants Capital is a novel mechanism for distributing funding fairly and efficiently. Clients define the funding amount, number of awards, goals for the program, minimum qualifications, and terms of award. Applicants are sourced from existing OpenGrants users as well as externally. Applicants go through KYC/KYB and are vetted in a blind review by a subject matter expert. Then, a modified/weighted lottery is run. Winning applicants are awarded instantly (partially or in full) via smart contract.
Research has shown that—barring unqualified and bad actors—a lottery system is at least as effective for successful capital distribution as human review. It’s more efficient, faster, and solves major bias issues inherent in individual, board or peer reviews to create a truly fair funding program. Variable contract terms make this program applicable to a wide range of potential clients, from private foundations, to community banks, to corporate VC’s and angel syndicates.
Target date: Q4 2021
Pricing: B2B SaaS
Description: We will leverage non-PII OpenGrants user data, as well as non-PII platform interaction data, to develop insights that help clients better allocate funding to meet their goals. This can range from holistic ecosystem insights, to region-specific, industry-specific, impact-specific, technology-specific, etc. This unlocks new opportunities for funding efficacy, which is a major concern for nearly every grant maker. This product has the potential to become a moral obligation for all grant makers.
Clients may also be able to request invitations be sent to opted-in OpenGrants users on their behalf, whose profiles meet their funding goals. This solves the most intractable problem for grant makers—affordable, scalable, targeted marketing to source the right quantity of qualified applicants within very brief timelines. This alleviates existing bandwidth constraints and costs associated with event sponsorships, paid advertising and marketing consultants.
OpenGrants is the world’s first and only full stack platform for efficient and fair grant funding. It requires an ecosystem of users to generate data that will be monetized in new ways—not by exploiting PII to serve targeted ads, but by facilitating ideal connections and improvements across the global funding ecosystem.
Every year, trillions of dollars are disbursed in the U.S. alone. Billions of dollars are wasted in archaic, siloed, ego-driven processes. Our modest goal is to improve the efficiency and efficacy of this funding by 20%.
Click here to read our memo and learn why this project is not only a unicorn-level business opportunity, but a moral imperative for the future of our global society.
Click here to invest and contribute to this vision. Accredited U.S. investors can contribute as little as $500.