What’s the Big Idea? is a business start-up summit designed to inspire entrepreneurial action. The competition will bring together bright minds with bright ideas 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-Starters Program and be eligible for up to $10,000 in business launch reimbursement costs after completing the program.


Applications for WTBI will open on January 12th, and close on February 4th. From that pool of applicants, entrepreneurs will be selected to submit ‘pitch’ videos describing their business concept. Those ideas will be posted to a website where the public can vote on their favorites. Public voting will run from February 14 through February 20. After voting closes, five ideas will be selected to move on as finalists in the Big Idea competition. The finale Pitch Night will be held on March 6th at 6pm where we’ll announce a winner!



  1. Applicants with a concept or a new enterprise in the seed-capital, start-up, or early-growth stage.
  2. Applicants who are at least 18 years of age.
  3. 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, Sevier, and Union counties.



  1. Companies that are acquisitions or buy-outs.
  2. Companies that are expansions of existing companies.
  3. Companies that are considered a franchise.
  4. Companies that have a licensing agreement for distribution of products and services by others.
  5. Enterprises that have raised equity capital from sources other than direct members of the venture, their friends, or their families.
  6. Companies that do not intend to grow in the Knoxville area (as defined above).


Ideas will be judged on potential for growth and success.



The winner will receive a Big Idea Launch Package that includes up to $10,000 in start-up reimbursement costs, and complimentary business services to be further outlined.



Please review all the restrictions before applying.

  1. The $10,000 cash reimbursement grant is for start-up costs only and will be provided as a reimbursement for verified direct costs. The grant can’t be used for the purchase and direct resale of merchandise.
  2. Prior to receiving the cash reimbursement grant, the winner must complete the Co-Starters Program* and have established a business license in the Knoxville area. The cash grant must be claimed within the redemption period of six (6) months following completion of the Co-Starter Program, or winning the competition (whichever happens later, but not to exceed 10 months following the 48 Hour Launch). Any outstanding cash grant award balance after the end of the redemption period is subject to forfeiture.
  3. Any other service-oriented awards not claimed by the winner within three (3) months of winning the competition will be forfeited.
  4. Co.Starters is a nine week business development program offered by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Other similar business trainingcompleted by winner can be considered for substitution at Grantor’s discretion.



JANUARY 12TH – Applications Open

FEBRUARY 4TH  / 11:59PM – Applications Close

FEBRUARY 14-20TH – Public Voting on Video Pitches

FEBRUARY 23 – Finalists Announced

MARCH 6TH – Finale Event

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