North Dakota is offering more money to entrepreneurs this spring than it has in the past two years combined. A million dollars more.
State funding for entrepreneurs has been bone-dry since December 2014. But starting July 1, 2015, programs that support entrepreneurship in North Dakota such as Innovate ND and Technology-Based Entrepreneurship Grants (TBEG) will have access to $3.25 million in state funding, according to Innovate ND Program Manager Jared Stober.
Compared to the $2.2 million of total funding from the past two years, this is a huge increase – especially considering other programs across the state were getting cut, he said.
“The hope is to continue growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem that has ignited,” Stober said. “And entrepreneurship helps diversify the economy, so we saw an increase in funds.”
Where is it going?
Of those funds, $2.25 million will go to entrepreneurs primarily in the tech field, through programs like Innovate ND and TBEG. Another $150K is designated as special funds, which will come from enrollment.
$900K is for entrepreneur centers, the main three being the Center for Innovation in Grand Forks, The Idea Center in Bismarck, and the North Dakota State University Research & Tech Park.
The remaining funds go towards operating the program, as well as vouchers for entrepreneurs to be used for web development, coaching, trade shows, marketing assistants, patent legal work, etc.
Who is it going to?
The qualifications for receiving these funds are relatively simple, Stober said. Have an idea that is innovative and scalable.
“You have to have something innovative – not necessarily a new invention, it can be doing something old and making it more efficient,” he said. “And you need to be serving a market outside of your initial community. We’re looking for truly scalable businesses. A businesses that doesn’t necessarily need to be an international superstar…but product-based businesses that can scale.”
Stober encourages those who might have ideas like this not to be intimidated by asking for state funds. Companies that get funding need not be huge, thriving businesses, what matters is the idea.
“It can literally be an idea on a napkin – as long as it’s an idea, we’ll help you,” he said.
The Fargo Testament
Stober attributes much of this boost in financial support to the entrepreneurial growth taking place right here in Fargo.
“What you guys have going on in Fargo has been phenomenal growth, and it’s great for the area and the region and state wide. Beyond that, you’re getting national recognition.” he said. “The environment for entrepreneurs is much more supportive than it has been in the past.”
This connectivity can be seen in places like 1 Million Cups, Stober said, which has seen huge success in Fargo.
“1 Million Cups is literally a place where you show up every Wednesday at 9. There’s no magic sauce. Its just creating a place where entrepreneurs can meet other entrepreneurs, and it snowballs from there,” he said. “That’s what we try to do here at the state, is provide resources whether that be financial, or a ‘hey have you talked to this guy?'”
Some North Dakota companies that have benefited from these fundings are Botlink, here in Fargo, which received TBEG and Innovate ND funds and was able to grow their business as a result.
Courtny Evanson, winner of Women’s Startup Weekend, used these funds to grow her business Innovative Mother. Fargo 3D Printing, Sky Blue Technology, GoodSurv, and Medytex are just a few others.
Because of the lack of funds between December 2014 and now, there are a lot of applications waiting to be processed. Stober recommends applying NOW for TBEG and Innovate ND grants. You can do that here.
“It’s going to be an interesting next two years,” he said. “Entrepreneurship here is growing in leaps and bounds.”