While ventures don’t always follow a neat, pre-determined trajectory (in fact, they only very rarely do!) the early resources needed to support venture development ought to. As such, venture support funds through the Nelson Center are designed with a loose “path” in mind, one consistent with our structured approach to venture creation. Our early Explore Grants — up to $500 — are focused on helping teams do the early and critical work of finding and validating an unmet need. Our subsequent Expand grants — up to $2500 — are designed to help teams build the product or service whose “value proposition” addresses that unmet need. And lastly, Breakthrough Lab — our intensive, two-month summer accelerator — provides teams with a stipend and critical resources to take their ventures to the next level.



Explore grants are designed to fund a team’s early discovery work – so that they can better find and validate an unmet need. Explore grants are awarded up to $500.


Expand grants are typically used to help a team start building a product, or better yet, expand beyond a limited prototype. These grants range in size to a maximum of $2500.


Brown’s premier venture accelerator, designed to help teams take their idea to the next level. B-Lab runs during June and July and recipients receive summer stipends, rigorous programming, and an extensive mentor network.



How do I apply for a grant?

It’s easy! Plan a time to meet with Jonas Clark, Associate Director for the Nelson Center ( He is here to listen to your idea and walk your through the next steps in ideation and bottom-up research. You then go to and search for “Explore & Expand Grants (Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship)”.

Do I have to be a commercial venture to apply?

Of course not! Explore and expand grants are designed to help early-stage ideas with “high-impact” potential, whether commercial, social, or, in many cases, some blend of the two. What matters most is that you are attempting to address an unmet need and are developing a working hypothesis. If your idea leans more towards social justice advocacy and change, we also recommend reaching out to the Social Innovation Initiative, which also provides Explore and Expand Grants. Email for more info.

What are you looking for most in applicants?

Above all, we value passion for the problem. Do you have the willingness to work hard to find a solution? Take the time to conduct bottom-up research? The ability to deal with unclear answers is also a major plus, as well as a certain amount of resilience in order to cope with the inevitable pivots, dead-ends, and doubts that are an unavoidable part of the entrepreneurial process. Other than that, we know that great entrepreneurs come in all different forms and from all different backgrounds.

How far along does my idea have to be? 

It can be in the very early idea stage. These grants allow you to validate if you truly have found an unmet need. We recommend you watch Danny Warshay’s Bottom-Up Research Workshop video (, to understand the value in observation and learning more from your potential customer.

If I receive a grant from the Nelson Center, does it have any claim to part of my venture?

No! The Nelson Center is an “Equity Free” zone, meaning that we don’t take any ownership claim or have any other strings attached to our funding. Our goal — first and foremost — is to support outstanding Brown entrepreneurs. If (when?) you go on to great success our hope is that you’ll help pay it forward by supporting the next generation of Brown entrepreneurs!