Cabarrus Center powered by Flywheel – Announces Spark Grants
The Cabarrus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship announced today that it will be offering $5,000 Spark Grants to entrepreneurs located in or adding jobs to the county to help them test ideas that can be commercialized successfully.
The Spark Grants are offered through the Flywheel Foundation, whose mission is to promote early- and growth-stage entrepreneurship in the markets served by Flywheel’s innovation centers. Flywheel designed and will be operating the Cabarrus Center, scheduled to open in late January. Funding for the grant program is coming from a title corporate sponsorship by Truist bank, with matching funds from the Foundation.
“These seed grants are an important first step in stimulating the pipeline for startup activity in the community”, according to Peter Marsh, cofounder of Flywheel and a founding Director of the Flywheel Foundation. “We hope to grow availability of this early non-dilutive funding as we develop our community partnerships when the center is open”, he continues.
The grants are for idea-stage, pre-revenue concepts. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee of program partners on the Cabarrus Center’s Entrepreneurship Council, and up to five top ideas will receive grant awards. Information about the application and program is available here.
All applicants are required to enroll in a course starting February 2 called “Applied Lean Startup Practices” in order to qualify for the grants. The course is offered on Flywheel’s online learning management system. The course will be free to all Spark Grant applicants and delivered virtually with self-directed or instructor-led coaching sessions.
The goal of the six-week course, which Flywheel has developed over five years, is to teach entrepreneurs how to move ideas to repeatable revenue models as quickly as possible. The focus is on developing a minimum viable product and getting it in front of customers to test problem/solution fit and market viability.
Danielle Kuhn, the Community Manager for Flywheel at the Cabarrus Center says, “We are so excited to be able to start delivering capital access and developmental resources to the Cabarrus community even before we open our doors in January.”
“We’ve done a lot of research and analysis of the unique strengths of the business community here and found a robust current of entrepreneurial activity” she continues. “We want to build on regional strengths like healthcare, supply chain management and logistics, motorsports and automotive, and business services, just to name a few. We are also interested in supporting main street businesses like restaurant and retail concepts with new concepts, new technologies, and e-commerce.”
“Opportunities like this are exactly what’s needed to strengthen entrepreneurial communities and support new ventures that aid in the success of entrepreneurs in and around Cabarrus County,” says Shanell Varner, Economic Development Coordinator for Cabarrus County.
“History shows us that entrepreneurship supports economic recovery,” says Page Castrodale, Executive Director of Cabarrus Economic Development. “Over half of the Fortune 500 companies were founded during a recession. We truly believe that innovation and entrepreneurship help create vibrant, equitable and sustainable communities and to be able to partner with Flywheel to enable that sort of culture here is incredibly gratifying.”
Adrian Smith, the Executive Director of the Flywheel Foundation adds that this is just the beginning of stimulating the startup ecosystem through the Cabarrus Center in close collaboration with the Entrepreneurship Council.
“The next step will be to implement our New Ventures program in Cabarrus County, creating additional equity-based investment capital for qualified startup,” he adds.
New Ventures is an application-based program that invests an average of $50,000 in inception-stage startups that are pre-revenue. While the program intentionally seeks out in-state startups, it also invests throughout the Southeast and beyond, with investments in 21 companies so far. New Ventures primarily invests in software applications (Saas, B2B, and B2C) and device startups that intersect with Triad regional market verticals.
The program has shifted to a virtual format this year in response to COVID-19. “We are fortunate that technology enables us to run the accelerator online this year,” says Accelerator Director Adrian Smith. “We just completed a two-day online Demo Day that included investors from across the region, dozens of startups, and of course, New Ventures pitches.”