Venture Connectors is pleased to announce that applications for its 11th annual Venture Sharks business pitch competition are now open! The competition was postponed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been relaunched as an all-virtual event. Early-stage companies and entrepreneurs are invited to compete for a $5,000 cash prize and thousands of dollars of in-kind services. 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, Sept. 4. The Venture Sharks committee will choose eight startups to compete during a preliminary round of the competition, which will be held in mid-September. The field then will be narrowed to four finalists. The final round of competition will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 7, during Venture Connectors’ virtual lunch meeting.

Eight semifinalists will meet virtually with a panel of judges to present their ideas, and four finalists will be selected to compete during the virtual finals event Oct. 7. Competitors will be given a few minutes to present, then the judges will fire off questions to them in the style of the popular television show, “Shark Tank.”  One lucky survivor will receive a prize package designed to help them take their idea to market, including a $5,000 cash award, one-on-one mentoring from established entrepreneurs and advisors, as well as in-kind services provided by Open i Advisors and other sponsors. Venture Connectors is partnering with Open i Advisors for operational management of the competition.

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 Stacey Servo at

The Oct. 7 finals event will be held via Zoom from noon-1 p.m. and is open to the public. It is free to Venture Connectors members and $10 for guests. Click here to register.