On Deck Access Fund: Launch Report

 min read
May 5, 2021
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Note: If you’re an early-stage founder anywhere from pre-idea through pre-seed, consider applying to On Deck Founders

Note: This article is adapted from a live discussion for the On Deck community featuring On Deck alums Ming Lu and Vik Duggal. If you’re an early-stage founder, angel investor, or exec interested in joining our community, consider applying to one of our programs - you’ll be in great company.

Note: If you’re an early-stage founder anywhere from pre-idea through pre-seed, consider applying to On Deck Founders.

Note: This article is adapted from a live discussion for the On Deck community featuring Josefin Graebe. If you’re an early-stage founder, scaling founder, or senior exec interested in joining our community, consider applying to one of our programs.

This article is the first in our annual series Year in Preview.  In the 4 years since we launched the On Deck Founders program, we’ve seen +1000 companies get started and raise over $2B in funding.


Talent and potential is spread far and wide around the world. Opportunity, though, is not.

On Deck was created to bring together the power of the internet with the power of education to support creators and builders who want to solve the world’s biggest problems. We’ve created programs that bundle rigorous content, inspiring and supportive communities, and valuable credentials.

These programs are native to the internet, dramatically bringing down the costs of premier educational experiences. Several thousand Fellows have joined an On Deck program since our first Fellowship launched in 2019 and they have become ambassadors for the On Deck community within their companies, networks, and social communities. 

We are constantly driven by the desire to take that mission one step further. Last year in  September, we announced the launch of the Access Fund to ensure that talented and ambitious builders have every opportunity to become On Deck Fellows, regardless of their  financial background.

The idea for the Access Fund was sparked as more and more alumni of On Deck came to us asking how they could help more people join our Fellowship programs, especially people who don’t yet have the resources or networks to start companies or launch their careers. 

We took all this interest as a signal that we needed to build the Access Fund as a place to channel that community desire to pay it forward, but it grew into much more. When the Access Fund did launch, On Deck not only used it as a place to accept donations from the community to fund scholarships, but also as a platform to pledge our commitment to $1,000,000 in matching donations.

Learn more about our motivations for creating the Access Fund:

The Fund’s Progress So Far

Across 2020 and through Q1 of 2021, On Deck provided 717 scholarships to individuals who applied for assistance and demonstrated financial need (a portion of these scholarships pre-date the formal creation of the Access Fund). 

Altogether, we’ve funded $695,000 in scholarships through March 31, 2021. And, as On Deck grows, we will accelerate our scholarship funding to keep pace over the next several years. 

The funding for these scholarships came from the On Deck community and was then matched by the company. The largest source of funding, so far, has been from the On Deck Angels program. Rather than a program admissions fee, ODA Fellows are encouraged to make a $5,000 donation to the Access Fund. 

Many of these Fellows gave 2x the suggested amount because of their belief in the importance of creating more opportunities for entrepreneurs who have traditionally been locked out. Altogether across all donations, the Access Fund has raised $650,000 as of March 31, 2021. 

By breaking down financial barriers, the Access Fund’s aim is to help open the door for builders of all backgrounds. Already, a third of our scholarships have gone to Fellows outside of the United States. Within the U.S., more than half of scholarships have gone to Fellows from historically underrepresented groups in technology (all Fellow demographic data is self-reported). 

Our largest program is On Deck Founders (ODF) by a wide margin, so it’s no surprise that more scholarships have gone to ODF Fellows than to Fellows in any other program. However, we’ve also offered scholarships across every program we’ve launched (excluding the ODA/ODVC programs, where Fellows are instead encouraged to fund scholarships).

One of the guiding principles of On Deck is “win through flywheels.” The Access Fund lives into the spirit of “win and help win” on a number of levels. 

First, Fellows with resources are making donations to expand access to On Deck programming through scholarships. Second, scholarship recipients are making donations to the Access Fund once they are in a position to “pay it forward.” 

Finally, the Access Fund is bringing talented and passionate builders into On Deck programs and helping them grow and build businesses which, in turn, increases the strength and vibrancy of the entire On Deck community. We’re only six months into the life of the Access Fund and our flywheel has already begun to spin. 

Charting the Path Forward 

The Access Fund has several goals for the rest of 2021: 

  • Draw down every penny of On Deck’s commitment of $1,000,000 in matching donations! We can only do this by inspiring even more Fellows and On Deck Alumni to give. 
  • Strengthen impact reporting to our donors, expand the ways in which donors can make donations (look out for a crypto donation wallet soon!), and build the rituals around participating in the Access Fund across all On Deck programs. 
  • Grow the number of philanthropic, corporate, and public agency partners who believe in expanding economic opportunity and want to participate with us in breaking down the typical barriers holding back high-potential creators and builders. 
  • Build the Access Fund to be a long-term enabler of On Deck’s aspiration to be the leading enterprise for learning and growth for the internet age. 

Join Us!

We want the Access Fund to be the first place you think of when it comes to creating access to opportunity via education and the internet. Similar to how you already think of On Deck as the place to go to build and create with a world-class community. If you’re already part of the On Deck community and have not yet taken a moment to donate, you can take action today with a donation

Additionally, as you meet inspiring entrepreneurs, encourage them to apply to On Deck. If they are worried about their current financial situation, tell them about the Access Fund and the help it has already provided to hundreds of On Deck Fellows. We want them to join a program and build the future of education and the internet with us!

All Access Fund donations are managed through a partnership with, founded by On Deck Alumni Vance Roush (ODF2) and Kyle Woumn (ODF3). Donations are tax deductible in the U.S. and governed by a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation.
If you’d like to learn more about the Access Fund or want to get involved with more than a donation, email

Note: If you’re an experienced professional looking to gain clarity on your next move, check out Execs On Deck

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