It’s the Final 16!
Get Your Tickets to See the Action Live

Let the Madness begin!
It’s the final 16 headed to the live event.
It will be jam-packed with serious power networking, exciting live pitches and
some memorable fun you just won’t want to miss.

2017 Venture Madness Conference Rock Star Speaker Line-up


Steve Huffman

Steve Huffman

CEO, Reddit

Steve Huffman is CEO and co-founder of Reddit. For Steve, the love of programming was instantaneous—and everlasting. A native of Virginia, programming has been the only consistent hobby he’s had. Steve turned his passion into a career as co-founder of Reddit and the co-founder of Hipmunk. In these roles, he’s had the opportunity to do what he loves while also creating companies that have changed the way people use the Internet.

Justin Kan

Justin Kan

Internet Entrepreneur, Investor

Justin Kan is an internet entrepreneur and investor. Justin has founded various companies including: Kiko, the first AJAX web calendar;, a live video streaming platform; Socialcam, a mobile video sharing app (acquired for $60mm by Autodesk in 2012); Twitch, a video game streaming platform (acquired by for $970mm by Amazon in 2014); and Exec, an on demand home cleaning service (acquired by Handybook in 2014). Justin also served as a Partner at Y Combinator from 2011-2017. During his time there, he impacted over 900 companies and funded more than 130. More recently he has founded Whale, a video Q&A app, and Zero-F, a vehicle to build new startup ideas. He has personally angel invested in over 65 companies, including Zenefits, Cruise, and Wave. Justin graduated from Yale University with a degree in Physics and Philosophy.

Jay Fulcher

Jay Fulcher

CEO, Zenefits

Jay is the CEO at Zenefits. He brings more than 20 years of experience in leading both public and private technology companies where he has built dynamic, successful organizations and created new market segments. Previously, Jay served as president and CEO of Ooyala, president and CEO of Agile Software, EVP at Peoplesoft and VP at SAP. Jay has co-founded and launched many early stage start-ups. He is an alum of San Jose State university where is a member of the Global Leadership Council for the Lucas Graduate School and College of Business.

Daniel Kan

Daniel Kan

COO, Cruise Automation

Daniel Kan is the COO and cofounder of self-driving car company, Cruise Automation. Originally from Seattle, Daniel graduated from Claremont McKenna College in California with a degree in Economics and Psychology. After leading sales and customer service at UserVoice, SaaS feedback software, he cofounded Exec, an on-demand home cleaning service (acquired by Handybook in 2014). Cruise was acquired by GM in May of 2016 and now is part of GM’s autonomous division focused on autonomous driving in urban environments like San Francisco.

Bernee Strom

Bernee Strom

Partner, Next Level Associates

Bernee D. L. Strom is a Partner at Next Level Associates which consults with growth companies. She also serves as a Senior Advisor to Cascadia Capital, an investment bank headquartered in Seattle. Bernee is a serial entrepreneur who has founded or run a number of companies, including Gemstar/TV Guide International,, WebTuner Corp., Infospace, Inc., and USA Digital Radio (currently HD Radio). She was Executive Chairman of Ensequence, which delivers interactive television advertising solutions.

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See What the Madness is All About From Our March 2016 Event


A Look Back in Pictures

Arizona Commerce Commission


Venture Madness, presented by Invest Southwest in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, pits 64 of the most promising startups against one another in a bracket-style, head-to-head competition. Think you’ve got what it takes? Applying is free and open to early-stage firms demonstrating proven market traction.

How it Works

The competition starts with a bracket of 64 startup companies. After two online elimination rounds in which the advancing companies are chosen by a selection panel, the top 16 companies will advance to the live-demo portion of the contest, held March 8-10, 2017, at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ.  There they’ll get a chance to grab some (or all!) of a $300,000 investment pool from active regional investors*, and have a chance to grab part of the $20,000 cash prize by live-pitching their way through the brackets before a selection panel and accredited investors who’ll determine which company will be ultimately be crowned our 2017 Venture Madness Champion.

*Note: $300,000 investment pool fund subject to investment fit, successful due diligence round and mutually agreeable terms. 

Logo Valley Ho


What is Venture Madness?

Venture Madness, presented by Invest Southwest in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, pits 64 of the most promising startup companies against one another in a single-elimination, bracket style tournament. The Venture Madness Champion is crowned after a month of online competition plus a live, do-or-die event held in early March, featuring an audience of more than 300 guests consisting of active angel and venture capital investors, emerging growth companies, seasoned mentors and expert service professionals.

What is the cost to apply?

It is completely FREE to apply for the 2017 Venture Madness Competition, other than your time to complete the application and create your 90-second pitch video. If your company advances to the final 16 firms that participate in the live event, you will be responsible for your travel and accommodations to attend the Venture Madness Conference which takes place March 8 – 10, 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

What are the benefits to applying to present and compete in Venture Madness?

Companies that present at the conference will not only meet people who’ve been in your shoes (which is invaluable in a startup’s journey), you’ll meet mentors and industry influencers who can help mentor your team and accelerate your growth. You’ll also have the opportunity to network and spend quality time connecting with some of our region’s most active angel and venture capital investors, get mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and past contestants, and connect with other competing companies.

You’ll also network with and learn from a 30+ member selection panel that includes expert investors, investment bankers and seasoned service professionals, in addition to the other entrepreneurial minds and guest speakers who attend the event. Your startup will get national and international exposure through the Venture Madness website leading up to, and throughout the competition, as we promote the event and competing companies online through search and social media, as well as PR exposure through the local and national media.  All 64 participating companies will be mentioned in the conference notebook and the press releases that are distributed to local press and nationally throughout the competition  as well as to more than 300 attendees at the live event. You’ll also receive ongoing promotions and PR following the event via the website, social media and PR.

Who reviews my application?

Invest Southwest will review initial applications, and based on weighted scores, the top 64 will be invited to participate in Venture Madness. Those 64 applications will be placed on the Venture Madness website for review and voting by a selection panel. Read the How It Works section for more information.

How is my application evaluated?

Applications are reviewed and evaluated by an expert judging panel and evaluation criteria is based on your solution uniqueness, competitive differentiation, market traction, market opportunity, business model, team strength and presentation quality. Please refer to the competition Terms and Conditions for more details on evaluation timelines.

What are the pitch video requirements?

Videos are limited to a maximum of 90 seconds. Please save your video as an .MP4, .MOV or .WMV file format and host it on YouTube or Vimeo under your own account (note Invest Southwest does not host videos on the applicant’s behalf). With your application, you must provide a link to your video hosted on YouTube or Vimeo. If you provide financial information or make an ask for money during your elevator pitch video, you will be disqualified. Your video is one of the most important parts of your application. You have a minute and a half to make a lasting impression on the judges and the public, who will be voting for their favorites. This is your time to shine!

How can I confirm that my application was successfully submitted?

Once you have successfully submitted your application materials, ValidEval will take you to a thank you page confirming your submission. If you apply prior to the deadline and do not see a thank you confirmation page or experience other issues with the ValidEval site, please email Karen Katzorke at

When do I know if my company was selected to present at the conference?

An Invest Southwest representative will be in touch with you by February 10, 2017, a month prior to the conference, if your company is selected to present.

If my company is selected to present at the 2017 Venture Madness Conference, what are the next steps?

An Invest Southwest representative will contact each company to notify them if they are selected to compete in each round. Companies that move on to rounds 2 and 3 will compete based on their original applications. The final 16 companies selected to present at the conference are required to attend:

  • Presenting Company Orientation on February 10, 2017
  • Mentor Team Meetings (ongoing)
  • Venture Madness Conference on March 8-10, 2016 (CEO/President is required to present)

What if there are problems with my application?

If you have a technical difficulty submitting your application through ValidEval, please submit a help request here. If your response is not resolved through ValidEval, please contact Karen Katzorke, Executive Director of Invest Southwest. Please note that Invest Southwest receives a high volume of calls the week prior to the application deadline, and your request will be responded to in the order that is is received.

Can I attend the 2017 Venture Madness Conference?

Yes, conference registration is open to the public. Visit the Registration Page for more information.

John Doe