Applications for our eighth annual Venture Sharks business competition will open Monday, Feb. 6! Early-stage companies and entrepreneurs are invited to compete for a $15,000 prize — roughly $5,000 in cash and $10,000 in professional services — provided by the competition’s sponsors. Sponsorship commitments received to date include Commonwealth Seed Capital, University of Louisville College of Business, Mightily and Nucleus. The prize package may increase as additional sponsors commit.

Applications are available here and will be due by midnight on March 22. The Venture Sharks committee will choose the top ideas to compete during the preliminary round of the competition, held April 12, where the field then will be narrowed to four finalists. The final round will be held on May 3 during the monthly Venture Connectors’ luncheon meeting. Both events will take place at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville.

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 popular television show, “Shark Tank.” One lucky survivor will receive $15,000 in cash and prizes to help them take their idea to market. Final round judges will be announced by April 5 and will comprise notable business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors.

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 both the cash award and the in-kind services 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. Last year, Venture Sharks received nearly 50 applications. Past winners include: Switcher Studio, Logjustrips, Gear Brake, Smart Farm, Wicked Sheets, U.S. Chia and Surgical Serenity Solutions. Sponsorship opportunities for the 2017 Venture Sharks competition still are available. For information, contact Larry Horn at (502) 380-6550 or lwhorn@outlook.com.