Responding to the Omni-Crisis: Updates from the Open Call
Now is the time to invest in leaders with strong track records fighting for justice.
The 2020 Open Call is now closed. We will be announcing our investments in summer of 2020.
Yes! But for the first time in our 10 year history, we are expanding our Open Call to surface additional projects advancing democracy in the face of COVID-19. We first launched the Open Call in February and accepted applications until early March. Since then, the fast-moving COVID-19 crisis continues to create new challenges and exacerbate existing inequalities at an alarming pace. We must act quickly to protect vulnerable communities and defend our democracy. In a world transformed by COVID-19, we need progressive technology and media more than ever before.
We hosted a webinar to share our thinking on Tuesday, April 14. The recording, slide deck, and Q&A are available here.
We’re inviting the 500+ founders who pitched us earlier this year to share updates on how their plans have changed in light of COVID-19 (consider this the 2nd round of questions we were planning to ask anyway). We also want to hear from founders who didn’t pitch us but are spinning up new projects in response to this crisis, including those in our existing portfolio. We are already seeing unparalleled ingenuity, persistence, and collective action in the face of the threat and want to be responsive as funders to resource that progressive innovation.
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. Existing Open Call applicants will be required to submit a new application, but we will send each of you your prior application as a starting point. Feel free to copy/paste language from your original application on questions where nothing has changed.
The application opens on Tuesday, April 7 and we are accepting submissions on a rolling basis. Applications submitted by Monday, May 4, will be given priority in our review cycle, so we encourage you to fill out the application as soon as you are able. After May 4, we will continue to accept and review applications as they come, as we know the COVID-19 crisis is fast changing and will affect your operating environment past that time.
We encourage you to join our informational webinar on Tuesday, April 14 at 10 AM 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 our website.
April 7: Accepting applications - we will begin reviewing as soon as we receive them.
April 14: Informational webinar for prospective applicants at 10 AM PT.
May 4: Applications submitted by this date will be given priority in our review cycle, but we will continue to accept and consider applications afterwards until we have exhausted our funding.
Mid-May onward: NMV team, with support from an external investment committee of field experts will 1) begin interviewing shortlisted applicants and 2) conduct additional diligence on a subset of interviewees, including customer references and a review of financials.
Mid-May - August: Applicants selected for funding are notified on a rolling basis
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)
$25K to $250K in funding. We typically make investments in for-profits (most often via convertible notes) and give unrestricted grants to nonprofits.
Historically, we have offered a funding range of $50K - $250K. We are lowering our minimum investment so we can move through diligence faster, be more responsive to the shifting needs of applicants, and have flexibility on the number of groups we support this year.
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. This year, we are currently evaluating alternatives to the usual in-person event.
New Media Ventures funds for-profits and nonprofits. We’re looking for scalable solutions from diverse, mission-driven teams that are working to advance progressive change in the context of COVID-19. We’ll consider supporting:
NMV funding is often best suited for early-stage startups (pre-seed/seed stage) or projects for which $25K to $250K 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, and for this Open Call, we have a preference for work that is especially positioned to build power in this COVID-19 context now and in the long term. Ultimately, we hope to find the best technology and media innovations and love to be surprised by things we haven’t seen or considered before. You should look at our portfolio and our most recent investment slate to get a sense of the breadth of organizations we support.
Included below are some non-exhaustive examples of the types of applications that could be a fit for this Open Call, and how they align with three areas of our theory of change to build progressive power. Register here for our informational webinar on Tuesday, April 14 at 10 AM PT, if you are still unsure if you’re a fit.
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 clear chance to build power in this COVID-19 context now and in the future.
Preference for sustainable model and impact: We have a preference for work that is sustainable, and builds power in a COVID-19 context now and in the future. We will consider applications that are brand new and/or shorter-term in focus, or that may benefit from a one-time surge in funding, if they are well positioned to address challenges that the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating.
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 on a rolling basis by NMVs’ investment team and an external investment committee of field experts, with priority given to those submitted by May 4. Starting as early as early May, shortlisted applicants will interview with NMV. The NMV team will then conduct final and deeper diligence on a subset of interviewees and make final funding decisions. We will move money on a rolling basis, as early as mid-May, with August as a rough target end date.
A full evaluation for an applicant selected for funding includes, at most, 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. Where possible, we will move through diligence faster to be as responsive as possible to the COVID-19 context.
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 Tuesday, April 14 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.
You can view an example application from a past Open Call here.
In our experience, we’ve seen applicants struggle the most with the following questions:
In general, use concise language, quantitative data (e.g., size of the audience / market you are trying to reach), and specificity where possible.
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.
Additionally, we will consider applications that are brand new and / or shorter-term in focus, or that may benefit from a one-time surge in funding, if they are well positioned to address challenges that the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have important updates, such as new customers, you would like us to know about after submitting, please send a note to email@example.com 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.
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 $150K - $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.
Please select all that apply in the application.
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.
Existing applicants to the 2020 Open Call we launched earlier this year must submit updates on their work in context of the COVID-19 crisis at this new application link. We also want to hear from founders who didn’t pitch us but are spinning up new projects in response to this crisis, including those in our existing portfolio.
Past applicants from Open Calls before 2020 are also welcome to apply to this Open Call. We’ll consider stand alone applications, as well as collaboration proposals from multiple organizations working on one solution together which could include an organization from our existing portfolio. In our experience, collaboration proposals that carefully outline complementary strengths of each organization can be compelling, but do not give applicants any outright advantage in the review process.
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.
In this Open Call, applicants must also explain how their work builds power in a COVID-19 context. We have a preference for work that builds power now and in the long-term, and that is financially sustainable. However, we will consider applications that are brand new and / or shorter-term in focus, or that may benefit from a one time surge in funding if they are well positioned to address challenges that the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating.