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 presenters and ideas, including the 2023 Winners >

Thursday, February 23, 2023
4:30-8:30 p.m.
Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland


  • 4:00 p.m. Doors open
  • 4:30 p.m. Category pitches (Education, Quality of Life, Technovation) + Teen Accelerate
  • 5:45 p.m. Category pitches (Cleveland Experiences & Excursions, Economic Prosperity, Health & Well-being, Social Change) + Teen Accelerate
  • 7:15 p.m. Finalist competition + awards

Networking throughout the evening

View the digital program book >

$50 Accelerate Supporter
$35 General Registration
$25 Student Registration
$100 Accelerate Patron

Cleveland Experiences & Excursions
Presented in partnership with Destination Cleveland
Evoking connection to place for visitors and locals, and inspiring return visits.

Economic Prosperity
Presented in partnership with Boler College of Business at John Carroll University
Creating pathways to financial success for people and places.

Presented in partnership with Nordson
Advancing access, readiness, and success for pre-k through college students.

Health & Well-being
Presented in partnership with Growth Opps
Promoting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals and their communities.

Quality of Life
Presented in partnership with Thompson Hine LLP & Oatey Co.
Improving lives through art, culture, the environment, and community improvement projects.

Social Change
Presented in partnership with Lubrizol & MAGNET: The Manufacturing and Advocacy Growth Network
Increasing equity, access, and opportunities within communities.

See the presenters and their ideas. >

Presented in partnership with 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 are used for both.

See the presenters and their ideas. >



  • Boler College of Business at John Carroll University
  • Destination Cleveland
  • Growth Opps
  • Lubrizol
  • MAGNET: The Manufacturing and Advocacy Growth Network
  • Nordson
  • Oatey Co.
  • Thompson Hine LLP

Cleveland Foundation

Oswald Companies

Burton D. Morgan Foundation

Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School


Centric Consulting


  • ECDI
  • ioby
  • Greater Cleveland Partnership
  • Weiss Movers
  • Michael Obertacz
  • Andrea Peck
  • SEA Change
  • St. Martin de Porres
  • Zinner & Co. LLP

Additional sponsorship opportunities available. Contact Michael Bennett, 216-592-2426.

This year at Accelerate, the Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School is offering an additional opportunity for youth in grades 9-12, Teen Accelerate: Student Citizens Make Change. The competition is open to any high school students interested in making a difference in their community (including those that applied to one of CLC’s six Accelerate categories).

Twelve Finalists were selected by the Young Entrepreneur Institute to pitch in the Teen Accelerate competition. All Teen Accelerate finalists are connected with a coach to help prepare for the event on February 23, 2023.

The top winner, who will be announced on the main stage at Accelerate, will receive $1,000 plus a mentor from a partner organization to help them launch or expand their idea. The runner-up earns $500, and all other Finalists who pitch at the event will win $250.

  • Heather Englander, Managing Director, Business Engagement, Business Volunteers Unlimited
  • Juan Carlos Gamarra, Business Mentor, Subject Matter Expert, and Presenter, SCORE
  • Dawud Hamzah, Youth transformational speaker, serial entrepreneur, & Creator, HYPE (Helping You Produce Excellence) Program
  • Brandon Lipford, Founder, Lightbox Sacred Innovations
  • Jowan Smith, 2020 Accelerate Winner & CEO of 1000 Ties

Learn more >

Applications for Teen Accelerate are now closed. Please direct questions regarding the Teen Accelerate competition to the Young Entrepreneur Institute at

Teen Accelerate 2023 is sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

The Dare 2 Believe pop-up shops (Tory Coats’ 2018 Accelerate winning pitch) will once again feature young entrepreneurs showcasing their products and services.

Presented in partnership with Burton D. Morgan Foundation

Applications for Accelerate 2023’s six pitch categories and Technovation are closed. Applications for Accelerate 2024 will open in fall 2023.

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.

View the Application Guidebook to learn all about the application process, how to craft your best application, and what to expect if you’re selected!

Catch up with previous presenters, finalist, and winners, to hear about the progress they’ve made and how you can potentially help further their work.

  • Laylah Allen, Project Coping Box
  • Keisha Chambers, This is BLK CLE
  • Sara Continenza, Food Strong
  • Allison Hite, Never Ever Give Up
  • India Hobbs, Inner City Trades
  • Kristi Horner, Courage to Caregivers
  • Alex Michaels, Prelude2Cinema
  • Chenoa Miller, FabHouse
  • Jim Ridge, Blazing Paddles Paddlefest
  • Shane Winnyk & Courtney Smith, Grayter Cleveland
  • 2023 Host Committee


    Jim Malz (LC 2005)
    President, Citizens, Ohio

    Bill Caster (LC 2010)
    Senior VP and Managing Director, Fifth Third Private Bank
    Chair, CLC Board of Trustees


    • Chuck Aquino (LC 2016), Western Reserve Partners, a Division of Citizens Capital Markets Inc.
    • James Aronoff (LC 2012), Thompson Hine
    • Mitch Balk (LC 2001), Mt. Sinai Health Foundation
    • John Beer (LC2 2019, LC 2018, CLC Board), PNC Bank
    • Orion Bell (LC2 2022, LC 2021), The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging
    • Cip Beredo (LC 2014, CBB 2006, CLC Board), Squire Patton Boggs
    • Kip Bollin (LC 2020, CLC Board), Thompson Hine LLP
    • John Bonfiglio (LC 2015, CBB 2003), BSB Partners CPAs & Business Advisors
    • Micki Byrnes (LL, CEBC 2012, LC 2005, CLC Board), WKYC
    • Anita Cook (LC2 2015, LC 2014)
    • Rob Falls (LC 2015), Falls & Co.
    • Rick Fedorovich (CLI 2020, LC 2015, CLC Board), Bober Markey Fedorovich
    • Scott Garson (LC 2019), Good Banks NEO
    • David Gilbert (LC 2001), Destination Cleveland & Greater Cleveland Sports Commission
    • Elizabeth Grove (LC 2021, CLC Board), Lubrizol
    • Rochelle Hallisy-Bowman (CLI 2018), Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
    • Suzanne Hamilton (LC 2018), ErieBank
    • Michael Jeans (LC 2016), Growth Opps
    • Ira Kaplan (LC 2003, Board Chair Emeritus), 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
    • Susan Krantz (CLI 2011), Zinner & Co. LLP
    • Lisa Kunkle (LC 2014, CLC Board), Avient
    • Edward Largent III (LC 2010), Westfield
    • Brian Marita (LC2 2015, LC 2014, CLC Board), Ciuni & Panichi
    • Dr. Denise McCory (LC 2023), Cuyahoga Community College
    • Dr. Ron Mickler, Boler College of Business at John Carroll University
    • Gregg Muresan (LC 2022, CLC Board), PwC
    • Janice Murphy (LC 2023), Sisters of Charity Health System
    • Brittany O’Connor (CBB 2003), Citizens
    • Colleen O’Neil (LC 2016), Calfee
    • Shelly Peet (LC2 2013, LC 2009, CLC Board), Nordson
    • Cecilia Render, Nordson Corporation Foundation
    • Kim Riley (LC 2017), Hylant Group
    • Jim Rollins (LC 2020), Meaden & Moore Ltd.
    • Stuart Rosenberg (LC2 2014, LC 2013, CLC Board), Westfield
    • Gary Shamis, Winding River Consulting
    • John Smetanko
    • Joe Smucny (LC 2016, CBB 2002), Centric Consulting
    • Nigamanth Sridhar (LC2 2020, LC 2019, CLC Board), Cleveland State University
    • Eddie Taylor Jr. (LC 2000, Board Chair Emeritus), Taylor Oswald, LLC
    • Martin Uhle (LC 2022), Community West Foundation
    • Tod Wagner (LC 2017), Bober Markey Fedorovich
    • Kristin Warzocha (LC 2010, CBB 2002, CLC Board), Greater Cleveland Food Bank
    • Leon Wilson (LC 2023, CLI 2016), Cleveland Foundation

    Want to join this list? Contact Michael Bennett (216) 592-2426 or donate online. Hosts receive invitations to exclusive opportunities and support the Accelerate innovators.

    List as of 2/13/2023

Accelerate 2023 presenters in the news

See updates from past presenters >