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Grant Funding for Startups – Interview with OpenGrants’ Sedale Turbovsky

Open Grants

Did you know that a grant might be a good way to fund your startup? We recently sat down with Sedale Turbovsky, CEO and Co-Founder of OpenGrants, to learn more about grant funding, who it’s for, and where the opportunities can be found.

Tell us about yourself. What’s your background?

My name is Sedale Turbovsky, I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of OpenGrants, and I’m a serial entrepreneur. I spent a good portion of my career as a consultant helping companies navigate public/private partnerships, worked on a team that developed about 5 billion dollars in grant funded projects, and really got into the idea of leveraging grants to not only spark innovation and economic development, but also to democratize access to opportunity for people around the world. I saw firsthand the kind of impact real money could have, especially in emerging markets, not just the United States. I got very interested in improving the space because there’s a lot of inefficiencies in it. 

That’s me in a nutshell—I am self-branded as a “professional human being” which is just an approach to engaging humanity in a professional and thoughtful way, instead of haphazardly.

What is OpenGrants?

The short answer is that OpenGrants is a search engine and expert marketplace for finding grant funding—that’s what it is now. However, our vision for the future is to streamline access to grant funding for people around the world. 

What that means and looks like is, over time, we’d like to transform it to be the place where grant funding happens. Where, instead of having multiple applications for multiple funding streams across many agencies and foundations, you have a single on-chain identity that gives you access to grant funding and you’re able to upload metrics and impact stories that help inform funders continuously and help funders established trustless relationships with you and your team so that they can, at any given time, fund you and help support the project that you have moving.

Who is OpenGrants for?

OpenGrants is for anyone looking for grant funding, which is mainly small businesses, nonprofits, startups, and governments. Grant funding is typically reserved for a couple of really specific things—it’s usually used for social impact-focused projects, so things like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, or educating children. That’s one aspect of grant funding, and then the other is economic development-focused. So if you’re doing groundbreaking research like curing cancer, working on solving climate change, anything with hard technology, or if you’re training the workforce of tomorrow, creating job opportunities, etcetera. Those are two big buckets in the private sector. 

And then in the public sector, grant funding is the lifeblood of government—towns, cities, state governments, and foreign governments around the world. So if you happen to be looking for grant funding for your government, that’s another great use case for OpenGrants.

Why did you create OpenGrants? 

There are two trillion dollars, more or less, in grant funding that’s moved around the globe every year, and according to a variety of reports—including reports by the United States Congressional research group as well as the UN—about 30% of that money is just burned up, wasted, or otherwise misappropriated and misused. So when you imagine 30% of 2 trillion dollars, it’s hundreds of billions of dollars that is wasted every year. That’s an incredible missed opportunity, and we really want to mitigate that, and ideally solve it completely.

Why should entrepreneurs and innovators look at grant funding as an option? 

Grant funding is non-dilutive which means it doesn’t take up space on the cap table, and it doesn’t require repayment, so that means it’s effectively the cheapest money you can find for your business. It also allows you to establish relationships with really interesting and compelling organizations, which is a great market signal for other investments. We see it as an ideal first check for all of those reasons. It really does require you to get very clear about your impact, and how you’re going to make money moving forward as a company. It’s a way to light a fire under your team and under yourself as an entrepreneur to get really clear on what you’re trying to achieve. For all of those reasons, it’s an ideal way to get capital to build your business, and send really positive signals out to the market.

Where do you see the future of startup capital going?

Generally speaking, there’s a lot of effort right now to democratize and diversify the capital stack for startups. We believe we’re playing a really important role in that. Classically, there were just a few avenues to pursue that were really well understood. We’re excited about making grants accessible, but we’re also seeing tokenization of securities, all kinds of different crowdfunding campaigns, and DAOs as a way to raise capital and invest. Right now there’s more money than ever available for innovators and entrepreneurs, and there are a lot of really cool tools out there to help you access it.

As a founder, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to entrepreneurs who may be struggling to get something off the ground?

I think the biggest thing is being tenacious and working on something you really believe in. Tenacity only comes when you work on something you believe in. Don’t just go into business to go into business, go into business to change the world. If you just want to make money, go work at a FAANG company, make a quarter-million dollars a year, retire early and call it a day. If you’re going to start your own thing, do something awesome.

How can people find you and OpenGrants? 

You can go to opengrants.io and you’ll be able to sign up for free, create a profile, and start to get connected to grant funding and experts who can help you navigate that space. And myself, you can find me on Twitter @sturbovsky and I’m happy to connect, my DM’s are open if you have questions.

 

Matthew Loughran is a columnist at Disrupt Magazine, he specializes in Tech, Finance, Wellness, and Startups. He has been featured in Forbes, INC, Entrepreneur, Today Show, BuzzFeed, and several other news outlets.

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