Deadline: May 1, 2016 | Apply here
[Oops, the opportunity has already expired. Sign up to AlphaGamma weekly newsletters to stay ahead of the game]
summer and winter of each year
up to $50,000
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

The 1ST50K Startup Competition

1ST50K is a global competition that provides participants feedback through fast learning loops to put them on a path to Pitch Day. Most competitions simply judge your concept and preparedness without helping you learn from the experience. The feedback 1ST50K participants receive directs them and their business plans to one of two places: through multiple iterations or pivots to validated business models and a successful Pitch Day or termination, just like the real world!

A Pitch Day is when finalists in the 1ST50K Startup Competition are invited to Cape Girardeau to pitch their business for final consideration for business development services, connection to advisors, and a grant. During these days, finalists have the opportunity to meet with our esteemed group of venture capital and angel investment professionals on the Competition Committee, and network with previous 1ST50K winners. During the day that is required, finalists are matched with individuals in the Cape Girardeau community for networking purposes, in addition to learning about Cape Girardeau and all that it has to offer.

1ST50K is not only a source for funding, but an opportunity to get formally introduced and access to a broad network of successful entrepreneurs, to receive a variety of pro-bono business development services, and to establish yourself in an emerging community with other creative and innovative entrepreneurs.

1ST50K seeks to fund start-ups that are built around ideas that have an opportunity to be turned into scalable commercial ventures. These ventures we attract and support, grow and enhance the economic and entrepreneurial vibrancy of the Cape Girardeau community and provide immeasurable equity. Thus, 1ST50K does not take an equity stake in the companies in which we award investments. In addition to monetary investments, 1ST50K provides a host of support services and access to top business minds, all free to the Recipient.

The Competition Committee makes quarterly investment recommendations to Traverse Ventures, a local venture capital fund focused on formative stage ventures. Traverse Ventures makes $100,000 available each year to fund cash grants to the most promising applicants in the competition.

Recipients receive award packages including a variety of business development support services, formal introduction and access to a broad network of successful entrepreneurs and up to $50,000 in cash grants. Pro-bono services are provided in the following areas: accounting, legal, marketing and design, communication, financial consulting, banking consulting and services, information technology consulting and web hosting, human resources, and payroll services.

Recipients are also provided access to venture capital and angel investment networks, professional and high level business mentorship, personal introductions to strategic business leaders, social support and community integration services, and inclusion as part of a community of innovative entrepreneurs. Well-positioned participants in the competition may also be eligible for immediate or follow-on equity or debt investments from Traverse Ventures and other strategic private investors.


1ST50K is looking for innovative technologies, products, or services, driven by scalable business models with regional, national or international impact. They seek to attract entrepreneurs who are already located in Cape Girardeau OR are willing to relocate here. Basing your business in Cape Girardeau is a prerequisite for receiving a grant. Their network of entrepreneurs, partners and business leaders are investing their time and resources in making the Cape Girardeau startup scene even stronger. 1ST50K Startup Competition is an industry-agnostic competition. Their focus is on supporting businesses that are innovative and scalable, regardless of the industry.

1ST50K Startup Competition

Initial applications require an executive summary of the business model and standard pitch deck. Within 5 days of the time your application you receive notification of eligibility. If your application is not eligible, they tell you why and changes required making it eligible.

Eligible applications are entered into a quarterly competition round and your application is reviewed by three to five of the judges. Judges are selected based on industry experience, expertise in the stage of your company, or other relevant qualities. Within 14 days you receive the scores and feedback provided by the judges and notification that your application is eligible to be entered into the quarterly competition pool. Participants may submit one revised application using the judges’ feedback. Revised applications must be received within 14 days.

The Competition Committee selects finalists from each quarterly pool on or before the last day of February, May, August, and November. The Competition Committee members represent a diverse range of experiences from venture capital, angel investment, start-up entrepreneurs, and everything in between.

The Committee bases their decisions on the strength of the opportunity, use of innovation, product-market fit, scalability, potential impact on the Cape Girardeau community as well as the skills, assets, and value added by the founding team. Again, all participants at this stage will receive feedback from the Committee. Finalists are invited to personally pitch their startups to the Competition Committee. Pitch Days are held near the end of March, June, September, and December.

Additional information including a full business model and video are required by finalists, 7 days before the Pitch Day. This is an excellent opportunity to utilize the Committee’s feedback. These pitches are slide deck presentations to a group of 10-15 individuals. Each applicant will have 20 minutes in total: the strongly suggest a 7-minute pitch and the rest of the time for Q and A. Applicants not selected as finalists from one quarterly pool may use the feedback they have received to reapply for the next quarterly competition.


For-profit startups from every industry are invited to apply. Particular attention is given to the scalability (growth) of the ventures. Startups should demonstrate a plan to reach regional, national or international impact. Additionally, they like to see some progress against the concept (e.g.; a prototype, minimum viable product, customer discovery, etc.). Startups planning to scale and remain in the Cape Girardeau region are encouraged to apply.

1ST50K does not have specific tracks, markets, or industries we focus on. They anticipate supporting companies represented in Information Technology, Hardware Technology, Consumer Products, Manufacturing, Fashion, Retail Innovations, Medical Devices, Bio-Technology, Ag-Tech, Clean-Tech, and Social Ventures.

There needs to be at least one founder able and willing to work full-time on the startup in Cape Girardeau for one year. There is no limit on team size, though winning teams of any size will receive up to $50,000.

Submissions must be your original idea or you must have written consent to submit an idea originally generated by another person. This must be disclosed in the application.

In addition to monetary awards of $50,000, 1ST50K Recipients receive:

  • Pro-bono services in the following areas: accounting, legal, marketing and design, communication, financial consulting, banking consulting and services, information technology consulting and web hosting, human resources, and payroll services.
  • Access to venture capital and angel investment networks.
  • Professional and high level business coaching and mentorship.
  • Personal introductions to strategic business leaders.
  • Social support and community integration services.
  • Inclusion as part of a community of innovative entrepreneurs

For more business and career opportunities, check our opportunities section and subscribe to our weekly newsletters.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here