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

Galvanize is also a proud Education partner of Invest Southwest and the Venture Madness conference.

Thank You to Our 2019 Keynote Speakers

Rick Smith

CEO and Founder, Axon Enterprise
Author, The End of Killing

Rick Smith, CEO & Founder, Axon

Michael Ahearn

Managing Partner,
True North Venture Partners
First Solar

Michael Ahearn True North Venture Partners

2019 Agenda


Galvanize Phoenix

6:00 – 8:00 PMWelcome ReceptionGalvanize Foyer


Events on Jackson

8:30 – 9:00 AMConference Registration / Check-in / Continental Breakfast sponsored by Greater Phoenix LeadershipEvents on Jackson / Foyer
9:00 – 9:15 AMWelcomeMain Theater
9:15 – 9:30 AMOverview / Introduction to Presenting CompaniesMain Theater
9:30 – 9:45 AMBreak / Transition to Breakouts
Sponsored by Salt River Project
9:45 – 11:00 AMConsumer PresentationsMain Theater
9:45 – 11:25 AMSaaS Presentations
Sponsored by Hool Coury Law
West Theater
10:00 – 11:00 AMSaaS Presentations
Sponsored by Osborn Maledon
11:00 – 12:00 PMHardware Investor Sessions
Sponsored by Osborn Maledon
11:00 – 12:00 PMConsumer Investor Sessions
Sponsored by Osborn Maledon
11:05 – 11:40 AMHealthcare Presentations
Sponsored by GPEC
Main Theater
Sponsored by Fennemore Craig
Courtyard / Main Theater
12:15 – 12:45 PM
12:45 – 1:15 PM
Mike Ahearn, First Solar
Rick Smith, Axon
Main Theater
1:15 – 1:30 PMBreak / Transition to Breakouts
Sponsored by Salt River Project
1:30- 3:30 PMBREAKOUTS
1:30 – 3:30 PMSaaS Presentations
Sponsored by Hool Coury Law
Main Theater
1:30 – 2:15 PMHealthcare Presentations
Sponsored by GPEC
West Theater
1:30 – 2:30 PMSaaS Investor Sessions
Sponsored by Osborn Maledon
Main Theater
2:15 – 2:20 PMBreakFoyer
2:20 – 3:30 PMHardware PresentationsWest Theater
2:30 – 3:30 PMHealthcare Investor Sessions
Sponsored by Osborn Maledon
2:30 – 3:30 PMGrowth Investor Sessions
Sponsored by Osborn Maledon
3:30 – 3:45 PMBreakFoyer
3:45 – 5:00 PMGrowth Presentations
Sponsored by Nextiva
Main Theater
4:50 – 5:00 PMCompetition Overview
Winners Announced
Venture Madness Closes
Main Theater
6:00 – 9:00 PMVIP Cocktail Reception
(By Invitation Only)

How it Works

The competition starts with selected presenting companies grouped into (6) distinct categories. The companies are chosen by a selection panel, where the finalist companies will advance to the live-demo portion of the contest held February 27-28, 2019 at Galvanize Phoenix (for the evening kickoff reception) and Events on Jackson (the live one-day pitch event).

Leading up to the event, finalist companies will get expert mentorship from seasoned investors, business leaders and other entrepreneurs in preparation for the competition. At the live event, they’ll compete in head-to-head pitches in each category for a chance to win cash prizes, and build an invaluable contact network with the region’s most active angel and accredited investors who attend Venture Madness specifically to grow their investment portfolios with the next heroes!

How to Apply

Applications for Venture Madness 2019 are being accepted through 3:00 p.m. (AZ time) on January 10, 2019.  Here’s what to do:

  1. Review the Venture Madness 2019 Terms & Conditions as well as our Rules & Guidelines
  2. Go to our online application system, Valid Eval
  3. Create a profile, and follow all instructions on the application page

Please note, all applicants will be asked to:

  1. Complete general application information;
  2. Download the application, save to a pdf and upload; and
  3. Upload your pitch deck in a PDF format (no more than 15 slides).

Completed applications will receive a confirmation. Then simply hang tight until January 24, 2019 when we notify by phone call and email all companies that have been selected to compete live at Venture Madness 2019.

What Was New in 2019!

New Venue, New Contest Categories & So Much More!

Once again, our 2019 event is completely reinvented! This year’s event will be at Events on Jackson as a single-day pitch contest, and boasts some exciting guest investor attendees, a fabulously fun Food Truck lunch experience, and the region’s hottest emerging companies pitching their way to victory in one of (6) core judging category tracks:

  1. SaaS / Software – in process of developing product, validating market demand and generating consistent revenue
  2. Deep Tech/Hardware/IoT – building physical products or hardware/software products
  3. Institutional Tech (Fintech, Blockchain, Cyber, Ed Tech) – in process of developing technology, validating market fit and generating consistent revenue
  4. Growth – growing technology companies across categories generating a minimum of $3MM in annual revenue
  5. Biotech/Healthcare/Life Sciences – healthcare and life sciences companies with a pre- or post-FDA / regulatory approval offering solutions designed to improve health and quality of life
  6. Consumer – technology companies delivering products/services to individuals and/or households via software or mobile devices

Key Dates

  • December 14, 2018 – January 10, 2019  →  Application Window (3pm AZ Time)
  • January 24, 2019  →  Top 15 – 20 Announced + Orientation & VMC Kickoff Reception
  • Weeks of February 4, February 11, February 18, 2019  →  Expert Mentor Sessions with Finalist Companies
  • February 27, 2019 → Venture Madness Conference 2019 Kickoff & Welcome Reception at Galvanize Phoenix
  • February 28, 2019  →  Venture Madness Conference one-day pitch event at Events on Jackson in Downtown Phoenix

New Format

For 2019 we have a new, condensed format in a 1-day live pitch contest with specific pitch categories so head-to-head match-ups can be objectively evaluated in the context of their unique industry dynamics.

NEW Pitch Categories Include:

  1. SaaS / Software
  2. Deep Tech / Hardware / IoT
  3. Institutional Tech (FinTech, Blockchain, Cyber, EdTech)
  4. Growth (growing technology companies generating $3MM minimum annual revenue)
  5. Biotech / Healthcare / Life Sciences
  6. Consumer

Connections & Prize Money

Competing companies in the 2019 event will vie for their share of cash prizes, with winners in each of the 6 categories receiving $10,000, and most importantly, getting mentorship from seasoned executives and serial entrepreneurs, as well as access to Arizona and the Southwest’s most active angel and VC investors.

No matter where you land in the competition, participants build an invaluable network of accredited investors who are specifically looking to grow their investment portfolios with leading companies. Many past applicants and participants report meeting future Board members, advisors and investors that help guide and grow their firm for years to come.


What is Venture Madness?

Venture Madness, presented by Invest Southwest in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, pits 15 – 30 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 the first quarter of every year, featuring an audience of hundreds of guests including past winners, entrepreneurs, 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 2019 Venture Madness Competition, other than your time to complete the application and create your pitch deck. If you advance as one of the final companies that participate in the live event, you will be responsible for your travel and accommodations to attend the Presenting Company Orientation and Reception (see latest agenda for dates and locations) and the live Venture Madness Conference in 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 the 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 24 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 15-30 will be invited to participate in Venture Madness. 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?

Note for 2019! As with our 2018 event, no pitch videos will be required competition applicants for our 2019 contest, only your online application via our application portal which needs to include all completed information as well as your pro forma financials and your initial pitch presentation (in PowerPoint .PPTX format). Apply online December 14, 2018 through January 10, 2019. Please note that late submissions will not be accepted for the competition.

Please check back on December 14, 2018 for a link to the online application portal.

How can I confirm that my application was successfully submitted?

Once you have successfully submitted your application materials, our online application system 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 application 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 approximately one month prior to the conference if your company is selected to present. At that point you’ll receive all needed instructions on your participation in the event.

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

An Invest Southwest representative will contact each company to notify them if they have been selected. The 24 companies selected to present at the conference are required to attend.

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 Venture Madness Conference?

Yes, conference registration is open to the public. The event registration typically opens in December.