Start-up businesses duke it out for part of a $50K prize

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

Scottsdale, Ariz.-- 64 businesses across the Southwest are taking part in an online voting and live pitch competition called Venture Madness.

119 companies applied for the honor from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Southern California, Nevada, and Texas.

Josh Manley is the founder and CEO of the 2.5 year old tech company called Reply Buy. His company helps businesses offer their loyal customers exclusive offers via text.

Customers just have to reply "buy" to buy. The customers' payment information is pre-stored when they sign up. He's also competing in Venture Madness.

"Bring it on. We love competition. That's why we're doing it. So I think there's going to be a lot of great companies," said Manley.

Venture Madness is the brainchild of Invest Southwest and Arizona Commerce Authority. It pits small start-ups throughout the Southwest in a bracket-like competition, where online votes help thin the crowd.

"Those 16 companies will actually live-pitch in front of the judges. They'll go from 16 to 8, 8 to 4, 4 to 2, 2 to our grand prize Venture Madness champion. So picture Shark Tank come to life, live pitching to save their lives," said Elle Shelley of Invest Southwest.

The top four winners will share portions of the $50K with the grand prize winner taking home the biggest haul. Voting is underway online at You can vote once a day. The live pitch competition will be March 6th and 7th at the Talking Stick Resort.