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.

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

Pitch applications are open through noon on December 4, 2020.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Due to the pandemic, Accelerate 2021 is being planned according to safety and health guidelines and will mostly be a virtual experience.

Accelerate 2021 tickets will be sold on a Pay What You Can basis. Registration will open in early December 2020.

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

Follow the Accelerate 2021 Facebook event for event notifications and updates.

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.

Applications for Accelerate 2021 are open until noon on December 4, 2020.

Authentic Cleveland Experiences
In partnership with Destination Cleveland
Creating an immersive and one-of-a-kind experience that (re)connects residents and visitors with Cleveland’s diverse population, resilient spirit, and destination assets.

Economic Development
Stimulating the economy, growing employment, and building financial literacy.

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.

Social Change
Addressing complex social challenges by promoting equity, access, and opportunity.

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


The Cleveland Foundation is awarding $3,500 to the top innovative technology idea at Accelerate. Be sure to check that box on the pitch application to take part in the Technovation Competition, too.

All pitches that opt in to the Technovation competition will be reviewed by a selection committee assembled by the Cleveland Foundation and five presenters will be selected. The same three selection criteria will be used for both Technovation and the Accelerate category competition (see Application Process tab for criteria).

Since the selection committees for Technovation and Accelerate are separate, the five presenters selected for Technovation may or may not be selected to present in their identified Accelerate category.

Presented in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation.

Catch up with past Accelerate participants and hear how their ideas are coming to life and creating positive change.

In 2018, Tory Coats won Accelerate with his pitch for Dare2Believe Pop-Up Shops – a way to teach high school students business skills by doing business. His young entrepreneurs showcased and sold their wares at Accelerate 2019 and 2020. They will once again be a part of Accelerate in 2021.


Presenting partner
Citizens Bank

Lead category partner
The MetroHealth System

Category partners
Destination Cleveland, KJK, The Lubrizol Corporation, MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Nordson Corporation, Oatey Co., Oswald Companies, Thompson Hine LLP, and Westfield

Technovation competition host
Cleveland Foundation

Other supporters



The Host Committee helps make Accelerate possible. Be a part of this group driving positive change in our community – become a Host today.

A $350 Host donation includes access to virtual Accelerate pre- and post-events, potential in-person opportunities that meet safety guidelines, and a swag bag to enjoy along with the virtual competition. Donations at $500 and $1,000 will gain additional virtual admissions as well as provide additional financial support to make the event possible. (Tax deductibility to be determined based on event costs.)

  • 2021 Host Committee


    • Jim Malz (LC 2005), President, Citizens Bank, Ohio
    • Rick Fedorovich (LC 2003), CEO & Managing Partner, Bober Markey Fedorovich + Chair, CLC Board of Trustees


    • Mitchell 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
    • John Bonfiglio (LC 2015, CBB 2003), BSB Partners
    • Akram Boutros (LC 2015), The MetroHealth System
    • William Caster (LC 2010, CLC Board), Fifth Third Private Bank
    • Fiona Chambers (LC 2014, LC 2013), Deloitte
    • Joe Compton (LC2 2015, LC 2014), Marcum LLP
    • Anita Cook (LC2 2015, LC 2014)
    • Todd Federman (LC2 2016, LC 2015), North Coast Angel Fund
    • Matthew Fieldman (CBB 2012), MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network
    • David Gilbert (LC 2001), Greater Cleveland Sports Commission & Destination Cleveland
    • Elizabeth Grove (LC 2020), Lubrizol
    • Patrick Hackett (OBC 2019, CLC Leadership Council), JumpStart, Inc.
    • 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
    • Susan Krantz (CLI 2011), Zinner & Co. LLP
    • Edward Largent III (LC 2010), Westfield Insurance
    • Kara Lewis (LC 2020, CBB 2011), AB Bernstein
    • Brittany O’Connor (CBB 2003), Citizens Bank
    • Larry Oscar (LC 2009), Hahn Loeser & Parks LLC
    • 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.
    • Mark Ross (LC 2016), PwC (retired)
    • Marc Sanchez (LC 2013), Frantz Ward LLP
    • Gary Shamis, Winding River Consulting
    • Drew Stelzer (CBB 2021, OBC 2019), Schauer Group
    • Heather Stoll (CLI 2020, LC 2017), Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
    • Mark Sutherland (LC 2016, CLC Board)
    • Tod Wagner (LC 2017), Bober Markey Fedorovich
    • Leon Wilson (CLI 2016), Cleveland Foundation


    List current as of 11/30/2020