I first heard of Cherokee Investments years ago through a panel that Cherokee Investment Partners Founder and CEO Tom Darden spoke at in 2007 at UNC regarding entrepreneurship, smart investing, and the future of Cherokee. It’s really great to see that, over half a decade later, not only is Cherokee continuing to flourish, but the Challenge is also in it’s third year.
If you are reading this article and are an environmentally related startup, (or thinking of starting one) then you should immediately drop whatever you’re doing (once you finish reading of course) and immediately go and apply for the Cherokee Challenge. The deadline to apply is April 30th.
Cherokee created the challenge because they believe “that for today’s society to actively address the pressing environmental issues of our time, there needs to be a sustainable business model to back that up.”
I saw down with JT Vaughn, the organizer behind the scenes, to find out the details of the Cherokee Challenge. It originally started in 2011 as a grant writing based competition for local startups and has morphed into an accelerator-style competition over the past two years.
What to Know
The Cherokee Challenge focuses on finding 3-5 high-impact environmentally-focused startups. It is both an accelerator and a startup competition/class designed to help foster the growth and fruition of environmentally focused ideas.
Last year the pool of applicants ranged from all over the world, from our backyard of the Triangle out to California, Spain, and Upsala. As of writing, Cherokee does not handle international applications, but this could change in the future for later competitions. The main geographic focus for applications are the Mid Atlantic and South East.
What You Get
Cherokee gives each chosen venture $20,000 in funding, three months of no strings attached co-working space in Cherokee’s offices, and access to a wide variety of advisors, fellow entrepreneurs, and investors. One of the main focuses of the three-month Challenge is for the chosen startups to ideally be incorporated and properly set up with shareholding/operating agreements by the end of the term.
What You Give
Cherokee takes 3% or 6% or 9% of the funded startups equity depending on the overall stage of the venture. Previously funded startups have generally given 6% in most cases.
Cherokee’s focus in a one liner is to “identify the entrepreneurs that are dreaming big enough to tackle those challenges in a sustainable way and help them make their ideas a reality.” They want to help you get your environmental venture to launch, and keep it scalable and successful. Tackling these secondary issues is why ANY stage venture can apply.
Go get your applications in! Deadline is April 30th and kickoff is June first.