A few weeks ago, Fred Wilson discussed the role of government grants in helping launch tech companies. Fred is not a fan and argues that evaluating and aiding early-stage companies is not a core competency of government organizations. He concludes by asking his readers to look into grant programs available for startups.
We find it hard to disagree with Fred’s point of view. Nevertheless, a number of portfolio companies have asked us our thoughts on access to government finance sources, so we wanted to write a summary of options we think helpful.
Despite the fact that the grant community looks impossibly messy for a startup to navigate, a good starting place is Grants.gov, where you can find a fairly comprehensive directory of federal grants (especially SBIR-related solicitations), searchable by keyword/agency/funding-type/date. Additionally, GrantWatch seems to be the only privately-run site we came across in our research that’s attempting to centralize data on funding opportunities, but its focus is on the non-profit sector, which excludes many startups. For non-federal grants, the best tactic seems to be searching for "technology grants" or "innovation grants" in connection with your local state or city, but the most reliable source of information will be your local Small Business Development Center.
From all the diversity that is government-related grants, we’ve squeezed out a shortlist of grant programs related to the regions and industries that most of our portfolio companies are located in (not including federal grants; see Grants.gov for that):
If you have suggestions for additional resources, please post them in the comments. Thanks to Franklin Bi for his research on this blog post.
(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/5008270549/)