Shark Tank Meets Accelerator

Ever dreamed of being on Shark Tank? Have that great idea that your mom loves, but you haven’t told anyone else about? Know you’ve got the next big thing? “What’s The Big Idea?” is the event for you. Compete to win up to $10,000. WTBI is Shark Tank meets Accelerator with $10,000 on the line. 

femeika elliott on stage at wtbi 2022 with kec staff

Mentors All The Way

Work side-by-side with local business mentors to craft the perfect pitch for your new startup business or idea. We have business mentors that can help you with your business plan from start to finish from Legal, Marketing, Finance, Sales, Design, Technology, and more.

Applications Will Open In January of 2024

What’s the Big Idea 48 Hour Launch is an accelerator-style competition designed to inspire entrepreneurial action. The competition will bring together bright minds in early March to participate in an intensive period of prototyping, community building, planning, incubation, and launching. The winning idea will be advanced to the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s CO.STARTER Program and will be eligible for $10,000 in prize money after completing the program.

We’re excited to announce that we’re bringing back a widely popular aspect of the competition this year – Public Voting! Once all applications are submitted by February 3rd, the KEC team will ask a select number of companies to submit a 2-minute pitch. Then, starting February 13th, the public will be able to vote on their favorite companies and ideas! The number of public votes a company receives will have an impact on the final teams selected for the official competition. 

Who Should Apply?

  • Applicants with a concept or a new enterprise in the seed-capital, start-up, or pre-revenue stage;
  • Applicants who are at least 18 years of age;
  • Applicants with a concept that could lead to potential growth and job creation in the Knoxville, Tennessee area*.

* Defined as being located in Knox County or a contiguous county including: Anderson, Blount, Jefferson, Grainger, Loudon, Roane, Sevier, and Union counties.

Who Shouldn’t Apply?

  • Companies that are acquisitions or buy-outs;
  • Companies that are expansions of existing companies;
  • Companies that are considered a franchise;
  • Companies that have a licensing agreement for distribution of products and services by others;
  • Enterprises that have raised equity capital from sources other than direct members of the venture, their friends, or their families;
  • Companies that have already won similar competitions;
  • Companies that do not intend to grow in the Knoxville, Tennessee area (as defined above);
  • Ideas will be judged on potential for growth and job creation.

*  Please read the “Official Rules” for What’s the Big Idea?!

Dates & Deadlines

  • 1/11 – Applications open
  • 2/3 – Applications close
  • 2/12 – Video submissions due
  • 2/13 – 2/19 – Public Voting Open
  • 2/22 – Selection made + Finalists announced
  • 3/3 – 3/5 – Competition Weekend
  • 3/5 – Public Pitch Competition + Finale

Interested in becoming a 2024 Event Sponsor? Please contact us at

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