Proof of Concept Fund

In the early stages of the startup life cycle, entrepreneurs often struggle to obtain funding. Investment groups want to see traction before making an investment, and startups often need just a fraction of what investors are willing to spend to reach their next milestone. The Startup South Bend Elkhart proof of concept fund helps to bridge this funding gap by providing equity-free grants of up to $2,000 to early-stage entrepreneurs. These funds can be used toward market validation activities, such as product development and prototyping, tradeshow attendance, crowdfunding preparation, A/B testing, and other market testing strategies. These microgrants allow entrepreneurs to minimize risk, gain market traction, and demonstrate the potential for their startup.


We welcome proof of concept fund applications from any entrepreneur located in the South Bend- Elkhart community. The eligibility and requirements details are:

  • Headquartered in Elkhart, Marshall, or St. Joseph County
  • Less than $50,000 in revenue and/or funding to date
  • Must be a high-growth potential startup:
    • Must be a repeatable, scalable business model
    • Must address a national or global market
  • Funding must be tied to a specific proof of concept milestone (see application request form)
  • Fund recipients will report periodic updates to the Startup South Bend Elkhart committee

How to apply and pitch for funds

Startup South Bend – Elkhart hosts monthly pitches for early-stage startup funding, including proof of concept funds. These pitches typically take place on the 4th Thursday of every month. In order to take part in a pitch you must:

  • Complete the application
  • You will be contacted to schedule a 30-minute consultation with us to make sure you meet our eligibility requirement
  • Prepare a 5-minute pitch presentation of your startup to share with our committee (see recommended template here)

What we look for

To increase the chances of a successful proof of concept fund application, be sure to include:

  • Criteria for successful proof of concept. How will you know if your proof of concept activities are successful? Be clear in how you will use the funds to gain market traction.
  • Specific details on how the funds will be used. We don’t provide stipends to support general startup expenses. The funds must be used toward specific market validation activities.
  • The vision for your startup after proof of concept. Show us how you will turn the $2,000 into more money/investment down the road.