In the world of startups, securing capital is often one of the most significant challenges entrepreneurs face. However, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK) has emerged as a beacon of hope for innovative social enterprises. DRK provides early-stage funding and invaluable support to impactful ventures striving to create lasting social change.
With a unique approach and a commitment to unrestricted capital, DRK has become a vital ally for startups on a mission to make a positive difference in the world.
The requirements for application are as follows:
- Organizations addressing a critical social or environmental issue as the focus of their work.
- Founders who intend to expand their impact significantly over time.
- Organizations operating in Africa, Europe, India, Latin America, and the United States.
- Independent nonprofit and impact first, mission-driven for-profit entities, including US 501(c)3 and its non-US equivalents, C corporations, B corporations, and hybrid organizations.
- Fiscally sponsored organizations in select cases where there is a plan to spin out (in our experience, independence creates stronger enabling conditions for growth).
- Post-pilot, pre-scale organizations. This typically means:
—Your program, product or service is already in the market or in the field.
—You have early indication that your model is having its intended impact.
—Your organization is 3-5 years old (this is not a rule, but a guidepost).
- Organizations with one or more founders who are full-time or intend to be.
—We believe that full-time leadership from the organization’s founder(s) is critical to an early stage organization’s growth.
—We recognize that going full-time requires resources that you may still be putting together, and if that is the case we are happy to start a conversation with you in the meantime.
- We value diversity of people proximate to the problem at hand and a commitment to foster justice, equity, inclusion, and belonging practices.
- Evidence of focused alignment, systemic social change, data-based decision making.
- Leaders who are continually learning and iterating and welcome a deep working relationship with DRK for 3 years. Leaders who intimately understand the opportunity and the communities they serve. Leaders committed to advancing justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging for all.
- Organizations who are designed to realize their impact at scale.
DRK Does Not Fund:
- Idea or pre-pilot stage organizations.
- Organizations that do not plan to expand or scale their impact to achieve their mission.
- Projects housed within an established, mature organization (unless there is a plan to spin out).
- Awareness or field building campaigns.
- Organizations whose sole focus is the development of research.
- Programs promoting religious doctrine.
- US 501(c)4 organizations
Unlike many traditional funding sources, DRK takes a bold and unconventional approach by offering unrestricted capital to its portfolio of organizations. This means that startups supported by DRK receive funding not earmarked for specific projects or purposes.
This unrestricted capital empowers entrepreneurs to allocate resources where needed, allowing for greater flexibility and adaptability to navigate the challenges of scaling their ventures.
By removing financial restrictions, DRK enables startups to concentrate on their core missions and implement innovative solutions to address pressing social issues.
DRK employs a rigorous selection process to identify and support high-potential startups. Their team of experienced venture capitalists and social entrepreneurs conducts extensive due diligence to evaluate each venture’s potential for impact, scalability, and leadership.
DRK seeks organizations with visionary leaders who demonstrate a deep understanding of the problems they aim to solve. Through a thorough screening process, DRK selects a small cohort of startups each year, giving them a unique opportunity to access financial and non-financial support.
DRK’s commitment to its portfolio extends far beyond financial support. Recognizing that startups face multifaceted challenges, the foundation offers its partners invaluable non-financial resources and mentorship.
Through its vast network of experts, DRK connects entrepreneurs with industry leaders, subject matter experts, and seasoned professionals who can provide guidance and support in areas such as strategy, operations, marketing, and fundraising. This network of mentors becomes a valuable sounding board for startups, helping them navigate obstacles and refine their approach to maximize impact.
DRK’s approach has yielded remarkable success stories, with many of its supported ventures making significant strides in their respective fields. One example is the nonprofit organization Kiva, which provides microloans to entrepreneurs worldwide in underserved communities.
With DRK’s support, Kiva expanded its operations, facilitating access to capital for countless individuals striving to improve their lives.
Another notable success is One Acre Fund, an organization that helps smallholder farmers in Africa increase their productivity and incomes. Thanks to DRK’s investment, One Acre Fund has grown exponentially, reaching millions of farmers across multiple countries.
How to Apply