Accelerate 10th Anniversary on February 22, 2024
Honorary Chair Mayor Justin Bibb

How it works

Applicants are selected to pitch in one of five categories and a panel of judges drawn from community leaders select one finalist in each category. The five 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. Technovation, a separate competition, awards $3,500 to the most innovative technology-based idea. Click on the tabs below to learn more about the event.

See the 2024 presenters + pitches >

See the City of Cleveland’s Proclamation >

Thursday, February 22, 2024
Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland
(300 Lakeside Ave E)


  • 4:00 p.m. Doors open
  • 4:15 p.m. Teen Accelerate begins
  • 4:30 p.m. Category pitches (Social Change, Thriving Neighborhoods, and Technovation)
  • 5:45 p.m. Category pitches (Arts & Culture, Education, and Health & Well-being)
  • 7:15 p.m. Finalist competition + awards

Networking throughout the evening

Ticket levels
$125 Accelerate Patron ticket
$75 Accelerate Supporter ticket
$40 General admission
$25 Student ticket

All ticket levels provide access to the full event.

Arts & Culture
Sponsored by Oswald Companies & Westfield
Improving lives and spaces through arts and culture.

Sponsored by Nordson
Advancing access, readiness, and success for learners of all ages.

Health & Well-being
Sponsored by MAGNET & The MetroHealth System
Promoting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals and communities.

Social Change
Sponsored by Centric Consulting
Increasing equity, access, and opportunities.

Thriving Neighborhoods
Sponsored by Growth Opps
Invigorating people and places through environmental and community improvement.

See the 2024 presenters + pitches >


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 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.

Teen Accelerate is hosted by Young Entrepreneur Institute and sponsored by Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

Teen Accelerate: Students Make Change is a separate competition at Accelerate. Any high school student can apply to pitch an idea that would make a difference in their community.

Twelve finalists will be selected from the applicants to pitch at Accelerate on February 22, 2024. The grand prize winner will be announced on the main stage at Accelerate during the final program and will receive $1,000, plus a mentor from a partner organization, the runner-up will receive $500, and each of the remaining 10 presenters will win $250.

Teen Accelerate presenters >  |  Learn more >

Sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation

Technovation is a separate competition at Accelerate for innovative, community-driven tech ideas for social good in Cuyahoga County. All Accelerate applicants whose idea includes a technology component can apply to pitch at Technovation in addition to their selected Accelerate category.

Technovation applications are reviewed separately from the Accelerate categories (using the same criteria) and you may be selected to pitch in Technovation and another Accelerate category OR you could be selected to present in Technovation only. If you are selected for Technovation and an Accelerate category, you will be asked to present multiple times at the event.

The Technovation winner receives $3,500.

See the 2024 presenters + pitches >

Presented in partnership with 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.

The following Accelerators from the past nine years will be onsite to share the progress and impact of their visions so far.

  • Laylah Allen, Missing Link
  • Dawn Arrington, Comics at the Corner
  • Laura Balliet, Cool School Comics
  • Tracy Bellum & Nancy Jones, Clean & Beautiful Cleveland:Block 2 Block
  • Michael Bustamante, Connecting Cleveland
  • Sara Continenza & Katie Signorelli, Food Strong
  • Anycia Grady, Seeking Supervision
  • Allison Hite, Never Ever Give Up
  • India Hobbs, Inner City Trades
  • Kristi Horner, Courage to Caregivers
  • Robert Hunter, 5Pillars
  • Lucas King, Impact Academy
  • Ali Lukascy-Love, Awesome Foundation
  • Alex Michaels, Prelude2Cinema
  • Stephen Prewitt + Keenan Williams, Soundbender Institute
  • Sonya Prior-Jones, Fab House
  • Ali Rosswurm, Food Strong
  • Kathy Sanford, All Hands on Deck: Making Technology Connect
  • Sam Smucny, The CLE: An Online Public Square
  • Myesha Watkins, Another Homegirl
  • Shane Winnyk & Courtney Smith, Grayter Cleveland

Thank you to presenting sponsor 
Citizens, and to sponsors Adcom, Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Centric Consulting, Cleveland Foundation, Growth Opps, KJK, Lubrizol, MAGNET, The MetroHealth System, Nordson, The NRP Group LLC, Oswald Companies, PwC, Thompson Hine LLP, and Westfield who are making Accelerate possible! For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Michael Bennett, (216) 592-2426.

Thank you to Accelerate 2024 in-kind donors and event partners:

  • Michael Barakiva of Cleveland Play House
  • ECDI
  • ioby
  • Notre Dame College
  • Andrea Peck of Andrea Peck Communications
  • Jack Ricchiuto of Flawless Planning
  • SEA Change NEO
  • Zinner & Co. LLP

Accelerate is also supported by individuals who make a donation and serve on the Host Committee. Join the Committee >

  • 2024 Host Committee

    Honorary Chair

    Mayor Justin M. Bibb (CC 2007, LUTC 2004)
    City of Cleveland


    Jim Malz (LC 2005)
    President, Citizens, Ohio

    Bill Caster (LC 2010)
    President, Gries Financial Partners
    Chair, CLC Board of Trustees


    • David Akers (LC 2007, CBB 2001), Equalis Group
    • Reka Barabas (CBB 2007), EEC
    • John Barnes (LC 2019), Grant Thornton
    • Daniel Berick (LC 2018), Squire Patton Boggs
    • Tom Bernot (LC 2021, CLI 2010, CBB 2009), Falls
    • Kip Bollin (LC 2020, CLC Board), Thompson Hine LLP
    • Antony Bonavita (LC 2021), Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Rochelle Bowman (CLI 2018), Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
    • Micki Byrnes (LL, CEBC 2012, LC 2005, CLC Board), WKYC
    • Charles Chaikin (LC 2019), Blue Point Capital Partners
    • Jamie Cole (LC2 2019, LC 2018), Skin Deep Laser Spa
    • Anita Cook (LC2 2015, LC 2014)
    • Matt Dierker, Centric Consulting
    • Julie Ann Edgar (LC 2019), Lubrizol
    • Mary Kim Elkins  (LC 2019), Eaton
    • John Fasola (LC 2020), Oswald Companies
    • Rick Fedorovich (CLI 2020, LC 2015, CLC Board)
    • Timothy Flanagan (LC 2019), Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP
    • Kathleen Futey (LC 2018), Leopold Advisors, LLC
    • Scott Garson (LC2019), Goods Banks NEO
    • Wes Gillespie (LC 2023, CBB 2007), ERIEBANK
    • James Graham (LC 2018), Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc.
    • Elizabeth Grove (LC 2021, CLC Board), Lubrizol
    • Akil Hameed (LC 2023), FASS Management Real Estate Services
    • Kelly Hancock (LC 2022), Cleveland Clinic
    • Maureen Harper (LC 2018, CLI 2016), Falls
    • Megan Hauer Kacvinsky (LC 2021), Point to Point, Inc.
    • David Heller (LC 2020, CLC Board), The NRP Group LLC
    • Justin Herdman (LC 2023), Jones Day
    • Jill Helfman (LC 2020), Taft
    • iHeartMedia, Inc.
    • Timothy Hilk (LC 2019), YMCA of Greater Cleveland
    • Michael Jeans (LC 2016), Growth Opps
    • Joy Johnson (LC 2021, CBB 2015), Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc.
    • Jessica Jung (LC 2021), Oswald Companies
    • 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
    • David Kempton (LC 2018), Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
    • Michael Klein (LC 2022), Ciuni & Panichi
    • Robert Klonk (LC2 2017, LC 2016, CLC Board), Oswald Companies
    • Susan Krantz (CLI 2011), Zinner & Co. LLP
    • Edward Largent III (LC 2010), Westfield
    • Craig Martin (LC2 2023, LC 2022 ), Adcom
    • George Mateyo (LC 2023, CLI 2021), Key
    • Rebecca Ruppert McMahon (LC 2018, CBB 2008), Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
    • Ginger Mlakar (LC2 2015, LC 2014, CLC Board), Cleveland Foundation
    • Kim & Heath Monesmith (LC 2018), Eaton
    • Gregg Muresan (LC 2022), PwC
    • Azim Nakhooda (LC 2019), Cedar Brook Group
    • Matthew Nakon (LC 2023), Wickens Herzer Panza
    • Charles Napoli (LC 2020), Saint Martin de Porres High School
    • Jeffrey Nicholson (LC 2018, CLI 2012), Aon Risk Solutions
    • Brittany O’Connor (CBB 2003), Citizens
    • Randy Paine (LC 2018), Key
    • Tracey Petkovic (LC 2023), Westfield
    • Brent Pietrafese (LC 2020), Calfee
    • Jon Pinney (LC2 2019, LC 2018), KJK
    • Cecilia Render, Nordson Corporation Foundation
    • Jim Rollins (LC 2020), Meaden & Moore
    • Enid Rosenberg (LL, ALI 2018, LC 2007), Community Volunteer
    • Stuart Rosenberg (LC2 2014, LC 2013, CLC Board), Westfield
    • Jon Ruple (LC 2021, CLI 2015), Maloney + Novotny LLC
    • David Shimotakahara (LC 2018), GroundWorks DanceTheater
    • John Smetanko
    • Megan Spinos (LC 2023), Deloitte
    • Stephen Strayer (LC 2022), PNC
    • Terry Szmagala (LC 2018), Eaton
    • Drew Stelzer (CBB 2021, OBC 2019), First Commonwealth Insurance Agency
    • Eddie Taylor Jr. (LC 2000), Taylor Oswald, LLC
    • Michael Toth (LC 2020), Westfield
    • Maximus Trotter (CBB 2014), Amazon
    • Julie Tutkovics (LC 2022, CBB 2005), Huntington
    • Martin Uhle (LC 2022), Community West Foundation
    • Daniel Urban (LC 2019), Wickens Herzer Panza
    • Tracy Vigh (LC 2020, CBB 2017), Deloitte
    • Tod Wagner (LC 2017), Bober Markey Fedorovich
    • Robert Walker (LC 2017), CIBC
    • Nadine Wallman (LC 2022, CLI 2013), Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
    • Rob Ware (LC 2023), Thompson Hine LLP
    • Richard Wesorick (LC 2019), Tarolli, Sundheim, Covell & Tummino LLP
    • Lisa Williams (LC 2021), Cuyahoga Community College
    • Leon Wilson (LC 2023, CLI 2016), Cleveland Foundation


    List is as of 2/14/2024. To support Accelerate by serving on the Host Committee, contact Michael Bennett (216-592-2426) or visit Hosts receive invitations to exclusive opportunities and support the Accelerate innovators. Thank you!

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