If you’ve been a Sprocket community member for even a little while, you’ll know it’s no secret that even here in the heart of Western Kentucky, a revolution in tech entrepreneurship is brewing. (Alongside a vat of coffee to fuel it, but that’s beside the point.)

This month we’ve officially launched one of our biggest flagship programs, the Next50K, our 2024 Startup Pitch Competition, a groundbreaking (in our humble opinion) initiative set to propel the brightest tech startups further along their journey to success.

Our goal? Well, this is far more than just a startup contest or a pitch fest — it’s a catalyst for a tech revolution that extends beyond the borders of Paducah!

Why the Next50K Pitch Competition for Startups?

We’re glad you asked. This event is a movement, not just a competition. With a grand prize of $50,000 in non-dilutive funding, Next50K represents a unique blend of opportunity and challenge as we invite tech, healthcare, and fintech startups from across the nation to bring their innovative ideas to life right here in Paducah, KY.

Ultimately, this comes down to our heart for this city and the West Kentucky region as a whole. As Monica Bilak, our Executive Director, puts it, “We believe that innovation has no borders, and by welcoming startups from all over the country, we are not only fostering entrepreneurship but also injecting fresh energy into Paducah’s entrepreneurial landscape. Our winners will become integral to our local economy while pursuing their dreams.”

Paducah: An Incredible Hub for Tech Innovators

Why Paducah? We truly believe this charming, bustling city is poised to become a real beacon of tech innovation — not just in the Midwest, but nationally. (Yeah, we’ve got big vision — annnd?)

Through this competition, winners must relocate their operations to McCracken County, bringing their fresh perspectives and dynamic ideas to our local economy. More than that, it’s our chance to grow Paducah from the inside out, offering a conduit for local ideas to thrive and flourish as well.

By requiring winners to base their operations in McCracken County, Sprocket ensures a mutual benefit – the startups receive the resources and support they need, while the local economy is invigorated by fresh ideas and new business ventures.

Empowering Entrepreneurs & Enriching Our Community

This event, like everything we do, goes beyond the mere hosting of a competition or event. For us, it’s about creating a sustainable ecosystem where innovation thrives and community growth is foundational.

By bringing together the brightest minds from across the nation and connecting them to the brightest minds here in Paducah, we’re doing more than investing in individual startups — we’re committing to the future of Paducah at large.

Monica further says, “Sprocket values the transformative power of tech startups. The NEXT50K Startup Pitch Competition is born from our commitment to nurturing entrepreneurship and driving economic growth in Paducah and Kentucky. By welcoming the nation’s brightest startups to our community, we aim to create an environment where groundbreaking ideas flourish and where local and external talents come together to build the future. With this competition, we’re not just supporting startups — we’re continuing to build the foundations of an increasingly bright and innovative Paducah.”

Ready to Compete for Funding?

The call for applications is now open! If you’re a tech entrepreneur from outside of Western Kentucky with a vision to change the world, we invite you to apply!

Entrepreneurs interested in participating are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible. A panel of judges will review each submission, evaluating criteria such as innovation, market potential, scalability, and team strength.

Successful applicants will advance to the semi-finals and finals, where their innovations will be further evaluated by our panel of judges.

How Paducah Locals Can Support Next50K!

If you’re a Paducah local, you can help spread the word by sharing about Next50K on social media or nominating a non-local startup you think should apply!