Are there application entry fees?
No. The application to the pitch competition is completely free

What do I need to do to apply?

  • Complete the pitch application
  • Submit a pitch deck (suggested template here) – can be submitted later

Where and when is pitch competition? 

  • *Specific pitch competition date and venue will be announced at a later date but will happen in July.

Where does my startup need to be headquartered?

  • Minnesota

What are the benefits to applying?

  • All applicants will have their companies reviewed by a diverse committee
  • All applicants will receive access to educational information on building a successful startup
  • The chance to be selected as one of 10 finalists, where you will pitch your business in front of several hundred people
  • The chance to receive a $30,000, $15,000 or $5,000 investment from the NEXT LEVEL Seed Fund

What types of startups should apply to pitch?

  • All innovative startups are encouraged to apply. Applicants are not limited to a single sector or industry. Eligible startups have a product/service that’s live or in beta form and has measurable performance indicators such as revenue, customers, successful beta results, etc. We encourage pre-seed, seed stage, and series A stage companies to apply. In certain instances, “pre-revenue” companies may be selected to pitch if the company is building an advanced technology solution.

What types of tax-structure does my company need to have to be eligible? (LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc.)

  • All types

Is my startup eligible to apply if it has raised money already?

  • You are encouraged to apply. However, if your company (or a company you’d like to recommend) has already raised capital at a pre-money valuation (or note valuation cap) that is higher than $100K, you are not eligible to apply for the pitch competition.


When is the application deadline?

  • June 30, 2023

Can I start my application, save, and come back later?

  • The application is a short form. If changes are needed, please contact us.

What is the review process?

  • NEXT LEVEL professionals review all applications.

Companies are judged on:

  • Bold Idea —Does the idea “swing for the fences” and have the potential to disrupt a big industry or even change the world? What type of problem are you solving?
  • Market – How big is the addressable market for your company? Are you disrupting an existing market and/or creating a new one?
  • Team —Does the team have the skills, leadership, track record, and commitment to move forward on this idea?
  • Execution —Are there strong early indicators of customer growth, revenue, or other measurable traction? Have you demonstrated product-market fit? What is the strategy for product development, marketing, sales, and growth?
  • Business Model —Has a revenue model been defined and is it realistic and sustainable?

Do I have to include a pitch deck in my application?

Do I have to include a video in my application?

  • No, but it is highly recommended. We encourage you to post a video that is either a demo or a 60-second clip of the founder(s) explaining what the company does. We find it’s helpful to hear directly from you, and we aren’t looking for high production quality. You can include a link to a video you have posted on your website or a link to a hidden video on YouTube.

Do I have to include a reference in my application?

  • No, but it is highly recommended. If you received the invitation to apply from a local accelerator, co-worker space or fund with which you are affiliated, we suggest you list that organization and your primary point of contact there as your reference.

What happens at the pitch competition?

  • If selected, you will pitch your company in front of a panel of judges. Up to two representatives of your company will give a 5-minute presentation, followed by 3 minutes of Q&A from our judges. Following the presentation, the judges will deliberate and choose the winners of a total of $50,000 investment. The event is free and open to the public; friends and family are invited to attend.

If I am not selected as a finalist, can I still attend in the event?

  • Yes!

When will finalists be notified?

  • The finalists will be notified in July. The winner will be announced on August 3, 2023 at the Gala event.

If I am selected as a finalist, what happens next?

  • Confirm within 24 hours that you are available to pitch
  • Submit a final pitch deck for the competition, subject to NEXT LEVEL specifications on content and slide count. (A template will be provided for your convenience)
  • Sign a release, granting NEXT LEVEL permission to use your company and persons affiliated with your company in promotional and press materials.


  • You will receive pitch coaching, courtesy of Minority Owned Business Network. This is a required prep session.
  • You will receive special access to a series of pre-event educational sessions on a variety of topics related to building a startup, courtesy of Minority Owned Business Network and some select partners.

You will be invited to join a group call to review the terms of the investment should you win and to answer any general questions about