If you’ve been using your extra quarantine energy to cook up a brilliant business at home and you just happened to be located in Southeast Minnesota, it’s time to polish that sucker up — E1 Ignite Cup is going virtual on May 7.

Positioned as, “Southeastern Minnesota’s version of Shark Tank,” the E1 Ignite Cup Pitch Competition (hosted by Red Wing Ignite) will feature a lineup of pre-recorded pitches created by early-stage businesses. The company that takes home the top spot will become an automatic semi-finalist in MN Cup and win a $500 cash prize (sponsored by Great North Labs), a half-hour mentoring session from each judge (full list below), and a designated spot in ILT Studios’ Startup School Cohort. The second-place winner will receive a half-hour mentoring session from each judge.

“As t​he largest, most impactful statewide startup competition in the world, we​ are very grateful for our unique partnership with MN Cup,” Susan Langer, Entrepreneur Lead with Red Wing Ignite, said in a release. “Not only does the winner become an automatic semi-finalist in the MN Cup, all pitch participants gain exposure to statewide tools, resources, support, media and funding to launch and accelerate their venture toward the next stage of development.”

Applications are due by April 22. Instructions for recording and submitted a video pitch will be sent to businesses upon approval. Pitch videos are due on April 30. The event is also free and open to the public.

“If you love to watch the show Shark Tank, you’ll love to watch locally-based businesses pitch their idea to a panel of judges,” Stacy Nimmo, Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite, said in the release. “The event is fun, fast-moving, and you’ll see who wins and moves on to the MN Cup at the end of the night!”

The judges for the E1 Ignite Virtual Pitch Night are:

  • Pam Bishop — E1 Partner, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) (Owatonna)
  • Mark Thein — Regional Partner, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) (Winona)
  • Jessica Berg — Regional Partner, MN Cup (Minneapolis)
  • Sam Ziegler — E1 Partner, GreenSeam (Mankato)
  • Traci Downs — E1 Partner, Collider (Rochester)
  • Jerry Olson — Community Member, Olson HR (Red Wing)
  • Steve Mercil — Investor Partner, Rain Source Capital (Red Wing)