New Media Ventures
2020 Open Call
New Media Ventures

The 2020 Open Call is now closed. We will be announcing our investments in summer of 2020.

Open Call will resume
Early 2021
Our current open call is closed.
Interested in our next one? Click the link below, and we'll be in touch.
Our Criteria
We focus on scalable solutions from diverse, mission-driven teams, and are especially eager to hear from startups that are:
 
1.
Shifting Power
Restoring power to citizens and communities requires bold vision and large-scale change. How can tech and media help?
 
2.
Building Movements
Together we are capable of amazing things. How can innovation accelerate movements for racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice?
 
3.
Changing Narratives
Stories inspire action and culture has the power to accelerate social change. What’s the next chapter for media and messaging? How can new voices change the way we see the world?
 
4.
Sparking Civic Engagement
To create the vibrant democracy we know is possible, we need everyone involved. How can technology help recruit and empower folks like never before – from voters to volunteers to candidates?
Resources
For Startups
April 27th, 2015

On Unicorns: We’re Looking For A Different Kind Of Magic

For Startups
August 5th, 2016

NMV’s Fit Test: What We Fund (and What We Don’t)

For Startups
June 19th, 2015

How to Create A Great Pitch Deck

FAQs
Getting Started
How do I apply?

We are using a platform called airtable to process applications. Click here to access the application. For your convenience, you can see a list of the application questions here. The application opens on Monday, February 3, and will close on March 2, at 11:59 PM PT.


We hosted an informational webinar on Wednesday, February 19 at 10 AM PT. The recordings, deck, and Q&A are available here.

What's the timeline for the open call?

- February 3: Accepting applications


- February 19: Informational webinar for prospective applicants


- March 2: Application deadline 11:59 PM PT


- Mid-March: Shortlisted applicants submit additional information on their work, such as impact, competition, and the plan for growth


- April - May: Semi-finalist applicants interview with NMV team and an external investment committee of field experts


- June - July: NMV conducts additional diligence on finalist applicants, including customer references, review of financials, and more conversations with applicant teams


- Late July / Early August: 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)

What support do selected organizations receive?

- $50k to $250k in funding. We typically make investments in for-profits (most often via convertible notes) and give unrestricted grants to nonprofits.


- Coaching and virtual acceleration support led by Sabrina Hersi Issa, our Entrepreneur-in-Residence, 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 funds for-profits and nonprofits. We’re looking for scalable solutions from diverse, mission-driven teams. We will consider funding a new project within an existing organization, as well as collaboration proposals from multiple organizations working together to build and scale a solution. The Innovation Fund is best suited for early-stage startups (pre-seed/seed stage) for which $50K to 250K in funding can make a meaningful difference.


Our mission is to support entrepreneurs and activists wrestling with the biggest challenges facing our democracy. We are especially interested in supporting founders working to shift the balance of power in the country. Ultimately, we hope to find the best innovations and solutions and love to be surprised by things we haven’t seen or considered before. You should look at our portfolio and our most recent Open Call slate to get a sense of the breadth of 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. In some cases, we will fund ventures with little or no user base if there is compelling research proving the efficacy of the idea, or a demonstrated need and opportunity to build power.


- 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 community to apply. In our experience, founders with direct experience of the challenges they are working to solve are best positioned to do so.


- Mission-driven: New Media Ventures is mission driven and works to invest in entrepreneurs and activists shifting the balance of power in the United States. 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 NMVs’ investment team. Shortlisted applicants then submit additional information on their work, such as impact, competition, and the plan for growth. Next, semi-finalists join an interview with NMV and an external investment committee – a diverse team of active investors and grantmakers, as well as experts in campaigns, civic engagement, media, technology and innovation. Finally, NMV conducts deep diligence on finalists and makes all final funding decisions.


The full evaluation includes a review of your written applications, multiple 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.

Application FAQs
What is Airtable?

Airtable is a cloud collaboration platform used by hundreds of businesses, startups, and funders to host and share information. You can also attend our webinar on Wednesday, February 19 at 10 AM PT, where we will give an overview of how we use Airtable to process your application. RSVP to join the webinar here.

Will I be required to create an airtable account?

The application does not require you to create an airtable account, though you can do so if you would like. If you want to take a look at the application questions without having to visit airtable, you can review them here.

Are there word counts for my responses?

The length of your answers to the application is not limited, but we do include suggested word counts - we recognize the importance of providing you with space to explain the nuances of your work, but also value concise language that helps you focus on the core of your impact and streamlines our review process. Please check the length of your responses before submitting them and aim to be within a reasonable range of the suggested word count.

I want to make sure I’m answering the questions in the best way! Are there any questions you see applicants commonly struggle with?

In our experience, we’ve seen applicants struggle the most with the question, ‘What are you building?’


We want to understand the solution you are building as clearly as possible. It may be helpful to also describe the problem you hope to solve to provide context for your work, but too often applicants share their mission and vision (the why) instead of what they are doing about it specifically (the what and the how).

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. In some cases, we will fund ventures with little or no proof of concept if there is compelling research proving the efficacy of the idea, or a demonstrated need and opportunity to build power.

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

Airtable does not have an autosave function. We strongly recommend filling out the application in a separate document and copying/pasting into airtable once it's completed. The list of questions in the application are linked here for your convenience.

Can I edit my application once I have submitted it?

You will not be able to edit an application once it is submitted to airtable, so we do strongly encourage you to fill out the application in a separate document and copy/paste into airtable once it’s completed. However, if you accidentally submit an incomplete application, you can submit a new application. If you do so, please notify us at innovationfund@newmediaventures.org. If you have important updates, such as new customers, you would like us to know about after submitting, please send a note to innovationfund@newmediaventures.org but do not submit a new application.

How will the data I submit be used? Will it be shared?

We will not share PII (Personally Identifiable Information) like email or phone numbers publicly, but we may share aggregated data on themes from the open call applications across our network of funders, founders, and activists or to the public. We will keep details about your organization (e.g., financials) confidential.

I’m finished! What’s next?

Once you press submit at the bottom of the airtable submission form, you will be shown text that thanks you for your time and confirms your submission. You will see a link for a post-application survey which we ask you to complete to help us understand how to improve our process and make the application transparent and not too cumbersome.


Thanks for sharing your work with us! We’ll be in touch soon.

My organization has multiple fiscal structures. Which one should I indicate on the application?

Please select all that apply in the application.

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. For for-profits in our portfolio, we commit to reach out to our network of angel investors and connect those interested in joining us in a round. Together, NMV and for-profit investors in our angel network can provide $250K - $1M+ in funding at the seed stage.


For non-profits in our portfolio, we are committed to helping you be equipped to fundraise effectively. Support varies depending on needs, but this can include connections to funders we know when there is mutual interest, support from our team on pitch material review, webinars from our team on fundraising lessons and cycles, and an invitation to our annual Summit where many donors are present.

What kind of entities do you fund?

NMV has always been structure agnostic. We will fund many different forms of for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations. If you’re not incorporated yet, you can still apply. We understand things are moving fast, and we want to see the best ideas regardless of current structure.

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 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, 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. We’re also happy to consider collaboration proposals from multiple organizations working on one solution together which could include an organization from our existing portfolio. However, if you have already received funding from New Media Ventures, and are not developing a collaboration proposal, do not apply. Reach out to us directly to let us know the specific support you need.

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 an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Sabrina Hersi Issa, who is available for 1:1 consultation, 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 (up to $1M per startup), however there’s no guarantee that companies will be funded beyond our investment.

I still don’t understand what you do and don’t fund.

For more information, please read these this post: NMV’s Fit Test: What We Fund (and What We Don’t) or review our reflections on our work to better understand how we think on our website here.

 
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.