The United States is a fertile ground for new startups seeking free seed funding. Technically, startup companies are high-growth businesses mainly centered on innovation and technology-based products. Therefore, to be effective they need all the funding they can get in order to scale their business operations and also attain recognition in the global market.
Depending on the niche and business viability, there are numerous opportunities for new businesses to receive a grant sponsored by either the federal or state governments, private corporations, or other entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Securing a Startup grant gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to build innovative solutions without thinking of financing costs. Imagine a funding where you don’t have to pay huge annual interest on capital or give up a percentage of ownership to get.
That’s basically what a startup grant is. A grant is aimed at providing a level ground for startups to grow and scale their businesses. Some organizations go as far as giving business mentorship and technical support asides the free money.
However, a grant alone may not be sufficient to build the business of your dreams but it can give you a good headstart into potential growth and scalability. Plus, the competitive nature and rigorous process of applying for a grant fully prepares a startup for the market and securing investor funding.
Grants in the United States are usually issued based on industry segments. What this means is that there are business-specific grants applicable to each individual industry. In this article, we will consider some of the best grant opportunities open to startups in the United States. Generally, each grant has its eligibility criteria as well as a thorough application process which entrepreneurs need to be familiar with before starting out.
First off, you’d need to find the right grant for your business.
Top Startup Grants In The U.S.
Top Federal grants
Here are grants to help grow your business
1. Small business innovation research grant program (SBIR)
This Small business administration (SBA)-supervised program provides grants to small businesses and tech startups offering high-innovation products in the United States. The purpose of the grant is to fund innovation, especially in the tech sector, in partnership with government agencies.
The aim of the SBIR grant is also to encourage research and development of innovative technologies for use by federal government institutions.
However, it should be noted that application for this grant is usually very competitive and only a small number of companies actually get the money in the end.
- Must be a for-profit organization
- Organization must be located in the US
- Must not have more than 500 employees
- Staff strength of not less than 50% US citizens or permanent residents
- Grant amount: $150,000-$1,000,000 over a period of 2 years
- Application process: Apply through one of the participating federal agencies
2. Small business technology transfer program (STTR)
Similar to SBIR, the small business technology transfer program is a federal government initiative that offers seed-funding grants to startups in the tech industry as a means of promoting technology advancement in the US through small businesses.
The only difference between STTR grant and SBIR is that the former is specifically for startups working with a non-profit research institution.
Both grant programs are supervised by the small business administration (SBA) and the application process is the same.
3. The US economic development administration (EDA)
The EDA is a branch of the United States Department of commerce that offers a number of state-based grant opportunities and other resources for tech startups and small business financing support.
This agency was launched to provide local financing opportunities at the state level for entrepreneurs in form of a grant database. Grants vary according to state, business category, and innovative status.
- Eligibility: Eligibility for EDA grants varies for individual grants. You can search their database for the best grant opportunity for your business, then try to understand the requirements before applying.
- Grant amount: This also varies based on specific grants.
Top Private Grants for US startups
4. Amber grant for women-owned businesses
The Amber grant foundation was founded by WomensNet in 1998. The foundation funds at least one woman-owned small business every month with $10,000 seed capital, one lucky winner out of the 12 gets to go home with an extra $25,000 at the end of the year.
All women entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply for funding whether it is to grow or start their business.
- Businesses must be Canada or US-based.
- There is a $15 fee on each application
- Grant amount: $10,000-$35,000
- Application: apply via the womensnet website
5. FedEx small business grant contest
Every year FedEx supports small and growing businesses with cash grants in addition to other in-house services.
The contest is highly competitive with only a few successful companies (twelve chosen contestants out of thousands that apply each year) notwithstanding, the seed funding can go a long way for winners.
- Applicant must be a small business in any industry
- Must have been in operation for at least six months to one year
- Applicant must not have more than 100 employees as at the time of application.
- Grant amount: $50,000 for one first-place winner, $30,000 for first-runner up, 15,000 awarded to 10 small businesses who come third place. These are inclusive of other non-monetary resources for competition finalists.
- Application process: Apply via the FedEx website
6. Minority business development agency (MBDA)
The MBDA offers a useful resource for finding startup grants for minority-owned businesses and small businesses. The MBDA is aimed at improving businesses owned by person(s) considered as a minority through grants, business support, and other resources.
- Applicant must be a minority-owned business
- Grant amount: Amount varies with individual grants under the agency
- Application process: You can find and apply for a grant through any of the minority business centers in the US.
Additional helpful resources
- Grants.gov is a free resource for researching the right kind of grant for your organization from a wide range of opportunities.
- Rural business development provides a great opportunity for public corporations and nonprofits to get a grant.
- Women-owned startups have specific funding opportunities such as: IfundWomen, Cartier women’s initiative, and women who tech.
- Nonprofits can find innumerable funding opportunities based on individual organizational peculiarities and goals from grant databases like grantwatch, grants.gov, grantstation, and guidestar.
- Minority-owned business grants: Native American Business Development Institute, Dare to dream grant program.
- Rural energy for America program grant: This is a United States department of Agriculture (USDA) grant focused on funding rural small businesses and agricultural SMEs. The grant is for installation and maintenance of renewable energy and energy efficient systems.
Alternatives to getting a grant
Applying for a grant consumes a lot of time and other resources which if invested elsewhere, would naturally yield higher returns than the few-thousand-dollars grant money.
Not to mention the high competition each grant program attracts. Thousands of companies trying to get free money but only few fortunate ones will be selected.
Also, some grant programs require applicants to have attained some level of business growth to be eligible. Trying to get a grant for your business can be difficult while it takes up precious time that should be spent improving your product. Instead, you might want to consider any of the funding options below.
- Getting a startup loan. You can check grants.gov or Credibly for business loan options
- Launch a crowdfunding campaign
- Reach out to business angels and venture capital firms for equity financing.