Venture Connectors has chosen nine semifinalists to compete in the preliminary round of our 8th annual Venture Sharks™ business competition on Wednesday, April 12, at the Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth St. Doors open at 5 p.m., and pitches begin at 5:30 p.m. During the event, all nine entrepreneurs will present their business plans to a panel of savvy investor sharks fishing for the next great deal. The field will be narrowed to four finalists, who will then vie for more than $37,000 in cash and prizes at Venture Connectors’ regular monthly lunch on Wednesday, May 3, also at the Muhammad Ali Center.

This year’s prize is up from $23,000 last year, thanks to our generous sponsors. In addition to the main prize, two special cash awards will be presented during the Venture Sharks finals on May 3. The total (minus any fees) raised through a new Audience Participation Crowdfunding Campaign will go to a company chosen by the audience via a text message vote during the finals event. The minimum suggested donation is $5 and can be made in person during the preliminary competition, at the finals or online.

Plus, past winners Switcher Studio, Logjustrips, GearBrake, Wicked Sheets, U.S. Chia and Surgical Serenity Solutions have pooled their resources and will offer a $300 cash prize to the finalist of their choosing. These additional prizes may be awarded to competitors other than the winner named by the judges.

Venture Connectors received nearly 40 applications from entrepreneurs across the region. The Venture Sharks selection committee chose the top eight big ideas for the first round of the competition. The winner of the 2017 Startup Weekend competition, to be held April 7-9, will be automatically entered as the ninth semifinalist.

The semifinalists are:

  • Credit Fair-E, provider of affordable loans up to $500 to low- and middle-income families to help break their cycle of debt
  • 502 FIT PASS, a monthly fitness membership that connects its members to over 40 gyms and studios in Louisville
  • G3 Tri-Tech, a manufacturer and marketer of products for the triathlete community designed to help them obtain an edge in swimming, cycling and running
  • Herelancer, an online community that connects entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations with creative talent in their local market
  • Meta Construction Technologies, a construction-tech firm that gives control to the asphalt industry with an innovative fleet management and dispatch software solution, BlackTop
  • NiteCap Inc., developer of NightSaver, a snoring prevention and sleep apnea therapy product
  • Stuccco, an online marketplace that connects users with residential and commercial interior designers
  • Toggle Health, manufacturer of a patented device that connects surgeons to their pre-operative and mobile data from the sterile field of the operating room
  • Winner of Startup Weekend Louisville, TBD

For the final round May 3, 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 $37,000 in cash and prizes to help them take their idea to market. The Venture Sharks 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. The winner must agree to use both the cash award and the in-kind services to directly pursue the business opportunity presented in the competition.

Sponsors for this year’s Venture Sharks include: Commonwealth Seed Capital, University of Louisville College of Business and KiZAN Technologies, gold sponsors; Sterling G. Thompson Co., silver sponsor; and Mightily, ARGI Financial, Intellectual Property Insurance Services Corp., Stoll Keenon Ogden, Guthrie Mayes Public Relations, Nucleus and Goodson Clothing & Supply, in-kind sponsors.

Judges for the 2017 Venture Sharks preliminary round are Venture Connectors board members Chad Coulter, owner of LouVino; Mike Skura, institutional relationship manager for ARGI Financial, and Lesa Seibert, CEO of Mightily. Judges for the final round are: Bob Saunders, general partner, OCAVentures; Elizabeth Rounsavall, growth capital consultant, Rounsavall Investments LLC; Lou Kelmanson, president, Kelmanson Holdings LLC; and Vik Chadha, managing director, GlowTouch Technologies.

RSVPs to the both events are required. Click here to register. The preliminary event on April 12 is free and open to the public. The final round on May 3 is free to members and $40 for nonmembers. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and the meeting runs from noon-1:15 p.m.