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NC IDEA Regional Impact Grant Expands Mentorship and Funding Opportunities for Diverse Entrepreneurs in Lake Norman region

The Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Davidson College, Launch LKN & First Turn Innovations Awarded $50,000 NC IDEA Regional Impact Grant

NCIDEA Foundation logo

Today, NC IDEA announced during their Ecosystem Summit that they have awarded the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College, Launch LKN and First Turn Innovations a $50,000 Regional Impact Grant to support the expansion of their mentorship, Gig-Hub and seed capital programs in the Charlotte / Central Piedmont region. The Regional Impact Grants under the umbrella of NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM, were made available to existing NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM and NC IDEA ENGAGE partners to serve as the lead grantee. The Hurt Hub@Davidson received an NC IDEA ENGAGE grant to support TechStars Startup Weekend during Innovation Week in September 2021 and was then eligible to lead the Regional Impact grant application. “We were thrilled to win an NC IDEA Regional Impact Grant to support scaling some of the fundamental programs we offer around mentorship, talent development and experiential learning, and access to capital, particularly for underrepresented members of our entrepreneurial community,” said Hurt Hub@Davidson Director, Liz Brigham.  

Hurt Hub@Davidson, Launch LKN and First Turn Innovations (FTI) Partnership

The Hurt Hub@Davidson, which facilitates access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship for all, and Launch LKN, a non-profit which serves as a catalyst for the creation of a viable, sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lake Norman, have partnered for three years to provide mentorship and educational experiences to the entrepreneurship community in the region. First Turn Innovations, founded in 2021, recently partnered with the Hurt Hub@Davidson and Launch LKN to offer a deeper focus on the inspiration, innovation and implementation of hardware-based ideas through technical support, IP legal support, business administrative support, and mentorship. 

The grant solicitation required at least two organizations to collaborate on a program supporting entrepreneurs building scalable businesses, focusing on a specific region of their choosing. This particular grant program intends to strengthen the infrastructure supporting North Carolina entrepreneurs via collaboration and the sharing of resources and networks. “Startup ecosystems need density to thrive – density of talent, density of investors, and density of customers,” said Launch LKN co-founder Mark McDowell. “This grant will help The Hurt Hub@Davidson, LaunchLKN and First Turn Innovations expand our reach in our region and allow us to approach long term, sustainable operations.” Several of the partnerships focused on elevating Black entrepreneurship were funded under the leadership of the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council (NC BEC). 

The leadership teams at the Hurt Hub@Davidson, Launch LKN and First Turn Innovations intend to allocate the grant across three main areas: Mentorship, the Gig-Hub program and Tech Impact Fund, and seed funding. 

​​Mentorship

The team plans to allocate $20,000 of the grant toward subsidizing a part-time staff position to oversee the following:

  • Recruiting new mentors from more diverse backgrounds and underrepresented founders;
  • Developing, launching and maintaining a mentor database to better match mentees based on expertise needed and to keep better records for reporting;
  • Hosting monthly mentor meetings and other mentor / mentee mixers to drive engagement and awareness of opportunities in our ecosystem;
  • Collecting and analyzing data and qualitative feedback to continuously improve the program and to expand storytelling to feed into recruiting and other fundraising.

Gig-Hub and the Tech Impact Fund

The Gig-Hub program offers Davidson students the opportunity to work for startups and small businesses to expand their work experience while providing capacity to these businesses at an affordable rate. The team will allocate $10,000 (over 550 hours) of pro bono Gig-Hub consulting work for women and minority-owned businesses through the Tech Impact Fund, a fund established in 2015 by Whitney A. White, Davidson ‘08 and founder of Afara Global and Take Back Your Time. Another $10,000 will support scaling the administration and operations of the Gig-Hub program. 

Seed Funding

With the grant, the team also seeks to eliminate barriers for entrepreneurs to get their first funding. They will use $10,000 to support expanding access to capital for all audiences, but specifically for underrepresented founders. The team will distribute micro-grants to support activities such as prototyping in the First Turn Innovations facility, market research, testing and launch support at the Hurt Hub, reserving $5,000 for underrepresented founders.

About the Hurt Hub@Davidson

Vision: 

We facilitate access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship for ALL

Values:

We believe innovation is born out of Freedom, Integrity, and Inclusion.

  • Freedom to take risks. Freedom to fail and to succeed.
  • Integrity is our expectation.
  • Inclusion is the foundation of everything we do.

Mission:

The Hurt Hub@Davidson convenes innovators and entrepreneurs in the Davidson college community and the Lake Norman region to catalyze innovative solutions to critical problems through educational programming, experiential learning in a safe environment, an inclusive co-working space, uncompromising ethics, a robust mentor network, and access to startup capital. 

About Launch LKN

LaunchLKN, or Launch Lake Norman, was founded with the purpose of serving as a catalyst for the creation of a viable, sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem in the greater Lake Norman Area.  We pursue this objective through four pillars: Community Building, Education, Mentorship, and Investment.  Of these four focus areas, Mentorship – directly advising and supporting local entrepreneurs in their pursuit of successful venture launch – is the most impactful and unique in the region.  We have a group of over fifty mentors, each with diverse and applicable career background and skills, actively volunteering their time to help entrepreneurs in the region succeed.  To date, we have mentored over 60 ventures spanning over 2,000 hours. Our applicants come to us through our partnership with Davidson College as well as from the broader tech and start-up community, with 37% of the group consisting of women entrepreneurs and 52% of the group consisting of BIPOC entrepreneurs. 

About First Turn Innovations

First Turn Innovations is a place where ideas come to life through a collaborative effort of a highly skilled pool of human capital.  It is an organization of scientists, engineers, patent attorneys, business owners and venture capitalists that have come together to provide a pathway for budding companies to get stood up in their pursuit of success and economic prosperity.  We aim to be the vehicle for inspiration, innovation and implementation of hardware-based ideas and to create an environment where entrepreneurs can grow their ideas from concept to production or where they may scale an existing organization for long term success.  FTI initially hopes to harness the entrepreneurial and engineering communities in our region through technical support, IP legal support, business administrative support, and mentorship.

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Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College