Startup Grants Program

The MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (CEO) provides up to $7,500 of capital to student and faculty startup companies through three rounds of funding as part of the VentureCatalyst program. Awarded to entrepreneurs as grants, these funds are offered expecting no return, equity position, or royalties and are made possible entirely through private contributions. Recipients are selected by three independent review boards who regularly review pitches.

Overview

Spark Grants are $500 fixed awards to help new entrepreneurs identify their customer, value proposition, and develop a basic proof of concept or mock-up. Funded by alumni donors, the CEO awards up to 40 teams annually, reviewed on a rolling basis by the Peer Review Entrepreneurship Panel (PREP).

Basis for Award

Applicants will be assessed based upon on the following criteria:

  • Does the entrepreneur have seriousness, dedication, & focus?
    Demonstrates initiative and has put real work into idea; Conveys a sense of determination to push through walls; Shows ability to listen and flexibility to pivots
  • Are they on the right track as to developing a business model?
    Has loosely identified a paying customer; Has an idea of how to market it; Has thought through a business model, not just tech.
  • Does this have potential to be a real business or trying to prop up a hobby?
    Has a relatively unique solution for target market; Has a general awareness of competitive landscape; Recognizes potential to scale beyond Starkville/MSU

Pitch Contents:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What product or service are you providing?
  • Who is the customer?
  • How do you plan to sell to them?
  • Who is the competition and how are you better?

Use of Funds

Awards may be used for reasonable business expenses applied in the following general categories:

  • Equipment
  • Events
  • Marketing
  • Meetings
  • Software (limited)
  • Supplies
  • Surveying
  • Travel (limited)

Prohibited Expenses

  • Common Hardware
    e.g. laptop/desktop computers, tablets, phones, printers
  • Professional consultation
    e.g. legal services, accounting, marketing, engineering, programming

Award Amount

0

Logistics:

  • Pitch Length: 5-min
  • Q&A: 5-min
  • Format: Adobe PDF or MS PowerPoint only
  • Medium: USB drive only

Review Dates:

  • Sep 6th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 8/29 @ 11:59pm)
  • Oct 4th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 9/25 @ 11:59pm)
  • Nov 1st, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 10/23 @ 11:59pm)
  • Nov 27th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 11/20 @ 11:59pm)

Overview

RSL Track Spark Grants are $500 fixed awards – issued in two $250 tranches – to help new entrepreneurs establish a business and prove a market opportunity exists. Funded by alumni donors, the CEO awards up to 40 teams annually, reviewed on a rolling basis by the RSL Review Panel.

Basis for Award

Applicants will be assessed based upon on the following criteria:

  • Is the product and opportunity real?
    Shows evidence of investing real work into the business; Conducted a thorough survey of people who match proposed target demographic(s); Proposed product or service is feasible and there is an understanding of how to execute.
  • Is there sufficient competitive advantage to win?
    Completed a detailed competitor analysis, identifying and characterizing most competitors; Clear and obtainable sales strategy that could capture meaningful market share; Competitive advantage is unique and relatively secure for the market.
  • Does the team demonstrate signs of performing beyond the
    minimum expectations?

    Has gone the above and beyond the minimum survey requirements; Presentation shows creativity and goes beyond provided pitch guidelines; Noteworthy progress towards business development beyond Stage 1

Pitch Contents:

  • What is the opportunity are you seeking?
  • What product or service are you providing?
  • Who is the target customer?
  • How do you plan to sell to them?
  • Who is the competition and how are you better?

Use of Funds

RSL Spark Grants are a two-part award which may be used for reasonable business expenses applied in the following general categories:

Tranche 1:
  • Legal business entity costs
  • Business identity (name, logo, website, domain, etc)
  • Business email address (G-Suite, Office 365, Zoho Mail, etc.)
  • Business cards
  • Website presence (Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, etc)
Tranche 2:
  • Initial inventory

Prohibited Expenses

  • Any expenditure outside of these bounds must be pre-approved by the Director.

Award Amount

0

Logistics:

  • Pitch Length: 5-min
  • Q&A: 5-min
  • Format: Adobe PDF or MS PowerPoint only
  • Medium: USB drive only

Review Dates:

  • Sep 6th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 8/29 @ 11:59pm)
  • Oct 4th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 9/25 @ 11:59pm)
  • Nov 1st, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 10/23 @ 11:59pm)
  • Nov 27th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 11/20 @ 11:59pm)

Overview

Startup Grants provide entrepreneurs up to $2,000 awards to continue customer and market discovery, develop a minimum viable product (MVP), purchase critical equipment, hire professional legal/accounting/insurance/engineering counsel, or other reasonable request. Funded by alumni donors, the CEO awards up to 20 teams annually, reviewed on a rolling basis by the Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board (ECAB).

Basis for Award

Applicants will be assessed based upon on the following criteria:

  • Product / Service Definition
    The product is complete and clearly defined, understood, and feasible. Contains scalable core innovation.
  • Customer Understanding
    There is a clear grasp of who the customer is and evidence presented of product interest.
  • Revenue Model
    The company has a strong revenue strategy and has shown evidence of embrace.
  • Market Potential & Scale
    There is a large potential market clearly identified that can be reasonably captured.
  • Sales Channels and Path to Market
    A clear path to reaching potential customers exists and realistic sales plan has been established.
  • Distinctive Advantage
    The company provides something novel, unique, and/or special that gives it a competitive advantage.
  • Grant Impact
    The award would have a meaningful impact on this business’s viability and growth rate in its current state.

Content:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • How it Works
  • Customer & Feedback
  • Market
  • Revenue Model
  • Sales Strategy
  • Competitive Advantage
  • Our Team
  • Progress / What‘s Next
  • Ask

Use of Funds

Awards may be used for the following types of expenditures:

  • Prototype or MVP Development
    Supports development of a prototype, alpha version of a software product, or otherwise form minimum viable product (MVP). In most cases, the board will not approve grants to contract programmers, as the team should recruit programming talent as part of the founding team.
  • Key Capital Expenditures
    Enables applicants to purchase critical equipment to growth of a startup. The request must show supporting evidence that the expenditure will substantially impact sales, or increase market competitiveness in terms of time, quality, or overall value.
  • Sales or Primary Market Research
    Provides assistance with attending tradeshows or conferences related to the potential product or service in effort to promote sales or market research.
  • Legal or Professional Services
    Used to hire legal counsel or for accounting, engineering, medical, or other recognized professional advice.

Prohibited Expenses

  • Common Hardware
    e.g. laptop/desktop computers, tablets, phones, printers

Award Amount

0

Logistics:

  • Pitch Length: 10-min
  • Q&A: 5-min
  • Format: Adobe PDF or MS PowerPoint only
  • Medium: USB drive only

Review Dates:

  • Sep 20th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 9/11 @ 11:59pm)
  • Oct 18th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 10/9 @ 11:59pm)
  • Nov 15th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 11/6 @ 11:59pm)
  • Dec 12th, 2019
    12:00pm
    (Apply by 12/4 @ 11:59pm)

Overview

Seed Grants provide additional capital up to $5,000 to enable teams to begin execution of their approved business plan. Proceeds are flexible on needs of the companies, and up to 50% may be used towards founder cost of living (post-graduation only. Funded by alumni donors, the CEO awards up to 20 teams annually, reviewed on a rolling basis by the Investment Review Council (IRC).

Basis for Award

Applicants will be assessed based upon on the following criteria:

  • Comprehensive Business Plan
    The team has written an extensive, well-researched business plan that is feasible and nearly ready for execution.
  • 48-month Financial Projection
    The business plan contains realistic financial projections that align with the business plan.
  • Pitch Deck
    The pitch deck is a slideshow presentation similar to your ECAB pitch that should focus on illustrating the investment opportunity, and should be able to stand on its own.
  • Product Roadmap
    The team has identified a reasonable plan for remaining product development needs.
  • Mentor Endorsement
    The team’s assigned mentor endorses the team’s business plan, financial projections, and product roadmap.
  • Investment Readiness or Sustainability
    Based on the documents, the business is or is nearly investment ready, OR the team has a clear path to sustainability on its own revenue.

Use of Funds

Awards funds are unrestricted and may be used for the purpose of furthering the development of the proposed venture as defined by the approved plan. Use of funds for other start-up ventures or any other purposes must be explicitly approved by the CEO.

Application Deadlines

No presentation is required for Stage 3. You will submit your complete document set and receive a final award notification in approximately 3-6 weeks.

  • December 4, 2018 at 11:59pm CT (Online Submission)
  • May 3, 2019 at 11:59pm CT (Online Submission)
  • December 20, 2019 at 11:59pm CT (Online Submission)

Award Amount

0

Logistics:

  • No pitch, document review only.
  • Format: Adobe PDF and MS Excel only

Content:

  • Business Plan
  • 48-mo Financial Projections
  • Pitch Deck
  • Product Road Map
  • Mentor Endorsement

Eligibility

  • Applicant must be an actively enrolled MSU student, faculty, or staff member, in good academic standing.
  • Applicant must hold at least 25% of equity allocated to the management team of applying team.
  • Applicant’s team may not have received outside investment totaling greater than $10,000.
  • Applicant must have been accepted into the MSU VentureCatalyst™ Program.

Application Process

  • Applicants must first meet with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach team and be accepted into the MSU VentureCatalyst™ Program.
  • Teams will complete an online application for the award level.
  • Applications will be reviewed by the E-Center to assess readiness for the grant.
  • If accepted, teams will be assigned a presentation date and time slot to present to an independent review board who meet regularly to review funding requests.*
  • Applicants will deliver an in-person presentation.

Cancellations

There are a limited number of pitch slots per meeting. Withdrawing from a requested pitch slot within 72-hours of your presentation date will result in a 10% penalty fee assessed against any future awards or grants.

Notification & Disbursement

  • Applicants will be notified of their award status via email within 24-hr of their presentation date.
  • Awardees may be supplied with additional feedback of their presentation and application within one week of the notification.
  • Awardees must promptly remit an invoice, signed W9, and award paperwork within 5 business days of notification. Failure to do so may delay award up to two months.
  • Awards will be issued by check on Friday approximately 2-3 weeks after notification of award.
  • When award payments are ready, awardees will be notified for pickup in the CEO Main Office.

Terms of Award

  • Awardees must submit at least four quarterly reports of their progress after receiving an award. The CEO will provide a template for this report, which includes financial (company sales revenue, projected sales, payroll, external investments), product traction (user/clients served), employment information, and progression to goal.
  • Awardees will provide a detailed summary of expenditures made.
  • Awardees must comply with any stipulations or contingencies proposed by the review board and listed in the notification email.
  • Awardees are strongly encouraged to stay involved with the CEO and help its mission, including mentorship of future teams.
  • Awardees agree to use grant solely for the purposes enumerated and described within grant request.
  • Awards are offered expecting no return, equity position, or royalties from entrepreneurial businesses and are funded through private contributions.
  • The review boards have the discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to consider exceptions to eligibility and use of funds. This is uncommon and must be discussed in advanced.
  • Under no circumstances will MSU provide financial support to any business that is (or otherwise perceived to be): (a) based in a foreign country; (b) engaging in any activity that is illegal under federal and/or state law; (c) lewd or sexual in nature; (d) promoting violence or drug use; (e) gambling.
  • By accepting funds from the Mississippi State University and any other associated funding sources, the award recipient affirms that his/her business is in compliance with all local, state, and federal tax laws and license requirements and that his/her business will maintain compliance with all appropriate tax and business compliance guidelines as set forth by the appropriate jurisdictions.