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The Next Big Thing

Billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Todd Wagner is offering a bounty of $10,000 for an innovator who has come up with the ‘Next Big Thing.’ The contest will invite up to 100 participants to the prestigious Bellarmine University to discuss and pitch their ideas to some of the state of Kentucky’s highest profile entrepreneurs and investors during the event.

The Todd Wagner Foundation is sponsoring the event, along with the school of business at communication at Bellarmine University and other trade and development bodies in the area. All proceeds from the Next Big Thing contest will be used to help set up the Meade Activity Centre, which is a planned community and wellness centre in Brandenburg.

According to Wagner, ‘a big idea can come from anywhere.’ The self made billionaire believes that the most successful entrepreneurs are people who ‘believe in their ideas, are willing to work harder than anyone else to make it happen and take chances.’ The competition will help to promote enterprise and innovation across communities, and within the people of Kentucky. Wagner proclaimed that he is ‘looking forward to meeting with all these people and hearing about how they want to change things for the better.’

Working alongside Wagner to decide on the winner of the $10,000 prize are the judging panel, which includes the secretary of Kentucky Economic Development, Larry Hayes, principal of CompaniesWood, Phoebe Wood and founder of Commonwealth Leverage Group, John Reinhart.

Wagner made his fortune from the sale of Broadcast.com, which he founded with Mark Cuban in the 1990s. The sale of the internet radio company to Yahoo! less than five years after it began was as part of a deal worth a staggering $5.7 billion. Chideo is the name of Wagner’s latest venture, consisting of a voting platform where people can connect to help in raising funds for charitable causes. The sale of Broadcast.com helped Cuban and Wagner to create a range of companies including 2929 Productions, who produced films such as Good Night, and Good Luck, which was nominated for six Oscars in 2006.

The Todd Wagner Foundation was launched in 2001, following a meeting with actor and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first children’s programme set up by the foundation followed shortly, the After School All-Stars, running in the Dallas area, which provided technology, cultural, sports and academic activities for inner city children all year round. The programme now helps over 4,000 children in a range of programmes.

In addition to his philanthropic work to help children, Wagner has bankrolled schemes to work alongside technology-focused businesses which are minority owned in Dallas. This has included making investments in the businesses, along with providing other support to help them thrive. Companies benefitting from Wagner’s support include Imaginuity Interactive, a web development agency, and software development house rocKnot.

The work carried out by Wagner has scooped him a range of honours, including the First Star Visionary Award in 2006, the Champion of Children award from Dallas CASA in 2005 and Dallas’ Special Care and Career Service’s Milton P. Levy Jr. Volunteer Award in 2008.