1789 Student Venture Fund

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 doesn’t involve competition, so students can apply without the pressure of outshining their fellow students via on-stage presentations or head-to-head pitch battles. Instead, this fund allows students to focus solely on growing their own idea, 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 co-working space and 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. These typically occur during the months of January, May and October, but may vary per year or semester.

Send any questions or comments to Sheryl Waddell at sheryl.waddell@unc.edu.


> Monday, April 13: Summer applications open
> Sunday, May 3: Summer applications close at midnight
> Week of May 4: Virtual presentations to advisory board (only for students applying for $500 or more)
> September 2020: Fall applications will open

Please check back in the future for new application dates. For more information, please visit 1789 for office hours with Kimi Yingling on Wednesdays from 2 to 5. p.m.


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 sheryl.waddell@unc.edu 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 from $100 to $2,500 per student application. The application process involves two tiers of funding requests:

> Less than $500. Students who request less than $500 on their application forms will be notified via email within one week of the application close date about whether their funding request is approved.

> More than $500. Students who request more than $500 on their application forms will be required to make an in-person presentation about their venture idea and need for funding to the 1789 Student Venture Fund advisory board. Students submitting should be prepared to make a four-minute presentation or pitch, participate in a three-minute Q&A and engage in a three-minute discussion with the advisory board the week of May 4 via Zoom.

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
> Software
> Customer discovery
> Prototyping and concept testing
> Licensing fees
> Venture-related travel and events
> Advertising and marketing
> Supplies
> Publishing

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.


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.


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.


The 1789 Student Venture Fund Committee must ensure the idea, team and timing are right for a successful learning experience.

The committee will consider each of the following when reviewing applications and hearing pitches:

Idea: It is viable? Has it been done before? Is there a social problem you are addressing? If so, what is it and for whom? How will you measure your social impact?

Team: Does the team demonstrate commitment and agree on a future vision? How well does the team work together and with mentors? Are they coachable, and do they have a desire to grow personally? What resources and programs have they used so far? Are they willing to meet with 1789 mentors, engage in the 1789 virtual community and attend networking nights and events?

Progress: How well defined is your user or customer? What have you already accomplished with little or no funding? Do you have a proof of concept or minimal viable product? What is the next step in your plan? How much money do you need for your next step?



Complete the application for the 1789 Student Venture Fund during one of the open application windows. Once the application window closes, the fund’s advisory board will promptly review applications. Students who apply for less than $500 should be notified via email within one week of the application window closing about their application status. Students who apply for $500 or more should prepare to present their venture idea and need for funding to the fund’s advisory board on a date that follows the application deadline.

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 sheryl.waddell@unc.edu

Information sessions

During the academic year, information sessions are held at the 1789 co-working space, which is located at 173 E. Franklin Street. Check the 1789 website for the latest details on information sessions, or email kimberly.yingling@unc.edu for more details.