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The Winning Pitch Challenge logo

Submit Your Innovative Idea for a Chance to Compete

The Winning Pitch Challenge offers ophthalmologists with novel ideas that address unmet needs in eye care the chance to shine in this Shark Tank–style competition.


Three top entrants will compete during Eyecelerator @ AAO 2023 on Nov. 2 for cash prizes worth up to $25,000!


Winners also get access to highly experienced industry mentors and networking opportunities, along with exposure to potential financial resources and guidance for overcoming critical, early-stage obstacles. 


Moderators: Vance Thompson, MD and Robert Warner

Judges Panel:
Adrienne Graves, PhD
Richard Lindstrom, MD
Jim Mazzo

Erin Powers

2023 Key Dates

Round 1 Submission Deadline: Closed
Round 2 Submission Deadline: Closed
Finalists Announced: October 19 
Finalist Presentations Due: October 26 

Patricia Buehler, MD, Pitch Challenge Winner

About the Winning Pitch Challenge

Industry Mentor Program

  • The mentor program is comprised of successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives, and others who volunteer their expertise to help ophthalmologist innovators succeed. All submissions are reviewed by the session moderators and panel of judges. The semi-finalists that advance to Round 2 are matched with a mentor. Mentors provide applicants with valuable insight and advice on the concept, business model, regulatory issues, etc. Mentors also work with their mentee closely on their presentation and delivery of their pitch. The judges and audience want an engaging and energetic pitch live on the stage. Applicants submit a recording of their pitch at the Round 2 deadline, and 3 finalists are chosen to pitch live on stage.

  • Round 1 submissions are due August 18 and mentors will be assigned to each applicant at that time.

  • Mentor commitment is at least 1.5 hours, or three 30-minute phone calls.

  • The finalist’s mentors will be recognized from the podium at the start of the session.

  • *NEW IN 2023* The audience will be able to submit questions and participate in a live vote to determine the winning pitch. Mentors are allowed to vote and are encouraged to advocate for their mentee with the other attendees. Mentors will join the finalists on stage during award presentation.

  • View the mentors tbd

Ideal Candidates


  • Ophthalmologist with early stage concept for how to solve a significant ophthalmic problem

  • Very early stage ophthalmologist innovator interested in access to:

    • ​Feedback and advice from early stage investors and successful innovators in ophthalmology

    • Opportunity to win up to $25,000 cash prize - no strings attached

  • ​Has submitted at least a provisional application for patent by the time of the Winning Pitch Challenge's Round 1 deadline - to permit uninhibited public pitch (not mandatory) 

  • Product is generating little to no revenue  

Judging Criteria 

  • Magnitude of problem 

  • Innovativeness of the proposed solution 

  • Market size, strategy, and potential reimbursement 

  • Competitive analysis 

  • Business model, including requirements 

  • Intellectual property 

  • Team 

  • Clarity of request for investment 

  • Energy of pitch  

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