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, easier than ever, and open to early-stage firms demonstrating proven market traction.

Venture Madness Conference 2021

Location TBD
October 6+7, 2021

Venture Madness 2021 Tentative Agenda

Key Dates

  • November 2020 – August 2021 → Partnership opportunities for VMC 2021
  • Opens April 6, 2021 →  VMC21 begins accepting Participant Applications
  • FREE PARTICIPANT / PITCH TRAINING (Dates TBA) → Get Ready Seminars (free for anyone interested in learning about applying, the process and tips for pitching investors to raise capital)
  • Aug 2021  →  General Registration & Early Bird Opens
  • Aug 2021 → Presenting Company Kickoff Reception & Orientation (mandatory for all finalists)
  • Aug – September 2021 → Mentor Team Meetings for all Finalists
  • OCTOBER 6, 2021  →  Venture Madness Conference Kickoff Reception
  • OCTOBER 7, 2021  →  Venture Madness Conference, hybrid live and live streaming online event (location TBA)

1-Day Event Format

For 2021 we’ll continue our condensed event format with the live pitch event, keynote, networking luncheon and more all on the same day, kicked off with a welcome event the evening before. Industry categories and pitch tracks will be assigned when finalist companies are announced in late summer of 2021.

startup contest venture madness

Where to Stay

Coming from out of town?
Keep an eye out for our 2021 in-person location and recommended hotels nearby.

Connections & Prize Money

Competing companies in the 2021 event will vie for their share of cash prizes, with winners in each category receiving a cash prize, and most importantly, getting exclusive time with the Southwest’s most active angel and VC investors. All finalists receive publicity in the location and regional media, and may be interviewed by the press before and/or following the event. Finalist companies also receive expert mentorship from seasoned executives and serial entrepreneurs to help guide their pitch and presentation strategy.

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, fueling their way to the top step by step.


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.

It is completely FREE to apply for the Venture Madness Competition, other than your time to complete the application, create your pitch deck and practice your pitch before the event with the help of our expert mentors. 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 and the live Venture Madness Conference in Arizona.

Companies that present at the conference will not only meet other founders and seasoned entrepreneurs who’ve walked 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 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.

Invest Southwest will review initial applications, and based on weighted scores, the top finalists will be invited to participate in Venture Madness. Read the How It Works section for more information.

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

Note for 2021! As with our 2020 event, no pitch videos will be required for applicants, only your online application via our application portal. It is important that you include all requested information as well as your pro forma financials and initial pitch presentation (in PowerPoint .PPTX format). Watch for key dates and deadlines in Spring of 2021. Please note that late submissions will not be accepted for the competition.

We’ll provide a direct link to the online application portal. And be sure to sign up for news and event updates to stay informed as more information becomes available.

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

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 necessary instructions on your participation and preparation for the event. Then the rest is up to you!

An Invest Southwest representative will contact each company to notify them if they have been selected. The companies selected to present at the conference are required to attend our Presenting Company Orientation event (2021 date TBA), and the Mentor Team Sessions in September 2021.

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., right away. Due to tight timelines, we ask that you follow up quickly with any issues or questions.

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.

Yes, our 2021 event will be hybrid, with an in-person event venue, and also live-streaming for online attendees. Registration is open to the public. The event registration typically opens in 2 months prior to the event dates each year.

How it Works

The competition starts with selected presenting companies grouped into distinct categories based on industry focus. The companies are chosen by an expert selection panel, then the finalist companies advance to the live-demo portion of the contest held February 24 – 25, 2021 at Events On Jackson in Downtown Phoenix.

Leading up to the event, finalist companies will get expert mentorship from seasoned investors, business leaders and other successful 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, and most importantly, get exposure for their company while building an invaluable network of the Southwest’s most active investors who attend Venture Madness specifically to grow their investment portfolios with the next heroes!

Please Note: If your company is selected to present at our 2020 event, you will be required to attend our Presenting Company Orientation & Reception in early January, and Mentor Team Meetings held between January and February just prior to the live event.

How to Apply

The application window for Venture Madness 2021 is TBC but expected to run between July – early September, 2021.  Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Download the Venture Madness 2021 Terms & Conditions as well as our Rules & Guidelines when they become available
  2. Apply online through Valid Eval
  3. Create your profile, and follow all instructions on the application page and submit

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 email of their successful submission. If any additional information is required, an Invest Southwest representative will contact you.

Then simply hang tight until we notify by phone call and email all companies that have been selected to compete live at Venture Madness 2021.