CLEVELAND — Applications are now open for the MSPIRE pitch competition, sponsored by the Cleveland nonprofit MAGNET. Think Shark Tank, but with local resources and money to get your startup or idea off the ground.
The organization specializes in helping manufacturers grow their business from the ground up.
And this year, like everything else, it is going virtual.
“It can be an idea in your head, a drawing on your napkin, you can be in production already,” said Alec Simon, director of startups at MAGNET. “Our goal is to help you move forward.”
The only requirement is that the idea you have — can be turned into a physical product.
And in the past, winners of the MSPIRE competition really run the gamut.
"Anything form soaps to games to highly engineered robots to everything in between,” Simon said. There was Battle Toss, a backyard game; there’s a pineapple coring machine to put drinks into pineapples; and even medical devices.
The competition helps take an idea or prototype and turn it into a manufactured product.
MAGNET also helps with the business side of things — figuring out financials, competition, creating a pitch deck.
President and CEO Ethan Karp says out of everything they’ve seen happen during the coronavirus pandemic — one thing that hasn’t slowed down is entrepreneurs inventing things.
“The mother of so many inventions — crisis, disruption,” Karp said. “So many things in COVID have happened that we’ve seen new folks coming out either because they had the time to think about new ideas or they have a specific product that would be relevant to actually helping coronavirus.”
Many manufacturers — like past winner Kevin Nelson — actually pivoted.
His startup NelDerm is a medical device business out of Strongsville, making unique wound dressings.
“So I looked at how can we leverage our supply chain, manufacturing and distribution to provide a solution during these times — and we started doing face shields,” Nelson explained.
Since March, they’ve sold more than 2 million face shields and are continually adjusting their product line to meet the needs during the pandemic.
Nelson’s company started in 2014 — a project fair idea as a senior in high school.
Winning MSPIRE, he says, helped him take his startup to the next level.
So his advice to budding inventors is to just take that first step and never be afraid to ask for guidance.
To apply, you can click right here.
The application process should take about ten minutes.
And if you’re chosen for the final round, it’ll be a 10-minute pitch in front of judges — done virtually.
MAGNET is giving away $30,000 in cash prizes — plus $10,000 to a minority-owned startup in Cleveland. The contest runs until Sept. 30.
About 110 people entered in 2019, with six winners taking home cash prizes.