Frequently Asked Questions

Why are you doing this?
53 Ideas is an annual initiative to expand upon the community's innovative ideas and provide everyone a chance to share their ideas, test viability and compete for funding to support new venture creation.

How does 53 Ideas work?

From May 5 through May 31, you can submit a 53-second pitch on the 53 Ideas website. The first week in June we’ll announce the top 53 selected to move forward in the competition. The next step is for the top 53 to participate in training and coaching to help flesh out their ideas and prepare for the second pitch round. Contestants must participate in 75% of virtual trainings and all 53 will present a 3-minute pitch live via WebEx to a group of judges the week the week of July 7, 2024. The judges will then select the top ten to move on to compete live at the pitch finale to be held in late July where the finalists will compete for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place to win $10,000, $5,000 or $2,500 in seed funding. Those entering the contest and selected to move forward must be available for future pitch rounds. Dates to keep open include: July 8, 9, 10, & 25 virtual and the 20 for in-person participation. 

Who can submit?
Anyone age 16 and older that resides in the one of the following North Carolina counties: Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Union or Stanly.

53-seconds is not a lot of time, what are you looking for in the first round video pitch?
We are looking to find great business ideas that solve problems, provide value or lead to improvement of products, services or processes. During your 53-second video pitch be sure to tell us who you are, the problem - your idea, and the solution that is how your idea solves the problem/meets a need, provides value or leads to improvement.

Do I have to submit my pitch through the website or can I come to the Small Business Center and pitch?
All pitches must be submitted through the website by completing the entry form and recording or uploading a pre-recorded 53-second pitch, either on your own or contact us for assistance. We are here to help and don't want technology to be a barrier for participation.

Can I pitch more than one idea?
Absolutely, but each pitch should be a unique idea. Do not submit the same idea more than once and keep your pitch to 53-seconds.

Can an existing business pitch?

Yes, an operating business can pitch if the pitch is for a project or innovation that is not part of their existing operation. They have to be seeking funding to seed a new idea or revenue stream for the business.
They can't pitch seeking funding to support the existing business concept or operations. Those submitting a general pitch for an operating venture will not move forward. Please clearly speak to the new innovation in your pitch if you are an existing business.

A good existing business pitch example: a pizza shop wants to try an online campaign to ship vacuum sealed frozen pizza on dry ice direct to out-of-state consumers.  

A bad existing business pitch example: a pizza shop needs funds to pay their rent or for general business operations. 

What happens if my video pitch is selected as one of the top 53?
​You will move forward to the next round of the competition. There will be training and coaching available to prepare for the next pitch round where the field will be narrowed down from 53 to the top 10. As you prepare for the second and final round of pitches use this scorecard as a guide for preparation.

How do I "flesh out my idea" and create a polished pitch for the next rounds?
We require all contestants sign up for and attend 75% of the targeted 53 Ideas webinars. They will help you think through your idea and determine if and how it can become self-sustaining. In addition to the 53 Ideas workshops, we suggest taking advantage of other trainings and business counseling available through the Small Business Center Network and other local small business development partners.

What happens if my second round pitch is selected as one of the top 10?

You will receive $250 and will move forward in the competition. In late July you will pitch onstage for judges and a virtual audience for a chance to place first, second or third and win $10,000, $5,000,or $2,500 in seed funding to help you launch your venture.

Who picks the winners?
We have organizations who work with entrepreneurs helping to select the top 53. Judges for the for the subsequent rounds are comprised of entrepreneurs, funders and individuals from entrepreneurial support organizations. We request all initial pitch entries to be videos submitted online so we can engage a community of organizations with diverse perspectives to review and make decisions about the top 53 ideas.

Will 53 Ideas own a stake in any of the submitted ideas?

No. 53 Ideas nor any of its program partners will have any ownership stake in the ideas or companies formed.

Will 53 Ideas sign a non-disclosure agreement?
No. With the volume of ideas submitted each year, it's not feasible for us to keep track of the restrictions within all NDAs we could potentially sign. To better protect ideas, we don't make the 53-second pitch videos public without permission of the person who submitted. Additionally, any submitter can independently a provisional patent on their idea before submitting.