NC IDEA’s commitment to helping develop startups continues with Groundworks Labs even as Joystick Labs becomes a lower priority and with little if any funding available.

As The Skinny reported Monday, Joystick Labs has pulled back from a funding model for startup videogame companies.

However, the fading of Joystick doesn’t mean in any way that NC IDEA – the economic development group affiliated with venture capital firm IDEA Fund Partners – is pulling away from helping startups.

If anything, Groundworks represents a increased commitment in that it is helping some firms that hope to receive at a later date financial support in the form of non-dilutive grants up to $50,000 that NC IDEA awards twice yearly.

Groundworks was launched by NC IDEA and Capitol Broadcasting (the parent of WRAL Tech Wire) in the wake of the demise of the Triangle’s first startup accelerator that did provide funding. With the launch of Triangle Startup Factory and its $50,000 in funding per company, Groundworks rebooted into its current model.

That means no funding  - but plenty of cost-free mentoring, office space and other support at The American Underground. (The Labs are in the same place as Joystick and adjacent to Startup Factory.)

John Austin, who also runs Joystick, talked about Groundworks and its growing mission with The Skinny.

“We currently have eight active companies and two more scheduled to start in the next few weeks,” he reported. 

Groundwork already has helped 25 firms, and several may receive funding. Austin noted that Able Device, iMedia Revenue, Pluribus Systems, Rheti, and SyncHear are semi-finalists for the next round of NC IDEA grants.

So does the change at Joystick mean any change in Groundworks? 

“No, we are happy with our current model of providing support without taking an investment stake,” Austin said. “It fits precisely with NC IDEA’s mission of fostering economic development in North Carolina by helping startups commercialize their inventions and matches well with the stage of company we are helping.”

Should one of the Groundworks labs land an NC IDEA grant, it doesn’t have to surrender any equity. Startup Factory does take an ownership stake, but companies are further along in development when the Factory considers making a deal. Other early-stage startups can look to angel investors for support – at a price.

But a graduation from Groundworks won’t hurt the chances of landing some outside capital – perhaps even from NC IDEA.