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.

How it Works

The competition starts with selected presenting companies grouped into (4) distinct categories. The companies are chosen by a selection panel,  where the presenting companies will advance to the live-demo portion of the contest, held February 27-28, 2019 at Events on Jackson.  There they’ll get a chance to grab big cash prizes and better yet, network with the region’s most active angel and accredited investors who are attending specifically to grow their investment portfolios with the next big things.


What’s New for 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 (4) core judging category tracks:

  1. SaaS Launch — Software-as-a-Service companies still developing their product and/or working to find a market fit with less than $250k in revenue and less than $500k raised over past 6 months.
  2. SaaS Scale — Software-as-a-Service companies with a clear market fit and generating consistent revenue of $250k – $1.5 million and less than $3 million in raised capital over the past 6 months.
  3. Hardware Tech — Companies building physical products such as wearables, IoT devices, drones, robotics, 3d printing, space tech, AR/AV, Ag Tech, new materials, etc.) with no thresholds on revenue and less than $3 million in raised capital.
  4. Deep Tech — Companies working on software solutions with machine learning, AI, blockchain, computational imaging and recognition, etc. with no threshold on revenue  and less than $3 million in raised capital.

Key Dates

  • December 3 – January 9, 2019  →  Application Window (3pm AZ Time)
  • Week of January 21, 2019  →  Top 15 Announced + Orientation & VMC Kickoff Reception
  • Weeks of February 4, February 11, February 18, 2019  →  Mentor Sessions
  • February 27-28, 2019  →  Venture Madness Conference @ Events on Jackson in Downtown Phoenix

New Format

For 2019 we have a new, condensed format from a 3-day event to a 1-day event with specific pitch categories so head-to-head match-ups can be evaluated in the context of their unique industry dynamics.

NEW Pitch Categories Include:

  1. SaaS Launch
  2. SaaS Scale
  3. Hardware Tech
  4. Deep Tech

Prize Money

Competing companies in the 2019 event will vie for their share of cash prizes, and more importantly, exclusive meetings with accredited investors who are specifically looking to grow their investment portfolios with winning ventures.

2019 Agenda


6:00 – 9:00 PMWelcome ReceptionGalvanize Phoenix


8:00 – 8:30 AMConference Registration / Check-in
Continental Breakfast
Events on Jackson
8:30 – 8:45 AMWelcomeEvents on Jackson
8:45 – 9:30 AMKeynote Speaker
9:30 – 9:45 AMProgram Overview & Introduction to Presenting CompaniesAuditorium
10:00 – 11:30 AMSalt River Project Track
Deep Tech Presentations
Breakout Room
10:00 – 11:30 AMAvnet Track
Hard Tech Presentations
Breakout Room
12:15 – 1:00 PMKeynote Speaker
Breakout Room
1:10 – 3:00 PMGreater Phoenix Leadership Track
SaaS Launch Presentations
Breakout Room
1:10 – 3:00 PMSilicon Valley Bank Track
SaaS Scale Presentations
Breakout Room
3:15 – 3:30 PMBREAKFoyer
3:30 – 3:45 PMAnnouncement of Top 4
Category Winners
Breakout Room
3:45 – 4:30 PMKeynote Speaker
4:30 – 4:40 PMOverview of Top 4 CompetitionBreakout Room
4:40 – 5:40 PMTop 4 Company PresentationsFoyer
5:40 – 6:00 PMImpact of Invest Southwest &
Venture Capital in Arizona
Judges Deliberate
6:00 – 6:15 PMVenture Madness Champion AnnouncedClose of Venture Madness 2019
6:30 – 8:30 PMVIP Cocktail Reception
(By Invitation Only)


TBDInvitation Only-Presenting Company CEO
Investor Event
Silicon Valley Bank Tent
Phoenix Open



What is Venture Madness?

Venture Madness, presented by Invest Southwest in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, pits 24 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 late January, 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 2018 Venture Madness Competition, other than your time to complete the application and create your pitch deck. If your company advances to the final 24 firms that participate in the live event, you will be responsible for your travel and accommodations to attend the Presenting Company Orientation and Reception on Thursday, January 4, 2018, and the live Venture Madness Conference which takes place January 29-31, 2018 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 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 24 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?

NEW for 2018! No pitch videos will be required from 2018 competition applicants, 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 October 26 through November 30, 2017. Please note that late submissions will not be accepted for the 2018 competition.

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 approximately one month prior to the conference, if your company is selected to present.

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 will be available in early December.


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