Venture Madness, presented by Invest Southwest in partnership with Arizona Commerce Authority, is a competition where 64 startups from around the southwest will go head-to-head and compete for a portion of the $25,000 prize.
For the last 20 years, Invest Southwest, has been the premier capital conference in the region connecting investors with ventures and has had an “investment-centric focus” format, until this year. The event has gone through a serious transformation by responding to the needs of its audience and embracing the vibrancy of the startup community, starting with Venture Madness.
How Venture Madness works: Think of it as the “Battle of the Brackets” where startups duel it out bracket-style for the top slot. Thirty-two (of 64) bracket spots will be awarded to past participants from the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC); the remaining 32 spots will be filled through open enrollment. Startups from the southwest can apply today, December 6, 2013, through January 3, 2014.
Once the 64 ventures are established, there will be two online elimination rounds and 16 companies will advance to the live-demo rounds before a panel of judges on March 5-7, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.
Jonathan Ariano, chairman of Invest Southwest and Partner with Osborn Maledon, explains the new format and vibe, “Before, we used to have 12-14 companies go through a mentoring process to produce a ten minute presentation, with no Q&A, nor a contest-it was more of an investment-centric conference. When we went through the revamping process, we started thinking like a startup and asked ourselves ‘who is our customer?’ and spent months brainstorming on what that looked like. What we realized is that there are great programs and incubators that help entrepreneurs, but what was missing was the connective tissue…and that’s our job. We will be the connection to the investor community and showcasing what the Southwest has to offer-and the best way we can do that is Venture Madness.”
As part of the Venture Madness event, the organizers have weaved in more investor and startup connection opportunities including lunch-n-learns, cocktail parties and a Spring Training outing.
“We are really excited about this new format,” said Ariano. “There are a lot of great companies in the Southwest and the level of quality just keeps going up.”
Hey startups! Open enrollment starts now! Companies interested in participation must complete the online application, as well as create and submit a 90-second elevator pitch video. Applications and more information for Venture Madness, including detailed instructions, are available online at http://VentureMadness.com.
Venture Madness timeline:
- December 6, 2013: Startup application opens
- December 16, 2013: Event tickets available for purchase online
- January 3, 2014: Startup applications close
- February 3 – 14, 2014: First online elimination round with a 64 company bracket
- February 17 – 24, 2014: Second online elimination round with a 32 company bracket
- February 24, 2014: 16 companies to pitch live announced
- March 5, 2014: Venture Madness 2014 kicks off with an evening cocktail reception at Talking Stick Resort
- March 6, 2014: Third elimination round, 16 companies to pitch live
- March 7, 2014: Elimination rounds four – six; Venture Madness Champion announced