NMV's 2020 Open Call is Live!
Wrestling with the challenges facing our democracy? We want to hear from you!
The last few years show what’s possible when we work together, invest early, and bet big on innovation. But we can't stop now. This summer, NMV will fund a new wave of activists & entrepreneurs wrestling with the challenges facing our democracy. We want to hear from you!
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.
- 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
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)
- $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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. If you have important updates, such as new customers, you would like us to know about after submitting, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org but do not submit a new application.
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.
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.
Please select all that apply in the application.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.