NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you've launched a business, completed your first sale or secured outside funding in the past six months, you could be eligible for winning the Kauffman Foundation's Startup Open competition.

This is the second year for the contest, which seeks to acknowledge 50 of the most promising startup businesses -- those with the highest growth potential. Last year's winner got a chance to network and hobnob with noted entrepreneur Richard Branson at his Necker Island.
If you've launched a business, completed your first sale or secured outside funding recently, you could be eligible for the Kauffman Foundation's Startup Open.

Startup Open is judging contestants on business concept, growth projections and knowledge of their industry.

Contestants have until Sept. 15 to submit their applications on Startup Open's website. The "GEW 50" will be announced Oct. 15. The top 50 startups will then compete for top honors and prizes (still to be announced) as part of the Kauffman's Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011 in November, Kauffman says.

"Economic growth and job creation is directly tied to young businesses with the potential to become part of tomorrow's Fortune 500, so recognizing and rewarding those most promising startups on the path to success may inspire others to follow their examples," according to Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation.

Eligible entrepreneurs need to have a so-called startup moment as of Nov. 22, 2010, through Nov. 20, 2011. A startup moment could be a business launch, company incorporation, completion of a first sale, security of outside funding or simply opening the doors for business, Kauffman says.

Last year's winner was Olivier Ceberio, founder of Resolute Marine Energy in Boston. Ceberio won the top prize at for his plan to develop wave energy converters that generate clean energy from ocean waves. The goal of Resolute Marine Energy is to aid 1.2 billion people worldwide who lack access to safe drinking water, Kauffman says.

"During my stay at Necker Island, I had the opportunity to learn from and exchange ideas with some of the brightest and most inspiring entrepreneurs in the world," Ceberio said in a statement. "I am very grateful to the Kauffman Foundation for providing me with this invaluable experience that will help expand my network as I improve and grow my business."

Second- and third-place winners won several days' worth of mentoring through the foundation.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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