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frequently asked questions

about N/Core

N/Core is an incubator exclusively for early-stage nonprofits. three times a year, we select a diverse set of ambitious individuals who are in their early days of imagining social impact ideas and have potential to achieve outsized impact, sustainably. we invest deeply in them for a period of 6 months during which N/Core Partners work closely with the founders to get their ideas in the best possible shape – ready to fundraise, hire and scale. alongside, we offer an innovation grant of INR 10 lakhs, a network of world-class mentors, and connections with people interested in their work, all aimed at getting them to the ready-to-scale stage rapidly.
the magnitude and complexity of India’s social challenges, with more than half of our country living in poverty even today, are massive. it requires our top talent and their problem solving ability to create wildly scalable and innovative solutions for communities of poor and marginalized.

at N/Core, our purpose is to “nudge top talent to solve for India’s biggest challenges”, with an aim to kickstart new-age nonprofits with innovation, collaboration, speed, scale and sustainability as the core dna. we will bring together top talent (challenging problems, awesome peer-group), resources to innovate, (grants, co-working office), environment (culture of innovation and collaboration), and direction & support (mentors, partners). our goal is to jumpstart 150+ nonprofits and 1000 nonprofit leaders in 5 years.
N/Core is designed for the entrepreneur, not the organization. hence the commitment and capability of the founder are the foremost basis for selection.

founders are required to be committed to their idea full-time. they need to demonstrate an ability to build and grow organizations that will achieve meaningful impact through innovative models of change. we also look for alignment to our core values of scale, speed, innovation, collaboration and sustainable change.
we are sector and geography agnostic and open to any idea that solves problems faced by economically disadvantaged sections of society, in alignment with our purpose of poverty alleviation. occasionally, we consider initiatives that are aimed at building the nonprofit ecosystem.

twice a year, we will have cohorts under the N/Core tech track, exclusively for technology based solutions solving for any problem in poverty. we will have at least one open cohort in a year, to include organizations that may not leverage technology in a significant way.
we believe technology has the power to accelerate social development, as tech-enabled products and services can help scale ideas much faster and at an affordable rate. N/Core tech is our initiative to jumpstart nonprofits that leverage technology in their product, service or outreach, to bring much needed social change. this is not limited to nonprofits developing hardware or software products, but also includes nonprofits using technology developed by someone else. the ideas can be, but are not limited to, the areas of agriculture, education, health, livelihood, land and property rights and more.
if your idea leverages technology as a means to deliver impact at large scale and you have been in existence for at least an year, you are eligible to apply for our N/Core tech cohort.
historically, while we have had a great response to our call for applications (582 for N/Core Alpha, 1032 for N/1) - we have not seen may applications in areas of poverty that are more obscure, and invisible to top talent looking to startup in the development sector. however, these undeserved areas such as land rights, affordable housing, etc. - have a deep impact on poverty alleviation.

in order to diversify N/Core’s areas of investment, in a manner that serves our purpose of poverty alleviation in a meaningful way, N/Core has partnered with Omidyar Network to find talent working in this area, and to accelerate their startup journey. the selection bar remains the same as from other areas, but our outreach is more intensive, to account for the lack of critical mass of new breed of startups in this space. we are therefore open for rolling applications, for organizations working in Land and Property rights.

should I apply

yes, if you meet our four basic eligibility criteria:

1. you are an early-stage startup somewhere between ideas with a plan to pre-scale stage (typically 0-3 years old). for N/Core tech, we only consider startups that leverage technology significantly, and have been in existence for at least one year.

2. you have registered or intend to register your organisation as a section 8 company, a trust or a society.

3. at least one founder is working or committed to working full-time on the idea.

4. the idea, irrespective of the sector it is aligned with, has the overarching purpose of poverty alleviation or building a nonprofit ecosystem.
yes, you can. however you will need to register your organisation as a nonprofit within the 6 months of incubation in order to receive the innovation grant.
if you are not-for-profit social startup, yes we welcome you to apply. however, if you are for-profit social venture, we are afraid not. N/Core works exclusively with nonprofit startups.
we do work with founders at as early as idea stage. however, we look for unique insights that you have about the problem you aim to solve. thus, we encourage you to apply once you have done a first-hand, on-the-ground research and have a plan around your idea.
as entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand that entrepreneurship starts as a lonely journey. N/Core by philosophy intends to help early stage entrepreneurs. so, don’t worry about being the only one in your organization – N/Core is here to help.
while we understand you might not have taken the plunge yet to work on your idea full time, we really require all our incubatees to work full time on the idea during the 6 months of incubation.
we are looking for entrepreneurs and organizations working towards poverty alleviation in India. hence, we require that you spend significant time in India, and are available for our contact sessions in person, even if you are not an Indian national, or have a primary residence elsewhere.
yes you can. our only requirement is that you are available in person for the kick-off and soiree weeks in Bangalore and that you honor the time commitment to engage with the N/Core Partner.
you can apply for N/Core incubation if you meet the eligibility criteria. please include any additional information of your progress since your last application, to improve your chances of selection.

how do you select
our selection process begins with online applications that we review on a regular basis. selected applicants for the next round are requested to tell us more about their ideas and startup plan. following that, shortlisted applicants are invited for video interviews with our jury members. finally, we invite the most promising applicants to meet with N/Core Partners for the final round, and we take the incubation decision immediately afterwards. to know more about our philosophy of selection, see here.
selected applicants from online applications are requested to submit your startup plan.
typically startup plans include details on:
1. what problem are you trying to solve? why this problem?
2. what is your solution approach? why do you think this will work?
3. who are your customers/beneficiaries? how do you reach them or intend to reach them?
4. are there any other nonprofits doing similar work? how are you different from them?
5. what is your impact metrics? what goals you intend to achieve in next 3-5 years?
6. how would you describe your organization’s key achievements till now?
7. what is your execution plan?
you maybe asked to provide 2 references at this time - individuals that you have worked with, or closely interacted with, for your idea or at any previous job or school.
you will hear back from us within 72-96 hrs during the online application and startup plan stages. post that you will hear from us about the specific dates for the video and N/Core Partner interviews. typically we announce results within 4-6 weeks from the last date of online application submission.

what happens at N/Core
the N/Core incubator is designed keeping in mind, the early stage needs of a nonprofit entrepreneur. it has 3 main tracks:
a) 6 months of incubation to accelerate your path to achieving key milestones like product-market fit for your idea, funding etc.
b) access to a network of influencers and funding sources who can support your growth, and
c) an innovation grant of INR 10 Lakh

the 6 months of incubation include:
a kickoff week in Bangalore that you are required to attend in person
5 months of mentoring by an N/Core Partner (these interactions can be virtual)
a final week in Bangalore, culminating in Soiree, that you are required to attend in person again.
all N/Core incubatees will receive an innovation grant of INR 10 Lakh. we want to support your first 6 months so you can focus on your idea and make meaningful progress and impact. you must be registered as a nonprofit organization to receive the innovation grant, however if not registered you can do so during the 6 months of incubation.
to know more, see here.
N/Core starts with kickoff week – a face-to-face immersion in Bangalore. this is designed to help you to refine your theory of change, formalize your path forward, meet your fellow cohort and most importantly meet the N/Core Partner assigned to be your mentor. you will also be assigned a relationship manager who will work with you during the incubation.
N/Core will make arrangements for your stay for this 1-week period. you will be required to travel to Bangalore at your own expense.
during the 5 months that follow, you will be paired with one of the N/Core Partners as your mentor. N/Core Partners mirror the founders they mentor – wizards with a deep-rooted need to create a better world. each shares the mindset of an entrepreneur and knows what it means to walk that path.
you will engage with him/her on a regular basis and take his/her help to move forward in the various areas of your work. the objective of this engagement is to help you achieve key milestones like attaining product market fit, getting the first rounds of funding, hiring your core team etc. in an accelerated manner. your mentor will coach you, as well as open doors for you by connecting you to individuals and organizations that can help you in your mission. as field visits are a great way to get the right context, we also encourage you to engage your mentor to visit your customers with you. to know more about mentoring by N/Core Partners, see here.
a relationship manager is a member of the N/Core team, available to incubatees as an additional point of contact, for any ad hoc needs that may arise from time to time, such as to enable interactions with N/Core CSE Council, N/Core Collective and other members of The/Nudge network. the relationship manager will enable the incubatee to achieve the objectives of the incubation by ensuring timely closure to their requests for help.
N/Core is committed to building an ecosystem that can support the early stage needs of a nonprofit founder. as of today, we have brought together
1. the “N/Core Corporate Social Entrepreneurship (CSE) Council”, a group of CSR leaders who relate to the cause of entrepreneurship in the nonprofit sector.
2. the N/Core Collective, a network of some of the best entrepreneurs and subject matter experts in India who have signed up to help nonprofit entrepreneurs.
based on your needs, you may approach your mentor or relationship manager with requests for intros and connections.
additionally, the final week of incubation is soiree week at Bangalore with the objective of providing face-to-face networking opportunities. in parallel, we will help you with your fundraising strategy and in refining your pitch.
the incubation culminates in a celebration of social entrepreneurship, an evening with HNIs, CSR leaders, representatives from various foundations and potential funders. you will have an opportunity to pitch your organization and your work at this event.

more about the innovation grant
innovation fund is to help you build a minimum viable product for your idea. this involves creation of the execution model, getting your organisation registered, a pilot run and refining your model based on the interaction with your first beneficiaries and the impact it caused. if you have already started working on your cause, the fund will help you reach further milestones taking away some of your funding worries.
you should be registered as a section 8 company, a trust or a society. it is ok if you don’t have your organisation registered as a nonprofit now. but you should get yourself registered during the 6 months to receive the fund. you will be required to provide reports with update on your progress.
innovation grant will be disbursed in two tranches – the first upon completion of kickoff week and the second upon completion of soiree week.

more about N/Core Partners & mentoring
we currently have four eminent N/Core Partners who will mentor the incubatee cohort. one of them will be assigned to you as mentor based on a variety of factors including but not limited to area of work, cause, geography and more.

additionally, N/Core tech incubatees will have access to N/Core tech Mentors from Cisco’s executive leadership team, guiding the vision and strategy for key tech related innovations and its applications in achieving impact at scale.
the N/Core Partner will be your go-to person for advice, network and mentorship. they are individuals with an illustrious career in corporate/nonprofit/government sector, heading organizations that have set a high bar for excellence. we ask that you leverage their expertise in a way that you seem fit for your idea and organization.

for tech related guidance, the N/Core tech Mentor from Cisco will be deeply invested in your success and connect you to the right experts.
while the process does not allow for you to choose your mentor unilaterally, we will put in best effort to understand your preference and ensure that the mentor you are paired with is best aligned to your mission and needs.
we expect that you have a chat with your mentor at least once in two weeks. however we recommend that you agree with your mentor on the frequency and mode of communication that works the best for you both, when you meet them in person during kickoff week.

beyond N/Core incubation
we are deeply vested in the success of all founders who complete incubation with us. our vision for our alumni is to stay connected, seek help, add to the network and give back towards the cause of creating a nurturing ecosystem for nonprofits.
N/Core is deeply vested in the success of its incubatees and their mission to achieve impact at scale. we are committed to work closely with incubatees where we can add continued meaningful value even beyond the incubation period. a subset of the cohort will continue to be supported by N/Core Partners, through a board seat. this offers a structured framework for the incubatee organization to tap into N/Core resources, network and guidance.
N/Core will be represented by one of our Partners on your board of directors (or equivalent governing body). the Partner who has most relevance to your organization and your future needs will represent N/Core. this decision will be made in consultation with you at the end of the incubation period.

no. please pick the idea that you are most confident of and most vested in and send in one application. one thing we really appreciate in our entrepreneurs is their focus.
we receive a large volume of applications for our incubation programs and hence cannot offer personal guidance. thus, we request you not to contact us regarding your startup plan review. however, you are welcome to contact us with specific questions if you do not find the answer here on the website.
as we receive a large number of applications, we are unable to provide feedback.
you can contact us at ncore@thenudge.org if you have a specific question about the process or the program and if you do not find the answer here on the website.

N/Core will host you for kickoff week as well as soiree week in Bangalore. we will be providing stay and food. you are expected to travel to Bangalore at your own cost.
yes. N/Core alpha was a two-week immersive for early stage nonprofits helping them connect with mentors, leaders and potential investors, held in April 2017. based on inputs from our 20 alpha cohorts, we have designed the N/Core incubator as a 6-month Partner-led incubation. also, while alpha was a no grants program, N/Core incubation also provides an innovation grant of INR 10 Lakh to selected organisations.
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