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Raleigh Startup Competitions, Grants, and Funding To Know About

Raising money is the most challenging task in building a business. There are many options for small businesses to use when seeking outside resources. North Carolina entrepreneurs without enough money to fund business have a variety of state-based sources from which to draw.

They range from regional loan programs and state grants to local crowdfunding platforms. Successful entrepreneurs are flexible in fundraising tactics. If unsuccessful in procuring funds from one source, change the approach, and try something new. Seek a combination of funding resources. Below are descriptions of 12 funding opportunities and links to learn more about them.

Big Launch Challenge

The Big Launch Challenge is a business plan competition. Awards totaling $20,000 are available to the winners. The goal of the challenge is to provide an opportunity for early-stage startups to pitch ideas to investors.

The ACA is the Angel Capital Association. It is the world’s largest accredited investors professional organization. The Big Launch Challenge competition takes place immediately after the meeting. Ten finalists have ten minutes each to present a business plan to a panel of judges who are investors.

Website: Big Launch Challenge

Crowdfund NC

North Carolina private businesses and startups now have a new and effective way of raising funds. It is Investment Crowdfunding. Entrepreneurs across the country use it to raise money from investors, both accredited and non-accredited. The mission of Crowdfund NC is to provide the services and education needed for North Carolina existing businesses and startups to raise funds through various online public and private strategies offered, including Investment Crowdfunding. New laws permit anyone to invest in private enterprises and startups through an Investment Crowdfunding process.

Website: Crowdfund NC

Duke Incubation Fund

The Duke Incubation Fund supports idea-stage projects for potential commercial prospects at Duke University. Each year the Fund makes awards to support creative projects, nascent services, potential products, applied research, and novel ideas. If they are successful, they lead to new market opportunities.

To be eligible for funding the projects demonstrate potential paths to subsequent financial support, the formation of new companies, non-profit partnerships or channels to enable translation. The Duke Innovations and Entrepreneurship Initiative has interest in projects that potentially lead to new services or products having a positive societal impact.

Website: Duke Incubation Fund

Duke Startup Challenge

The Duke Startup Challenge enables and encourages faculty, alumni, and students to plan and to launch businesses and offers entrepreneurs opportunities to obtain feedback from experienced professionals, have access to dedicated facilities and resources, and possibly to win seed capital.

This is a hands-on program designed to provide Duke students experience in entrepreneurship. It is a year-long process that involves changing the mindset, the identification of opportunities, and the development of solutions. Top teams take part in a summer accelerator held in Durham.

Website: Duke Startup Challenge

Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange: Black Founders

The American Underground in Durham, NC, is a technology hub that is home to more than 250 states. The Exchange for Black Founders is held there. It is a week-long program that connects black entrepreneurs with resources, mentors, and investors to prepare them for fundraising and to close the investment gap often faced by underrepresented founders. Companies selected come from IoT, big data, consumer products, and software industries.

Website: Exchange for Black Founders

Innovate Durham

This is a 12-week program turning Durham city and county into a testing lab for new services, products, and ideas. Participants have access to facilities, data, and staff to assist in increasing efficiency in Durham and encouraging an innovative culture in the City and County.

The local government becomes a laboratory for entrepreneurs and startups. Participants work with city and county departments to innovate, test, and scale new technology and new ideas. The goals of the program are to test the latest technology, build innovation capacity, and support local businesses by opening the government doors to entrepreneurs and startups. Departments partner with participants to use new technology and test new ideas.

Website: Innovate Durham 12-week program


This informative and interactive event helps North Carolina businesses looking for funding or residents interested in support of local businesses. INVESTinNC is an exciting opportunity for small businesses in North Carolina. Entrepreneurs, investors, and professional economic service providers join for a seminar that provides information about the State’s equity crowdfunding regulations and how they work for them.

The law affords business owners the option to work with traditional funding models or independently of them. They include angel investments, capital ventures, bank loans, and grants. The most significant benefits to owners who raise money include control, cost-efficiency, and exposure.

Website: INVESTinNC

Lulu eGames

The Lulu eGames is a North Carolina annual startup competition that awards more than $100 thousand to NC State entrepreneurs. There are two rounds and five category options that include Built on Cloud, Arts Venture, Social and Environmental Impact, Design and Prototype, and New Venture., an online publishing company is the generous sponsor who makes the eGames possible. The competition is for student entrepreneurs. Participants submit an application and a video pitch. Those who advance to Round Two submit a business plan. The live event features pitches from the teams that won, an entrepreneurship expo for networking with the finalist teams, fun giveaways, and free food.

Website: The eGames


NC IDEA SEED offers companies in the early stages critical funding needed to scale faster. Grants of $50 thousand go to innovative startups that have a proven concept, even if it is not currently profitable. The funds, along with guidance and mentorship push companies forward.

They reduce risks associated with growing startups. Almost six million dollars in grant funding went to 136 companies throughout the State since 2006. The majority of the companies still operate today. Collectively, they raised more than $225 million in equity and non-dilutive funding. These companies generated more than 1400 jobs.


One North Carolina Small Business Program

This funding program is a combination of two programs – an incentive program and a matching funds program. The incentive program is currently inactive. The Matching Funds Program matches funds received from federal Small Business Technology or Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Program awards. The North Carolina Board of Science and Technology is the funding agency. Duke University faculty members are eligible.

Website: Duke University Funding Program

UNC’s Carolina Challenge

The Carolina Challenge is UNC’s premier entrepreneurship event. Each year, teams pitch ideas to more than 150 judges at a Pitch Party to vie for money to fund ventures. As many as ten prizes go to teams earning the most tokens given by the judges. The event celebrates entrepreneurship and allows students to pitch their ventures and network with professionals in the entrepreneurship community. The Pitch Party is invaluable to student entrepreneurs. It brings professionals with startup and venture capital to provide mentorship and advice.

Website: Carolina Challenge

Bottom Line

North Carolina provides various grants and funding opportunities for area neighborhood groups or organizations, local non-profits, and businesses. The above information is a list of possible opportunities. Included are crowdfunding, business plan competitions, and grants.

Crowdfunding raises funds from multiple sources. Business plan competitions allow aspiring entrepreneurs to showcase early-stage ventures, startups, and business ideas to compete for in-kind services and cash. Test your ideas by joining in the entrepreneurial eco-system.