For years now, I’ve been calling the NC IDEA Grant the best kept startup secret in North Carolina. A non-profit sister program to local VC firm Idea Fund Partners, they grant (as in to give, to hand over, to put in your hands) up to $50,000 to six or so early-stage startups along with some mentoring, connections, and now shared resources with their relatively young accelerator Groundwork Labs.

Now located in the American Underground, NC IDEA is one of the only programs of its kind, where an entrepreneur with a great idea can get seed funding with very little attached in terms of strings — those strings that are attached are pretty much all focused on making sure the entrepreneurs builds the most viable company possible.

I’m not going to mince words. You must do this. You’ve got about six weeks to get your act together.

Previous winners of the grant have gone on to raise additional rounds, including Automated Insights (who got the cash to hire me — and I am not inexpensive), Valencell, Argyle Social, and SpringMetrics. More recent winners include Aaron Houghton’s BoostSuite and Triangle Startup Factory graduate Archive Social.

I’ll also select my words carefully here. It is not easy.

I’ve applied. Twice. I’ve failed. Twice. Admittedly, I’ve come close, but ten-page diatribes on beer-fueled entrepreneurism that overuse that words “awesome” and “synergy” are not going to get the job done.

Here’s what you need to do:

Take their eligibility quiz. If you don’t get past this part, don’t waste your time, and you will have to put a lot of time into it. Think of the process as a mini-fundraise.

Parse your business plan and model, really think about what your startup is trying to accomplish, and get it all onto a sheet of paper. Great. Now cut 50% of that, including all the adjectives and superlatives.

Attend one of the three public sessions they’re holding in Durham, online, and in Charlotte for more information and Q&A. For your convenience, we’ve posted these sessions on our NOW PUBLIC other events calendar.

Get your application in by the early deadline, August 24th. You can wait until the final deadline, Septmeber 7th, if you want, but there’s no reason to. If you can’t get it together in four weeks then who are you kidding.

By the way, you didn’t hear this from me, but there just so happens to be an Idea Fund Partners IDEA PITCH session, where you can register to pitch to their VCs and get feedback, on August 15th, nine days before the early deadline. This is also on our NOW OPEN TO EVERY LIVING SOUL calendar

You’re welcome. Just don’t tell anyone else.