Helium Grants were $1K-$15K microgrants awarded to people exploring questions at the edge of mainstream thinking. After two years of reading ~4,000 applications and awarding nearly $40,000 in grants to 26 people, I’ve decided to put it on indefinite hiatus and focus on other projects.
I made a point of keeping grantees anonymous for most of the program, which you can read about here, though I eventually changed my mind.
As I learned more, the funding criteria certainly evolved over the application cycles, but Helium Grants were always about funding interesting individuals (not organizations) with good ideas.
Helium funded 26 projects, which fell into the following broad categories:
Helium Grants were a personal experiment in income distribution. After publishing the initial announcement, other people also volunteered to sponsor grants. Nearly $40,000 in grants were awarded, most of which came from other sponsors.
I think there's a shortage of funding available for people doing cool stuff, which is silly when you consider how many people have disposable income today who want to support others' work, and how easy it is to find each other on the internet. There is no patronage equivalent to angel investing!
I also strongly believe that you don't have to be rich or famous to experiment with patronage: I'm just some rando on the internet, as are most of the people who sponsored a Helium Grant.
I don't have any plans to start up again, but you never know.
I've tried to publicly document my process over the past two years. Here are the blog posts I've written about it, in reverse chronological order:
Yes, I've started a list. If you're aware of other microgrant programs, I encourage you to add them to that list.