Get the funding your startup needs to start out

If you’re a Carolina student who has a promising idea for a startup, the 1789 Student Venture Fund can help you get your concept up and running – and help you make an impact faster than you may imagine.

The 1789 Student Venture Fund provides Carolina students with critical seed funding to explore, test and launch commercial startups or social ventures at their earliest stages. This fund allows students to focus solely on growing their own ideas, exploring how their venture can make the greatest human, social or economic impact possible.

As a participant, you must use funding to develop some aspect of your actual venture, not for purely individual education, skill development or career preparation purposes. For instance, possible uses of funding include prototyping, product development and testing, company app and website development, customer discovery, software development, licensing fees, supplies, or advertising or marketing your venture, etc. Because the fund is operated by Innovate Carolina and the 1789 innovation community, students receive more than just funding. Their ideas are bolstered by additional resources that include entrepreneurial mentors, professional service providers, networking opportunities, and other tools and activities.

Jim Kitchen, the founder of 1789, is working with Innovate Carolina to bring this funding opportunity to students and help them use their ideas for ventures to make a positive impact on a local, national and global scale.  Jim Kitchen is professor of the practice at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and also serves as a mentor at Launch Chapel Hill. As an active angel investor and entrepreneurial mentor, Jim supports the growth of Triangle’s entrepreneurial community. His collaboration with Innovate Carolina on the 1789 Student Venture Fund is aimed at filling the early funding gap that many student entrepreneurs face when trying to launch a venture.


Innovate Carolina only accepts applications during three specific time periods each year: spring, summer and fall.

Send any questions or comments to Sheryl Waddell at

>> Apply now


Tuesday, March 2: Spring 2021 applications open
Wednesday, March 10: Spring 2021 applications close at midnight

Please check back in the future for new application dates. For more information, please email Kimi Yingling


For our aspiring student startup founders, every dollar goes a long way toward moving their ventures one step closer to social and economic impact. If you’d like to make a gift or support the program in other ways, please contact to find out how you can get involved. 

Award overview

The 1789 Student Venture Fund provides financial support for UNC-Chapel Hill students to use to build commercial and social startups. Too often, the promising ideas that students have for building ventures are never given the opportunity to take off because they lack the early-stage funding needed for initial testing, development and growth. The goal of the 1789 Student Venture Fund is to provide students with the seed funding they need to ideate, create ventures and move them from concept to reality.  Award funding ranges based on the stage of each venture and the needs of specific projects.

All students who receive funding must use the funding to create, develop or grow an early-stage venture. Specific uses must be approved by the 1789 Student Venture Fund advisory board, which consists of 1789 founder Jim Kitchen and several members of the Innovate Carolina team. Uses of the funding include, but aren’t limited to:

App and website development
Customer discovery
Prototyping and concept testing
Licensing fees
Venture-related travel and events
Advertising and marketing


The committee will consider each of the following three criteria when reviewing applications. Ideal applications should reflect the following:

1. Proof of Concept: The team should have engaged in a range of early-to-late customer discovery and market research activities. The venture is in the process of defining customers and end users, or may have validated initial customers with a value proposition. Planning to build – or may have made progress on building – a proof of concept or prototype. Financial support may be beneficial or required for such efforts to proceed.

2. Idea: The idea may or may not be novel, but there is potential for revenue or to solve a social problem. The team may either have an early plan to earn revenue or address the problem, or it may already be in the revenue-generation/problem-solving phase. The team plans to (or has measured) impact and recognizes the importance of being able to articulate its theory of change.

3. Team/Founder: The team has a demonstrated passion and commitment to its idea. Members should have plans for connecting or be already connected to the UNC I&E ecosystem (courses, funding, program participation, etc.). The team should be able to describe the current stage of its idea and how it could use other UNC I&E resources along with 1789 venture funding to reach the next milestone.

Budget Preparation

The amount requested in your application should reflect what your team sees as instrumental for the next step in your venture. There is no minimum or maximum. Instead, prepare and share a budget with the 1789 Student Venture Fund Committee, explain progress made so far (with little or no funding) and request an amount that covers the expenses that are necessary in order to reach your goals. Please be ready to answer questions such as the following questions related to your budget:

  • What budget needs are associated with your venture’s three-month goals? Six-month goals?
  • Have you received budgetary estimates from any third-party partners, vendors or collaborators?

The goal is to award funding when money is instrumental in creating or furthering a learning experience for the student venture. Teams are expected to request the amount they need now in order for their ventures to take the next step. Student ventures are encouraged to reapply when they make progress.

Venture Spotlights

The following are a few of the student ventures that received funding from the 1789 Student Venture Fund during previous rounds to help develop their companies and nonprofits. The 1789 Venture Fund supports a highly diverse set of student ventures. A large number of teams funded by the 1789 Student Venture Fund are women- and minority-owned organizations. 


Acta Solutions

Acta’s turnkey solution helps local governments extract better insights from constituent input faster and at a lower cost. By using machine learning to comprehend free-form feedback, its tool is able to quickly generate actionable reports detailing constituents' key concerns and priorities. The 1789 Venture Fund allowed Acta to contract technical talent and create a better UI/UX product experience for its customers.



EATS2SEATS is a staffing business that offers a simple fundraising solution for NPOs in need of financial support. E2S restructures the current staffing process so that smaller NPOs can access funds through staffing concession stands. E2S is dedicated to delivering Grade A service in every venue where it operates. The 1789 Venture Fund supported E2S in building out an app that streamlines its staffing, training and payment process.


Moving Windmills Project

Moving Windmills is building the Moving Windmills Innovation Center. This hands-on, collaborative-learning center will be a thoughtful and compassionate space designed to inspire African innovators. Here, young people will find the mentorship, tools, skills and agency to address the complex problems unique to their communities, such as agriculture, water, power and education. The 1789 Venture Fund helped Moving Windmills to fully revamp its website, acquire all social media assets, and design campaigns using Google grants.



UNCUT offers student-athletes a storytelling platform that shines a light on the human side of college athletes. Focusing on mental health, the organization helps show student-athletes they are far more than just their sport; they are complete people who are interesting, multifaceted and unique. Through creative media story-telling, UNCUT gives student-athletes a voice and helps them choose the best format for their story. The 1789 Venture Fund enabled UNCUT to purchase equipment that is essential to its media business, including a camera, lenses, a microphone, tripod and recorder.



Veera is establishing distribution networks to help farmers in rural parts of India find more buyers and get better prices for the food they produce. Veera also helps farmers get containers to keep their products cold longer so they don't spoil. The 1789 Venture Fund allowed Veera to work with local partners in India to understand the effect of the coronavirus on its customers and supply farmers in remote areas with cold storage units.


Mission: Scholarship

Mission: Scholarship is designed to tackle the lack of access to high quality college and scholarship application resources for underserved students within the United States. The 1789 Venture Fund allowed Mission: Scholarship to finance its 501(c)(3) registration to become an official charitable nonprofit, launch a marketing campaign, secure transportation essential to its operations and host a fundraising dinner.


The 1789 Student Venture Fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill who have an existing venture or an idea for a venture that they would like to create. At least one member of an application team must be a current UNC-Chapel Hill student. You do not need to be a member of the 1789 community and co-working space to apply. However, upon receiving funding, you will be expected to then join and participate in 1789 programming. Your participation will be determined through communication with the fund’s advisory board based on your application and the specific needs of your venture. Your participation may include:

Attending 1789 events
Participation in 1789 workshops
Attending 1789 office hours
Meeting with an entrepreneurship mentor

Beyond joining 1789 and participating in programs, funding recipients are also required to provide regularly scheduled progress reports to the advisory board.

Note: Whether selected for funding based on their initial application or not, students may submit applications for funding during future application rounds. This allows students with the earliest ideas to apply for smaller amounts of funding initially and then position themselves to apply for larger amounts of funding as their ideas advance.

1789 SVF and Launch Chapel Hill Review Committee

Meet the review committee for the 1789 Student Venture Fund and Launch Chapel Hill 2021 application cycle. The committee consists of founders, experts and UNC-Chapel Hill faculty/staff with a broad range of experience across the innovation and entrepreneurship community.

Arden Rosenblatt
Business Launch Specialist, Small Business and Technology Development Center of North Carolina

Chris Gorges 
Brand Strategy and Design Consultant; Founder, Thompson & Prince and Everharbor

Clark Rinehart
Founder, Coworking NC

Collin McKinney
Electronics Design Engineer and Electronics Facility Manager, CRITCL Labs, UNC Department of Chemistry

Ellie Still
Investment Analyst, NTTVC 

Jaki Bonilla
Social Innovation Initiative Coordinator

Jill Willett
Assistant Director, Entrepreneurship Center Programs, UNC Entrepreneurship Center

Jim Kitchen
Professor of the Practice of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Joe Darcy
Principal, IDEA Fund Partners

Jonathan Collins
Business Resiliency Counselor, Small Business and Technology Development Center of North Carolina

Melissa Carrier
Director, Office of Social Innovation, Innovate Carolina; Professor of the Practice in the Department of Public Policy

Nancy Lovas
Entrepreneurship Information Consultant/Librarian, UNC-Chapel Hill

Patrick Kastian
Research Analyst, Innovate Carolina

Sarah Plasky
Founder and CEO of Aquavation

Tim Flood
Associate Professor of Management and Corporate Communication, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Trevor Scanlon
Project Coordinator, Complex Problems Team, MetLife

Katie Tippey
Digital Project Manger, UNC Connected Health Applications and Interventions Core

Ford Eubanks
Adjunct Professor, UNC School of Law

Matt Verber
Electronic Engineer, CRITCL Labs, UNC Department of Chemistry

Talpha Harris
Owner, Sustainable and Ancient Path Adventures; Manager of entrepreneurship hub at Bridgeway Capital

Jeff Terrell
Professor of the Practice, UNC Department of Computer Science

Sheryl Waddell
Interim Director of Economic Development, Innovate Carolina

Kimi Yingling
Student Engagement and Events Program Manager, Innovate Carolina

Velvet Nelson
Director, Launch Chapel Hill

Launch Chapel Hill Board of Directors


In general, students whose applications are selected to receive funding typically receive the funding within two to eight weeks after the application deadline.

Application best practices

Please include as much detail as possible, including specifically what your request would cover (prototyping plans, website/app development, travel details and purpose, etc.) and how you will fund the remaining portion of cost if your request is not awarded in full. Please include a detailed budget along with other supporting documentation that will allow the advisory board to understand the need for funding. Please submit only one application per venture during each application window. You may submit additional funding requests for the same venture during future application rounds.

Email any additional questions or items related to the application process to

Information sessions

If you student venture or club would like an information session about the fund, email for more details.