Applications for the 11th annual Venture Sharks business pitch competition are now open! Early-stage companies and entrepreneurs are invited to compete for a $5,000 cash prize and thousands of dollars of in-kind services. Venture Connectors has partnered with Open i Advisors for operational management of the competition this year. Venture Sharks has awarded more than $100,000 in prizes since it launched in 2010.

Applications are available here and are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 20. The Venture Sharks committee will choose the top ideas to compete during the preliminary round of the competition, held April 14, where the field then will be narrowed to four finalists. The final round will be held on May 6 during the regular monthly Venture Connectors’ luncheon meeting.

In both rounds of competition, presenters will be allowed a few minutes to describe their idea to the judges, who then will fire off questions to the presenters in the style of the television show, “Shark Tank.” One lucky survivor will receive a prize package designed to help them take their idea to market. In addition to a $5,000 cash award, the prize package will include one-on-one mentoring from established entrepreneurs and advisors, as well as in-kind services provided by Open i Advisors and other sponsors.

The competition is open to businesses or entrepreneurs from any industry in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, but presentations for the preliminary and final rounds of competition must be made in person in Louisville. A dedicated LLC or corporation need not have been created, but the idea and business being pitched must not be a direct spinout of a larger parent company. There is no restriction on age of the business, but it must have less than $75,000 of lifetime revenue. The business also cannot have raised, or had invested in it, more than $50,000 from any source at the time of application.

The Venture Sharks winner must agree to use their prize to directly pursue the business opportunity presented in the competition. The winner will be selected based on the viability of their idea, the ability of the final award to positively impact the business and the quality of their presentation. Sponsorship opportunities for the 2020 Venture Sharks competition still are available. For information, contact Ellie Puckett at

Details and location for the April 14 preliminary event will be announced soon. The May 6 finals event will be held at the Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth St. Doors open at 11:45 a.m., and the meeting runs from noon-1 p.m. Register here.