Hardware powerhouse Nvidia is announcing today it will offer a $100,000 prize to a startup with the most disruptive innovation when it comes to using graphics processing units (GPUs).

A contestant from last year's Nvidia GPU startup competition.

Above: A contestant from last year’s Nvidia GPU startup competition.

Image Credit: Nvidia

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based graphics-chip maker holds an Emerging Companies Summit every year at its GPU Technology Conference, which will take place on March 26, 2014, in San Jose, Calif.

For this upcoming event, Nvidia is looking for 12 rising tech stars who will compete on stage for its top prize. The Early Stage Challenge competition will happen before a live audience at the annual event. Its winner will receive a $100,000 check on the spot.

The GPU Technology Conference is in its sixth year, and the Early Stage Challenge contest is open to companies that have raised no more than $1 million in venture capital. To be eligible, companies must use or plan to use GPU technologies related to games, visualization, computing, cloud, or mobile.

Jeff Herbst, vice president of business development at Nvidia, said in an email, “We thought it would be an exciting way to include even more companies in our next ECS. One of the goals of the Early Stage Challenge is to attract and showcase smaller companies who have raised no more than one million dollars. To be honest, this is less about the prize itself, and more about the process of including all of these newer (i.e., earlier stage) companies with great ideas. I’m really excited about it.”

Herbst said Nvidia wants to encourage a steady stream of companies that are building their businesses around GPUs and GPU computing. The latter is for non-graphics computation tasks performed on the GPU.

Herbst said that the company is investing in all things related to its core products, but it is also looking for ideas that mix well with its cloud-based Grid platform and the Shield mobile game device.