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.

Thursday, February 27, 2020
Global Center for Health Innovation
(1 St Clair Ave NE, Cleveland, OH 44114)

4:00 p.m. Doors open
4:30 p.m. Technovation pitch competition
5:30 p.m. Accelerate category pitch competitions & SVP bigBANG! competition
6:30 p.m. Reception
7:00 p.m. Finalist presentations & awards

$35 General public + CLC alumni
$30 CLC Members
$20 Students (does not include drink ticket)
$100 Accelerate Patrons (includes invite to private Accelerate launch party in March)

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

See the winners and check out the Accelerate 2020 presenters and their ideas. >

Watch their finalist pitches >

  • Shana Black (16:28)
  • Jowan Smith (22:48)
  • Jason C. Miller (28:50)
  • Sanjanasri Vedavyas (35:05)
  • Diane Mastnardo & Jacque Mastnardo (41:45)
  • Logan Dior Williams & Denyelle E. Rashid (48:46)

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 2020 are now closed.

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 Corporation
Initiatives that advance pre-kindergarten through college education, including literacy, numeracy, access, readiness, and success.

Health & Wellness
In partnership with The MetroHealth System and Thompson Hine LLP
Initiatives that promote the physical and behavioral well-being of individuals and their communities.

Quality of Life
In partnership with Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus and MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network
Initiatives that create positive life experiences through arts, culture, and social services.

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).

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.

Social Venture Partners’ (SVP) bigBANG! Fast Pitch competition will take place at Accelerate 2020. bigBANG! is a free two-month training and mentoring program for innovative nonprofits effecting social change in Cleveland that culminates in the Fast Pitch competition.

Nonprofit leaders are selected to participate based on their innovative approaches to creating social change and their potential for significant positive community impact. They receive training and mentoring over the course of two months from volunteer business professionals (SVP Partners and friends of SVP) on how to succinctly and powerfully “tell their story.”

Learn more >

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

Presented in partnership with the Jackson Lewis P.C. 

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 they will once again be at Accelerate 2020.

Presented in partnership with the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.


Presenting partner
Citizens Bank

Category partners
Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus, Destination Cleveland, The Lubrizol Corporation, The MetroHealth System, MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Nordson Corporation, Oatey Co., Oswald Companies, Thompson Hine LLP, and Westfield

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

Technovation competition host
Cleveland Foundation

Southwest Airlines

Past Presenters’ Row
Jackson Lewis P.C.

Post-Event Launch
JumpStart Inc.


See the Host Committee >