Innovation Fund Open Call
Shift the Story - Applications Now Closed
Innovation Fund Open Call

The Shift the Story Open Call is now closed for applications. Thanks for your interest. See our investment announcement here!

Open Call will resume
Early 2019
Our current open call is closed.
Interested in our next one? Click the link below, and we'll be in touch.
Our Criteria
During our last Open Call, we looked for companies and organizations working to change hearts and minds and build movements for the future.
 
1.
Changing Hearts & Minds
We are living through an era of historic media disruption, with lasting implications for our personal, political, and civic lives. Whether you’re focused on increasing empathy, strengthening journalism, shaping narratives, leveraging new content platforms, or developing tools for listening, analytics and amplification… we want to hear from you. We’re also eager to hear about new business models that reward quality and engagement, solutions that elevate new and diverse voices, and creative distribution strategies to ensure content reaches new audiences, beyond echo chambers.
 
2.
Building Movements for the Future
Civic engagement is on the rise, and movements for justice are gaining traction across the US, but our technology and tools often remain stuck in the past. Are you building technology or tools that mobilize citizens, make campaigns more efficient, or blend digital and grassroots organizing? We can’t wait to hear about your work. We’re especially interested in tools for distributed and networked movements, technology that helps coordinate volunteers, campaigns, and candidates, and innovations that facilitate conversations and decision-making.
Resources
Open Call / News & Events
January 8th, 2018

7th Innovation Fund Open Call: Shift the Story

Open Call / For Investors / For Startups
May 24th, 2018

Shift the Story: What We're Seeing

For Investors / Open Call
February 6th, 2018

Resistance & Rebuilding in the Trump Era – What We Learned from 500 Startups

FAQs
Getting Started
How do I apply?

We are using a platform called F6S to process applications. Click here to access the application. For your convenience, you can see a list of the application questions here without having to create an account. The application deadline has been extended to Friday, February 9 at 11:59pm PT.

We encourage you to join our informational webinar on Thursday, January 18 at 11am PT - please register here. There will be dedicated time during the webinar to answer your questions directly. If you can’t join the webinar, it will be recorded and a link will be posted on this FAQ page and on our website.

What's the timeline for the open call?

- January 8: Accepting applications

- January 18: Informational webinar

- February 2: Application deadline 11:59pm PT February 9: Application deadline

- February - March: Interviews and requests for additional information

- May: Applications selected for funding are notified

Why should I apply?

"NMV has been there for us as founders from the very beginning. We had so much to learn about the world of tech startups and impact investing. NMV's team helped us learn the ropes of fundraising, including how to describe ourselves. Being part of NMV's portfolio has connected us to other innovative social enterprises to share successes, ideas and challenges with each other."

— Cheryl Contee, Co-Founder, Attentive.ly (acquired by Blackbaud in 2016)

How does NMV support its portfolio organizations?

Applications selected for funding will receive the following:

- $50k to $250k in funding. We typically make investments in for-profits and give unrestricted grants to non-profits.

- Selected startups receive virtual acceleration support and introductions to NMV’s network of angel investors for follow-on capital, connections and advice.

- The opportunity to participate in NMV’s Summit, a unique convening of funders, investors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.

Who Should Apply

New Media Ventures typically funds for-profit and nonprofit technology and media startups. We will consider funding a new project within an existing organization as well. The Innovation Fund is best suited for early-stage startups (pre-seed/seed stage) for which $50-250K in funding can make a meaningful difference.

Our mission is to support innovators creating progressive change, and we are particularly interested in organizations that are building political power to do so. You should look at our portfolio and our most recent Resist and Rebuild slate to get a sense of the organizations we support.

What are we looking for?

- Fiscal structure agnostic: We will consider funding both for-profits (including B-Corps and Benefit Corporations) and nonprofits (including 501c3, 501c4 and 527 groups).

- Scalable with a proof of concept: We prefer ventures with an existing user base (even if they are only beta users), demonstrated proof of concept, and a clear plan for generating revenue and growth.

- Strong, diverse team: We look for leadership teams that have both the technical and business talent to create something great and then sell it, and who understand their customer base intimately. We are wary of startups that have outsourced their technical team, only have developers as co-founders or have B2B experience but want to build a consumer-facing solution. We are especially interested in democratizing access to capital and encourage people who are under-represented in the startup communities to apply.

- Mission-driven: New Media Ventures invests in progressive change. We care about environmental protection, economic equality, racial justice, and a thriving democracy. The startups we support are mission-driven and seeking to make the world a better place.

What's the selection process?

Applications will be reviewed and evaluated by New Media Ventures’ investment team and an external screening committee – a diverse team of active investors and grantmakers, as well as experts in campaigns, civic engagement, media, technology and innovation. The full evaluation includes a review of your written application, 2 interviews, conversations with your references, a review of your financial documents (current budget and forecast) as well as conversation with experts in your field, as relevant. The final funding decision is made by the NMV investment team.

Application-related FAQs
What is F6S?

F6S is the platform used by hundreds of incubators, accelerators and funders to connect with startups. We use F6S to process your application to the Innovation Fund Open Call. If you are unfamiliar with F6S, please read the full FAQ section below. You are also invited to attend the informational webinar on January 18 at 11am PT, which will include a guided tour of F6S. RSVP to join the webinar here.

I clicked the link, but it’s asking me to create an account or sign in with Facebook/LinkedIn! What should I do?

You can either create a new account by logging in with Facebook, LinkedIn, or your email, or you can log into your existing account using Facebook, LinkedIn, or your email. Do not worry; once you do this, you will return to the application. If you want to take a look at the application questions without having to create an account, you can review them here.

When I get to the application I see so many options! What do I do?

Complete the application you get to when following this link. Do not click “Apply” in the top navigation bar.

Does the character count limit include spaces?

Yes, the character count includes spaces.

My organization has a team of co-founders - how do I add them to the application?

You can tell us more about your full team in question 8 of the application.


If we do not have an "investor pitch deck", should we create one?

If you have a pitch deck, we’d love to see it but there is no need to create one just for us - the rest of the application will give us the information we need, and the deck is truly optional. We recommend that you post your pitch deck to Google Drive or DocSend, and include the link in your application (question #14 in the application). Check out our blog post on How to Create a Great Pitch Deck for more information.

The application system (F6S) froze on me! This button doesn’t work! Etc.

F6S is a moody creature. Give it time and try again. If problems persist, email innovationfund@newmediaventures.org.

I’m not done yet, but have to go do something else. What do I do?

While F6S (the application system) does have an autosave function, it is imperfect. We strongly recommend filling out the application in a separate document and copying/pasting into F6S once it's completed. The list of questions in the application are linked here for your convenience.

I’m finished! What’s next?

Make sure to click the green button labeled “Connect with NMV Innovation Fund & Apply” at the bottom. You will see a green message that says “Success” to confirm your application has been submitted. You should also receive an email from F6S confirming your application was received.

Other NMV-related FAQs
What is the NMV network of angel investors? What type of funding do they typically provide?

NMV investors are driven by impact and return, but each investor has different criteria. Together, the for-profit investors can provide $250K - $1M+ in funding at the seed stage. The same is true for the NMV network of grantmakers who support non-profit projects.

What kind of entities do you fund?

NMV has always been structure agnostic. We will fund all forms of for-profits companies and non-profits organizations. If you’re not incorporated yet, you can also apply. We understand things are moving fast, and we want to see the best ideas regardless of current structure. For more information, please read these two posts: NMV’s Fit Test: What We Fund (and What We Don’t) and Innovation Fund: Is Your Startup The Right Fit?

Is NMV an accelerator?

Because we invest in early-stage startups, the entrepreneurs in our portfolio often need additional strategic support, and we have developed a light-touch virtual accelerator program to provide resources that are especially helpful for first-time founders. We are not a structured or time-bound accelerator program, however, and encourage our portfolio organizations and companies to seek out such programs whenever possible, alongside NMV funding. We encourage applicants to consider accelerator programs like: Y-Combinator, Matter, Higher Ground Labs, and FastForward, among others.

Can previous NMV Innovation Fund applicants and recipients apply?

Past applicants are welcome to apply to this Open Call. However, if you have already received funding from New Media Ventures, do not apply. Reach out to us directly to discuss the support you need.

Do you fund/make grants to startups outside of the United States?

We only support projects that are making an impact in the U.S. We will consider supporting projects led outside of the U.S., but that are seeking to enter the U.S. market.

What do you consider proof of concept?

We expect ideas to have encountered reality - not simply a plan on paper. This could be a prototype or a test that provides some (even if it’s relatively little) evidence or data that your project is feasible. We often share the example of how Upworthy got started -- using a test they did through MoveOn to demonstrate that audiences would share powerful videos.

Can you talk a bit more about scalability and how you judge this?

We look for projects where a little bit of money can go a long way, where it will have a multiplying effect. We like this explanation of scale from Josh Lowry’s blog: “Scalable businesses grow revenue with minimal to no new operating costs (software). If operating costs increase at the same rate as revenue growth, the business does not scale (professional services).”

For media projects, how important is the alternative revenue stream/new business model component?

The traditional business model for media companies is changing. We expect projects to have diversified, viable revenue streams. We would likely not invest in a project whose only revenue came from ad sales for example, unless it could be demonstrated that advertising alone was a sustainable, recurring source of revenue.

Do non-grant revenue streams have to already be underway or if we have ideas for them for the future is that sufficient?

We look more favorably on organizations that have tested some of their ideas for non-grant revenue, even if the results of those tests are small. Some evidence works better than a laundry list of ideas. For more information on revenue streams, take a look at our white paper - Making Money for Impact.

For investments in for profit companies, what is asked in return? Is there a request for equity, voting shares, or anything else?

Usually we invest in the form of convertible debt, which is essentially a loan that you can pay back or pay back with equity. We have made other kinds of investments on a case-by-case basis.

For projects that you select to fund, what sort of interaction do you have with the project? Beyond funding, are there other areas of support provided? Are there expectations/requirements for participation with other grantees or other entities in your network?

We have a virtual accelerator program to help support portfolio companies and organizations - this includes staff available for 1:1 consultation, formal connections to other funders, a founder community to provide peer support and a series of webinars and calls on issues that commonly affect entrepreneurs (hiring/firing, growth strategy, product development). We bring together our entire portfolio and investor community once a year at our annual summit.

Is 250K the highest investment you will make?

Yes. Every investment we make will also be shared with our network of funders. Funders have historically invested follow-on capital (typically up to $1m per startup), however there’s no guarantee that companies will be funded beyond our investment.

 
Learn more about NMV
Find out more about who we fund and what kind of individuals are in our network. Also explore resources for entrepreneurs in Tools for Change.