2023 PA Wilds BIG IDEA Contest

Do you have a BIG IDEA for a startup business, but you’re not sure if applying for this contest is right for you? Check out our frequently asked questions below to understand if it’s the right time for you to apply!

The $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest hosted by Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, is looking for entrepreneurs who are developing a product, process, or innovation related to the maker economy, outdoors and recreation, forest products, manufacturing, and technology.

Frequently Asked Questions

Scalable business models and ideas are prioritized. These can range across many industries. We particularly encourage innovators and startups in technology, manufacturing, forest products, green products and processes, outdoor recreation to apply.

The 2023 BIG IDEA Contest sponsored by PA Wilds is only accepting businesses or entrepreneurs located in Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean or Warren counties, PA. The 2024 contest will accept applications from Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter and Tioga counties.

We welcome innovators with business ideas to apply. You do not have to have registered your business to apply, but you do need to plan to register to do business in Pennsylvania.

No. We take zero equity and charge no fees.

While cohorts range in size, there are usually 6-8 finalists selected per contest.

  • Attend program’s pitch training program
  • Complete investment summary (2-page business summary—template provided to finalists)
  • Create social media teaser to promote your company for the People’s Choice Award (template provided to finalists)
  • Complete at least 1:1 coaching session with Ben Franklin staff
  • Present pitch deck at final event

We suggest allotting 5-6 hours per week to complete program materials and prepare for the final pitch competition

The contest awards $50k total, distributed among the winners. Most contests award 1-3 winners. One lucky winner will receive an additional $2,500 People’s Choice Award.

Attendees at the final pitch competition vote live to award this $2,500 prize to their chosen finalist.

Winning up to $50,000 will go a long way in helping you further develop your BIG IDEA and infuse your new startup with much-needed cash. In addition to the cash, the pitch experience you’ll gain, the business training offered, and the contacts you’ll make are just as valuable.