The IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame believes that establishing a regional startup pipeline is key to our community’s economic prosperity.  The recent successes of several local startups through the Center demonstrated the viability of that concept.

But while the IDEA Center has demonstrated a proven process at the angel investment level ($200k+) where most companies become job creators, growing startups to the angel level has presented two primary challenges- fostering quality business ideas, and sourcing early-stage “friends and family” funding ($25k-$50k).  The Center addressed the first challenge through the implementation of one of two mentor-based accelerator models, either recruiting proven mentors to pair with existing startups, or sourcing high-quality student teams to launch ideas brought to the table by proven entrepreneurs.  The early-stage funding challenge, which affects the ability of the IDEA Center to scale, is a more difficult problem, as the Center is constrained by the operational costs of supporting each venture before later-stage funding becomes available.

The IDEA Center submitted a grant application to the Foundation, proposing that the proceeds of the grant be used to fund the $25k-$50k investments needed at the early stages.  Confident in their past successes, the IDEA Center leadership even committed to a 1:1 matching of grant funds from this proposal, doubling the impact.  The Foundation, recognizing the early successes and high ceiling of this economic development initiative approved a grant request.

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