the startup competition that helps turn your innovative startup ideas into scalable ventures

1st50k startup competition



1ST50K is a startup competition for startup business ideas that offers extensive support from a broad business network, pro-bono development services, and up to $50,000 in cash grants to entrepreneurs to establish or locate their businesses in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

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Learn more about who's behind the competition

$50,000 GRANT

Winners receive up to $50,000 grant (that means no equity)


Pro bono professional services from top business service providers

Business Mentors

Mentorship from top entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders


All winners have the opportunity for additional funding


Receive introductions to angel investors/venture capitalists


Be part of a successful community of entrepreneurs in southeast Missouri

The Lean Startup Competition for Lean Startups

We promote fast learning loops and customer-validated business models.
Use feedback from successful entrepreneurs to iterate or pivot your way to Pitch Day.


Get to know accomplished entrepreneurs, investors and leaders who make this startup competition possible

Meet the Competition Committee


Arch Grants Global Startup Competition


3.1 Million +




15 Million


45 Million +
What Do You Get?

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.

Who Should Apply?

1ST50K is looking for innovative technologies, products, or services, driven by scalable business models with regional, national or international impact. We 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. Our 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. Our focus is on supporting businesses that are innovative and scalable, regardless of the industry.

How Does it Work?

Entrepreneurs build great concepts every day, so we accept applications EVERY DAY! 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, we 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 our 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 our 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.

Our 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: we 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.

Submit Your Application

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Business Name

Short Description

Business Model