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Starting a 501(c)(3) company is not much different than starting any other small business. However, the 501(c)(3) status does allow your organization to be tax exempt provided you stay with the guidelines of the 501(c)(3) tax code. Plus, getting approved for a 501(c)(3) by the IRS is both expensive and time-consuming. Find out from the IRS's website.
In regards to funding - there are many more oportunities out there for tax exempt organizations than for for-profit companies. However, these are very competitive and require tremendous analytical and writing skills.
I would suggest that you research foundations that work with the industry you are in. Many foundations provide grants to non-profit companies that offer services in the realms in which there foundation is based. Example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offer grants to non-profits that provide low-cost or free educational opportuities for children in developing worlds.
Just some thoughts