Whoa, LAUNCH Prize Money Hits $169k!

[ The Room 77 team accepts the "Best in Show" award at LAUNCH '11 from LAUNCH founder Jason Calacanis (left) and Adeo Ressi of the Founder Institute (third from left). Photo (cc) Kenneth Yeung - www.snapfoc.us ]

The LAUNCH Festival is just over 30 days away and it's on fire!

Venture51, a seed- and early-stage venture fund that loves design-driven technical teams, has agreed to invest $51k in the winner of the "Best in Show" award in LAUNCH's 1.0 competition.*  

LAUNCH is taking place on March 7th and 8th in San Francisco if you've been hiding under a rock. Right before SXSW.

This generous investment brings the total value of prizes at the LAUNCH Festival to a record $169k, as TechStars previously agreed -- for the first time in their history -- to accept one of the LAUNCH companies into their program [ every TechStars company now receives $100k in the form of a convertible debt note from their $24M fund in addition to $18k from TechStars ].

If the winning company as selected by our Grand Jury is selected by TechStars and joins their funding post-LAUNCH, it would hit $169k.

The largest prize previously offered at a startup competition was $50k -- and that was the now defunct TechCrunch50 conference I created and co-hosted with my pal Mike Arrington.

When we started that event I said, "Imagine if there was a $20k prize instead of paying DEMO $20k?!?!" To which Mike pushed me and said, "$20k?!?! We should make it $50k!"

We have now tripled that amount!

This year's winner will be in awesome company: at the last four launch events I've hosted the winners were Room77 (which raised $10.5M after LAUNCH), RedBeacon (recently acquired by The Home Depot), Yammer (recently valued at over $250M according to reports) and Mint (acquired by Intuit for $170M in 2009).

Venture51 is an awesome firm that has invested in startups like ecomom, Getaround, LaunchRock, Tout and Zaarly. The firm's mentors include Cyan Banister of Zivity (also a judge at the LAUNCH Festival), Howard Lindzon of StockTwits, Ted Hellard of Critical Mass and Eghosa Omoigui, Managing Partner at EchoVC Partners.

I've personally selected 25 of the 40 companies and we're debating and fighting over every slot right now. If you have any ideas for a killer company, we continue to accept LAUNCH Festival applications on a rolling basis, so get yours in now.

Startups can buy $299 tickets, everyone else can support the event with an affordable $999 ticket.

And we've got two more big announcements we're working on. We're not done yet. :-)

all the best,


* The 1.0 competition is a new company with a new product. The 2.0 competition is an existing company with either a new product  (ThePoint launching Groupon), significant pivot (Mahalo shifting from search to apps) or a radical and awesome new 2.0 version (Path's 1.0 to 2.0 product).

** We are still looking for an awesome company to brand our "Best Technology" award, and someone to pick up a breakfast and a lunch sponsorship. If you're an awesome technology or startups services company and want to support the launch event with the largest attendance, most generous prizes and clearly most awesome startups, ping us: partners@launch.is.