LAUNCH Festival Hits $639k in Prize Money

By Jason Calacanis

We've now done three of four mandatory rehearsals for the startups launching on stage at next week's LAUNCH Festival (March 7 & 8), and I'm 100% certain they are as good as our amazing alumni: Dropbox, Mint, Fitbit, Yammer, Red Beacon, Powerset and Room77 (among many other awesome startups).

In fact, having had the privilege of personally coaching every alumni for the past five years, I can tell you that one of this year's startups reminds me of a next-generation Dropbox, two feel like features Yammer will add in a year or two, and one is as awesome as Mint -- but for the second most important finance category.

All of them are worthy of angel investment.

Today I received amazing news: last year's winner, Brad Gerstner of Room77, has agreed to put up a $100k prize for one of the winners in this year's competition. Like the other six prizes, this will come in the form of an investment in their current round or a convertible note (as is standard in today's angel world).

As is tradition, as last year's winner, Brad is also a judge

Additionally, I'm asking all the fine folks offering prizes to pick a second, third and forth choice, so that in the minor event someone declines the investment (not sure why anyone would) the investment can go to the next person in line.

See details on the other prizes here.

To add to this madness, I've decided that I will put $50k personally as an investment in my favorite company and join their board (optional) if they want me to. The $50k is easy, joining a board means a BIG commitment of four to eight meetings a year.

That brings the total prize money to $739k.

Now, I personally know two dozen power angels who invest $250k a pop in startups. I'm wondering if one of you has the gumption to put up $250k as a prize/investment! I'll give the first person who gets back to me the final judging slot!

If someone puts up $250k we would be at almost $1M in prizes ($989k to be exact). Huge. Unprecedented. Insane. Awesome.

Finally, tickets will sell out, so if you haven't had a chance to buy one visit

We could really use the support in growing the festival, which is run in order to simply break even. We don't try to profit from this event, we're strictly trying to build the biggest and best platform for LAUNCHing innovative stuff.

I'm absolutely blown away by the MASSIVE support of our partners this year, and on behalf of the 50 startups launching on stage and the 100+ in the DEMO Pit, I thank you! We're going to have two amazing days of innovation.

all the best, Jason

PS - If you're press and need a pass, we need to know right now if you're coming.

PPS - If you're a broke-ass founder without funding we might have a ticket for you. Plead your case here! :-)

PPPS - We're looking for a sponsor or two for the 100-person Angel Dinner (45 VCs/angels RSVP'd already!) we're hosting on March 6th. Email if you're interested in helping.