How it works

Applicants are selected to pitch in one of six categories before event attendees and a panel of judges drawn from community leaders. The judges select one finalist in each category. The six finalists take the main stage to pitch their ideas 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.

Thanks to all who made Accelerate 2019 a tremendous success! Read all about it >

5:00 p.m. Doors open
5:30 p.m. Category pitch competitions
6:30 p.m. Reception
7:00 p.m. Finalist presentations & awards

*New this year * Don’t miss the Teen Enterprise Pop-Up Shop where last year’s winner Tory Coats and his cohort of teen entrepreneurs will be showcasing their goods and services.

Also, be sure to stop by Past Presenter’s Row to hear how past Accelerate pitches are coming to life and creating positive change.


Accelerate Partners

Category partners
Cleveland Clinic, Cuyahoga Community College, Destination Cleveland, The Lubrizol Corporation, Nordson, Oatey Co., Oswald Companies, Thompson Hine LLP, and Westfield

Past Presenters Row partner
Jackson Lewis P.C.

Teen Enterprise Pop-Up Shop partner
Burton D. Morgan Foundation

See who is on the Host Committee >

  • Pitch Categories

    Authentic Cleveland Experiences
    In partnership with Destination Cleveland
    Initiatives that provide residents and visitors with immersive and emotionally impressive experiences that evoke the essence of Cleveland.

    Community Change
    In partnership with Oswald Companies and Westfield
    Initiatives that make a meaningful change in people’s lives and neighborhoods.

    Economic & Workforce Development
    In partnership with Oatey Co. and The Lubrizol Corporation
    Initiatives that stimulate economic growth, promote economic self-sufficiency, encourage neighborhood development or address poverty.

    Educating for Tomorrow
    In partnership with Nordson
    Initiatives that advance pre-kindergarten through college education, including literacy, numeracy, access, readiness, and success.

    Health & Wellness
    In partnership with Cleveland Clinic
    Initiatives that promote the physical and behavioral well-being of individuals and their communities.

    Quality of Life
    In partnership with Cuyahoga Community College and Thompson Hine LLP
    Initiatives that create positive life experiences through arts, culture, and social services.

  • Eligibility, Applications & Selection


    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 25 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.

    Applications for Accelerate 2019 are closed. Applications for Accelerate 2020 will open on November 1.