3 Benefits You Gain from Applying to Start Up Grants Even if You Lose!
Who said things in life aren't free? On my journey to bootstrapping The Mental Savage Club, I've been enchanted by the idea of grants and equity free funding opportunities. Whether you're a bootstrapping founder or not, every founder needs a level of financial resources (in some way shape or form) to realize their solution. Fairy dust and wishful intentions don't build businesses. Well, despite the importance of money I'm going to share 3 reasons you should apply to start up grants even if you lose!
Benefit 1: They help you understand why you care
People throw around the truism that its important to be passionate about what you do. I think its important to be passionate about something you do.
Many of the start up grants I've applied to ask something along the lines of "Why are you working on this idea" or "What problem does your start up seek to solve?".
These questions are fundamental for any founder. Answering questions like this have forced me to look within and actually think why I'm building a mental toughness community for aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs.
This is invaluable because you'll be reminded about the passion you have for your idea.
It's that passion, no matter how small, that will push you on to keep building, serving and learning.
Benefit 2: They help you better articulate your idea
Every entrepreneur has seen their favourite Dragons Den (Shark Tank for my American fellow entrepreneurs) pitch. Remember how it made you feel?
They are not that succinct, clear and effective by accident. Every single start up grant or competition I've applied to has asked "What your idea is". Some have given me 50 words to answer this, some 200 words.
I love this as its literal free pitch practice. You get to practice your pitch (both written answers and spoken for video answers). Chew over the essential value proposition and coherently express its features. As a founder this should be done anyway so you can communicate them to your customers, members, future employees or investors.
Applying to start up grants has helped to make my idea clearer.
Clarity can lead to influence.
Benefit 3: They act as a form of feedback to improve your idea
As an entrepreneur you must crave feedback, especially from your (potential) customers.
Every time I get a rejection from a start up grant, I take it as feedback that my idea was not good enough. There's obviously something that can be improved, otherwise I would have won. Sometimes if the organisations have enough time resources, they'll even give you verbal or written feedback (always good practice to ask if they can, if they haven't said they won't).
Maybe my proof of concept could be stronger; maybe my answers could express more of my personality; maybe I was lazy and didn't put in much effort; maybe my customer acquisition strategy isn't compelling enough.
This feedback of rejection can indicate that something needs to change.
If you're like me, you're probably thinking a start up should primarily care about their customer's feedback. Well... you're absolutely right, but in order to gain feedback you need to feed an idea/method/feature to your customers.
The feedback you get from applying to start up grants and competitions can give you a plethora of things to test with your customers.
Applying to start up grants has many non-monetary benefits. Regardless if you win money, you are certain to win these other benefits. The only requirement needed is a perspective shift. I'm not saying apply to everything you see, as they can take time and you must measure the opportunity cost of applying. However for most aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs, at least from my experience, applying has helped me. It's also a nice touch to be able to document how my business is slowly evolving to better serve our entrepreneurial members.