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The purpose of the Impact Seed Fund is to encourage innovative and creative thinking and provide the opportunity to execute on those innovative ideas. The fund, valued at $50,000 per year, is available to Hinman CEOs, Hillman Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program students at the University of Maryland. Distribution of seed funding will favor proposals that consider potential for offering a positive impact on society or that provide a solution that includes a forward-thinking strategy. While not all of the plans need to relate directly to social entrepreneurship, a value proposition that considers societal impact will increase the potential for being funded. Plans can be technical or non-technical in nature.
Qualifying students will write a business plan describing the opportunity. There is no defined minimum length for submitted plans. However, in no case should plans exceed 15 pages. Plans should follow this format:
Define the company/business in a single declarative sentence
Describe the pain of the customer (or the customer's customer).
Outline how the customer addresses the issue today
Demonstrate your company's value proposition to make the customer's life better.
Show where your product physically sits.
Provide use cases.
Set-up the historical evolution of your category.
Define recent trends that make your solution possible.
Identify/profile the customer you cater to.
Calculate the TAM (top down), SAM (bottoms up) and SOM.
List competitive advantages
Product line-up (form factor, functionality, features, architecture, intellectual property).
Average account size and/or lifetime value
Sales & distribution model
Founders & Management
Board of Directors/Board of Advisors
Income Statement (3 years annually)
Cash Flow Statement (3 years. Monthly tear for 1. Annually for years 2 and 3.)
Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis and the review committee will attempt to conduct an evaluation as quickly as possible with every attempt to provide an initial review with feedback within four weeks of submittal.
Criteria include the following:
Strength of the value proposition
ability for the team to execute the plan
probability of success within a reasonable time frame
promise of the plan to provide a positive impact as defined below
While plans that address the environment, education, healthcare and other underserved markets and communities often present the strongest benefit to society with social responsibility lying at the core of the business plan, any plan that has considered and offered some kind of positive social benefit, or benefits some targeted disadvantaged community as an element of the business idea is eligible. A goal of the seed fund is to encourage students to think more broadly when considering solutions to any problem and thus "positive impact" can be the core of the plan of some element within the plan that has resulted from thinking about solutions to problems in some new and forward-thinking way.
The review committee will provide feedback to all student teams who submit a plan regardless of the decision, but before starting the process, students are encouraged to discuss their ideas with advisors and mentors. Unsuccessful plans may be revised and re-reviewed. If revised plans are viable in the estimation of the review committee, students have the opportunity to continue through the selection process.
The committee reviewing the written plan may make any of four decisions: The plan does not merit for funding as it does not offer a viable idea or does not meet the criteria of the fund.
The plan has flaws but has some potential. Feedback will be delivered and the entrepreneur(s) have an opportunity to present a revised plan.
The plan has merit but has some minor questions that need to be answered. The entrepreneur(s) may schedule the oral presentation before a committee of 2-3 reviewers with the questions answered and revised plan offered at or before the oral review.
The plan has merit and no revisions are required. The entrepreneur(s) may schedule an oral presentation immediately with no further revisions to the plan prior to the presentation.
Those plans that pass the written review will schedule a 10-15 minute oral presentation. In no case should a presentation exceed 15 minutes. The presentation should contain slides that cover the same elements as required in the plan, as stated above.
Entrepreneurs may seek mentoring assistance at all times during the process- including from the reviewing committee. The committee reviewing proposals typically consists of the Hinman CEOs Director, the Hillman Entrepreneurs Director and one or more additional people from Mtech or from outside the organization. The donor may join any review committee and provide input for all proposals.
The Impact Seed Fund is a grant that incorporates no required return of funds by the grant recipient. There are no obligations to the fund with exception of reporting on the proposed use of the funding in the application and a final written report due to the fund managers. Recipients will communicate with the assigned mentor on a regular basis to ensure the venture is staying on track. Neither Mtech nor the University will take an ownership position in the company exclusively because of this funding.
Awards can range from $500-$5,000 or more, depending upon the opportunities presented to the committee. "Implementation Grants," generally offered in the $2,000-$5,000 range based on the project need, are reserved for ideas with a well-developed plan and for ideas that have been thoroughly researched. "Opportunity Assessment Grants," generally in the $500-$1,000 range, are awarded for the ideas that show promise but require further research to assess the opportunity. The committee will have absolute discretion in which plans are awarded a grant and the amount of each award. Additional rounds of funding may be offered at the discretion of the committee.
The committee will designate a person to mentor and oversee the awarded company and to manage the use of funding. This mentor/manager will approve all funding distributions before purchase and in most cases initiate payment of any expenses through normal university processes. Teams will keep complete and accurate accounting of funding use and provide original receipts for any pre-approved purchases made by the team. Mentor/managers will report to the committee and budgetary requests' that extends beyond normal expenditures. Typical approved budgets may include expenses relating to purchasing equipment and parts for creating a prototype, legal work for company formation, patients, licensing, contracts and other legal needs, marketing costs including strategic marketing for market research and other marketing and advertising for the product or service. Internships, especially summer internships, may be considered. Questions regarding funding for other needs beyond these typical costs should be directed to one of the review committee members during the proposal process or the appointed mentor once the award is made.
Each semester, grant recipients will provide an update and these update presentations may include a reception where the donor and other guests are invited.
Review the criteria, ask questions of the advisors and mentors, and write a compelling business plan. Once the plan is complete, submit the plan electronically to James Green at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck!