How it works

Applicants are selected to pitch in one of six categories and a panel of judges drawn from community leaders select one finalist in each category. The six finalists pitch again to the full audience, which votes on the winner. The winner receives $5,000 and the remaining five finalists each receive $2,000 to help bring their ideas to life. The Technovation competition will award $3,500 to the most innovative technology-based idea.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about the event.

See the 2021 presenters and watch their pitches >

See updates from past presenters >

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Additional details coming this fall. Click on the tabs above to learn more about the event.

Applications for Accelerate 2022 are open now through December 3, 2021.


Anyone with an idea to improve the Greater Cleveland community can apply. Proposed ideas cannot be affiliated with an established organization or business.

Application & Selection
Applicants submit proposals to pitch their idea at the event via an online form, through which you’ll address each of the following areas in 250 words or less.

  • A description of the initiative.
  • The community issue it addresses.
  • How it will benefit the community.
  • Why you are passionate about the issue.
  • How you will know if the initiative is successful.
  • How the prize money would help you achieve your goals.

An independent panel of reviewers selects 30 proposals (five from each category) to be presented at the event based on:

  • Potential for community impact and advancing NE Ohio.
  • How unique, creative and innovative the initiative is.
  • A realistic implementation plan that would be aided by the prize money.

Those selected have up to five minutes to pitch at the event.

Be inspired by past presenters >

Applications for Accelerate 2022 are open now through December 3, 2021.


Authentic Cleveland Experiences
Providing residents and visitors with immersive and emotionally impressive experiences that evoke the essence of Cleveland.

Economic Prosperity
Strengthening individual pathways for employment and financial success.

Advancing access, readiness, and success for pre-k through college students.

Health & Well-being
Promoting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals and their communities.

Quality of Life
Improving lives through art, culture, the environment, and community improvement projects.

Social Change
Increasing equity, access, and opportunities within communities.

See the 2021 presenters and watch their pitches >

Sponsored by Cleveland Foundation

Technovation, a separate pitch competition at Accelerate, offers an additional opportunity for pitch submissions that include a technology component. All Accelerate applicants whose idea includes a technology component can apply to pitch at Technovation in addition to their selected Accelerate category.

The top innovative, community-driven tech idea for social good gets $3,500.

Although the Technovation applications are reviewed separately from the Accelerate categories, the same selection criteria will be used for both.

Tory Coats (Accelerate 2018 winner) and his Dare 2 Believe young entrepreneurs will be at Accelerate sharing their products and services. Learn more about the teen entrepreneurship program on Tory’s website.

Accelerate Presenting sponsor:

  • Citizens

Technovation sponsor:

  • Cleveland Foundation

Additional sponsors:

  • Burton D. Morgan Foundation
  • Destination Cleveland
  • Growth Opps
  • KJK
  • Lubrizol
  • MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network
  • Nordson
  • The NRP Group
  • Oatey Co.
  • Oswald Companies
  • Thompson Hine
  • Westfield
  • 2022 Host Committee


    The Host Committee helps make Accelerate possible.

    A $350 Host donation included access to virtual Accelerate pre- and post-events, and a swag bag to enjoy along with the virtual competition. Donations at $500 and $1,000 received additional virtual admissions, as well as provided additional financial support to make the event possible.

    Become a host >


    • Jim Malz (LC 2005), President, Citizens, Ohio
    • Rick Fedorovich (CLI 2020, LC 2015), Executive Chairman, Bober Markey Fedorovich & Chair, CLC Board of Trustees


    • James Aronoff (CLC 2012), Thompson Hine
    • Mitch Balk (LC 2001), Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation
    • John Beer (LC2 2019, LC 2018, CLC Board), PNC Bank
    • Kip Bollin (LC 2020, CLC Board), Thompson Hine LLP
    • Micki Byrnes (LL, CEBC 2012, LC 2005), WKYC
    • William Caster (LC 2010, CLC Board), Fifth Third Private Bank
    • Anita Cook (LC2 2015, LC 2014)
    • Suzanne Ferrara (LC 2021), PNC
    • David Gilbert (LC 2001), Greater Cleveland Sports Commission & Destination Cleveland
    • Patrick Hackett (OBC 2019, CLC Leadership Council), Axuall Inc.
    • David Heller (LC 2020, CLC Board), The NRP Group
    • Michael Jeans (LC 2016), Growth Opps
    • Ira Kaplan (LC 2003), Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP
    • Ethan Karp (LC2 2018, LC 2017, CLC Board), MAGNET The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network
    • Kelly Keefe (LC 2020, CLI 2012), ERC
    • Robert Klonk (LC2 2017, LC 2016, CLC Board), Oswald Companies
    • Edward Largent III (LC 2010), Westfield
    • Wayne Lawrence, Weiss Movers and Storage
    • Ginger Mlakar (LC2 2015, LC 2014, CLC Board), Cleveland Foundation
    • Brian Marita, (LC2 2015, LC 2014, CLC Board), Ciuni & Panichi
    • Erin Gay Miyoshi (CBB 2021, CLC Board), Ursuline College
    • Brittany O’Connor (CBB 2003), Citizens Bank
    • Shelly Peet (LC2 2013, LC 2009, CLC Board), Nordson
    • Jon Pinney (LC2 2019, LC 2018), KJK
    • Cecilia Render, Nordson Corporation Foundation
    • Neal Restivo (LC 2017, CLC Board), Oatey Co.
    • Kim Riley (LC 2017), Hylant Group
    • Jim Rollins (LC 2020), Meaden & Moore Ltd.
    • Stuart Rosenberg (LC2 2014, LC 2013, CLC Board), Westfield
    • Mark Ross (LC 2016), PwC (retired)
    • Marc Sanchez (LC 2013, CLC Board), Frantz Ward LLP
    • Gary Shamis, Winding River Consulting
    • Joe Smucny (LC 2016, CBB 2002), Centric Consulting
    • Drew Stelzer (CBB 2021, OBC 2019), Schauer Group, Inc.
    • Mark Sutherland (CLI 2020, LC 2016, CLC Board)
    • David Valent (LookUp 2000, CLC Leadership Council), Cleveland Clinic
    • Ken Vincinquerra
    • Tod Wagner (LC 2017), Bober Markey Fedorovich


    Committee in formation. List is as of 11/18/2021.