Think you have what it takes to launch and grow an environmental business?

Apply for the Cherokee-McDonough Challenge and make it happen!


What is the Cherokee-McDonough Challenge?
The Cherokee-McDonough Challenge is a startup competition and accelerator designed to identify, fund and develop early-stage, high impact environmental start-ups. It is an opportunity for an enterprising environmental entrepreneur to receive a seed investment of $20,000, as well as three months of free office space, back office support and advice from experienced entrepreneurs and investors. Additionally, we will host a showcase event to introduce your venture to other investors and the public.


What motivates us?
We want to have a positive impact on the world, we want to make a profit, and we prefer to do both at the same time.


Why are we hosting the Challenge?
We feel it is important to do a better job of making available to the world our environmental business experience. We have invested in more than 70 venture companies over the past twenty-five years, so we have some expertise to lend in this regard. Furthermore, we have raised over $2 billion of private equity capital focused on remediating brownfields — presently, we have restored more than 550 brownfield parcels around the world.


What do you need to apply?
A viable, creative, high impact environmental business model with a proven team behind it — and a compelling presentation. That’s it. You can bring your own idea and business model, or champion one of our ideas. Your presentation should include such basics as an overview of the opportunity and marketplace, background on the team founders and pro-forma financials. If you already have cash flows, be sure to include a cash flow statement.


How much equity does Cherokee receive in your venture?
In exchange for $20,000, Cherokee will receive an equity stake in your venture valued at either 3, 6 or 9 percent, depending on the stage of your venture. If you decide to champion one of our ideas, we will invest $20,000 but will expect to retain a significant amount of equity in the venture.


Will Cherokee provide ideas for environmental business opportunities?
Originally, we were primarily focused on recruiting others to champion our ideas. We soon learned, however, that it can be difficult to recruit entrepreneurs to build a company around an idea that is not their own. Moreover, the vision and passion of a founder operator is highly valuable. Though, we still have quite a few ideas in our hopper. So, if you have an entrepreneurial team or partner and you would like to discuss with us how you might champion one of our ideas, please let us know.


Do I have to relocate to the Research Triangle for the summer?
Not necessarily, but we strongly encourage it. Doing so will make it easier for you to take advantage of the resources we offer. Being in Raleigh will provide more regular and intimate interaction with the Challenge Advisory Committee as well as local investors and Cherokee personnel. Furthermore, you will be able to take advantage of free office space and the randomĀ conversations and idea exchanges in the kitchen. Around here, we find theseĀ serendipitous conversationsĀ are all too often invaluable.


Will the Challenge consider international applications?
We are not accepting international applications at this time, though we hope to do so in the future. Unfortunately, the legal costs of investing such a small amount in an international start-up prevent us from accepting international applications at this time. In the future, however, we hope to become familiar enough with the legal landscape in certain countries to allow us to accept applications from those countries.


When is the application deadline?
April 15, but we encourage you to turn it in before then. The more time we have to review your application and to exchange due diligence emails, the more educated we will be on your venture.


Where do I apply?
Click here.