1ST50K Startup Competition Opens 2021 Applications

You want a founder-friendly startup program? You got it. 1ST50K1 is a startup program where you receive $50,000 non-dilutive to help you launch and grow your company. Apply by May 31st.


1ST50K was started 5 years ago as a way to lower barriers for startups who wanted to be in Rural America. We’ve developed ecosystems for support, from the resources2 the startups need to the talent3 that’s employed by them to how they connect.4 Here are some of the teams kicking ass:

PumpTrakr logo


Helping farmers organize their irrigation teams through IoT, they’ve grown from conception to managing thousands of devices across the Midwest and Southern United States.

Sho.ai logo


An automation company focused on branding, has developed the most robust software in the mar-tech space, doubling their team size and currently raising a $2 million seed round.

SportsTrace logo


Hailing from Microsoft in Seattle to Cape Girardeau, the teams has created a video automation application that provides athletes with information about their body movements, looking to fully release their consumer-facing app this summer.

Website | Intro Video
SwipeSum logo


Software-enabled payments consultants, the company has 10x their monthly recurring revenue since joining the program.

Website | Intro Video
Upswot logo


A white-label platform, that is an add-on to online banking and onboarding, offering API-enabled, opt-in, continuous access to SMB data - the company raised a $4.3 million seed round earlier this year.

Website | Intro Video
PumpTrakr logo


Helping people list, discover, and book unique outdoor experiences, they now manage thousands of bookings across the United States.

Website | Intro Video

The difference of 1ST50K compared to other programs? We focus on you, not us. We don’t parade you around to people who clap at the end of demo days and never follow up. We don’t push you through curriculum where you’re spending more time creating a pitch deck than working on your business. We help you create metrics that define success for you and then get our hands dirty helping you get there. If you’d like to apply, here are what we look at when selecting teams:

Qualities and coach ability of the team

Does the team have impressive past accomplishments, current traction, significant domain expertise, or at the least seem very coachable? For the veterans, we ask if you can prove to us that your experience lends itself well to this new endeavor. Whether a veteran or first-team, young entrepreneur, we want to make sure that you are joining the program to learn; to take advice from successful entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes before and are helping you to get on the fast track to success.

Well-understood and defined problem

Has the startup used customer development practices to truly understand the problem? We are big believers of customer development and lean methodologies. It’s easy to come up with ideas. We want to make sure that you have talked to your customers to truly understand a problem, the job you need to complete for them, and know the minimum viable solution you need to create to test your hypotheses.

Product-market fit

Does the startup clearly explain that the consumers recognize that they have this problem and if there was a solution the consumer would buy it from them? After you understand the needs of the customer, the next step is to build the right solution for that problem that the consumer will be willing to buy.

Scalability of the business model

Does the profitability, efficiency, and effectiveness of the business improve as it grows?

Innovation of the product, technology, or service

Does the company offer a new differentiation that creates a competitive advantage? The strongest startups are able to create barriers to entry that aren’t easily replicable.

1ST50K Impact

Will the $50,000 grant have a significant impact to the team, but most importantly, is 1ST50K the best program for the team? When we select teams, we make sure that locating in our region provides real value to them and that we will be able to provide meaningful impact to help them be successful.

Apply by May 31st, 2021. Pitch Day is late July. If you win, you’ll be able to come join us in Missouri or Kentucky and we’ll do whatever we can to help you succeed. This year we’ll be selecting up to six teams to award the $50,000 and you’ll have the choice to set up shop in Cape Girardeau, Missouri or Paducah, Kentucky. Let’s do this.

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