On Thursday, Feb 7 2013, the public session of the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals was held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. At 1pm in the afternoon the over 250 guests started to file in and the excitement began to build. The audience consisted of a good mix of entrepreneurs, business leaders, professors, students, investors, and tech aficionados.
IBM’s Wendy Lung, Corporate Strategy Director in IBM Venture Capital Group, and Tristan Reckhaus, Marketing Manager in ISV & Developer Relations, were emcees and got the spirit of global entrepreneurship going by sharing their own respective backgrounds, showing how they had lived and worked around the world and came from diverse nationalities. This opening was fitting for a competition featuring contestants from Kenya, to Singapore, to Australia, to the Netherlands.
Claudia Fan Munce, Managing Director of IBM Venture Capital Group, and Jim Corgel, General Manager of ISV & Developer Relations then welcomed the audience with some words on IBM’s mission to discover and nurture innovation all around the world, and the importance of the SmartCamp competition in that mission.
Then the audience was in for a surprise–New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived to give a special presentation on the culture of innovation in the Big Apple. He spoke about how NYC is really a global city, with people from all walks of life from around the world, and therefore an place where innovation thrives. He even paid tribute to the late mayor Ed Koch, who once said that New York is the place where the future comes to audition.
Next was Mark Heesen, President of the National Venture Capital Association, who spoke about the state of venture capital in today’s world. This was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Mark Radcliffe, Partner at DLA Piper, with guests David Stevenson, Executive Director of Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, David Rose, Founder & CEO at Gust and Chairman Emeritus at New York Angel Network, and Promod Haque, Managing Partner at Norwest Venture Partners.
After a networking snack break it was the moment everyone had gathered for–to hear the presentations from our eight startup finalists. They each had just five short minutes to present their business model, a very tough task which was followed up by some tough questions by our panel of judges. However, the caliber of he finalists was apparent in their presentations, leaving the judges with their work cut out for them.
While the judges went off to deliberate, we heard from Zia Yusuf, CEO of Streetline, the 2010 SmartCamp winner. It was interesting to hear the perspective of a successful SmartCamp alum and see how the journey continued after their win. Yusuf praised the talent of this year’s line-up, mentioning he was glad he didn’t have to compete against this group of finalists.
But the audience was in for yet another treat–Barbara Corcoran, successful real-estate entrepreneur and one of the ‘sharks’ on ABC’s hit reality show Shark Tank, gave the day’s final presentation. She delighted everyone with the story of her entrepreneurial journey, how she got her start after borrowing $1000 from her boyfriend to start a real-estate company. She spoke about the influence of her mother, who ran a household full of children with amazing efficiency and taught her essential lessons of entrepreneurship. She learned one of those lessons as a young girl working at a restaurant. All the restaurant clients generally went to sit in Gloria’s part of the place, the busty waitress. Discouraged that she didn’t get as many clients, Barbara went to her mother for advice. The advice? Since you don’t have big breasts like Gloria, tie some ribbons on your pigtails. The lesson for entrepreneurs here is to work with what you’ve got.
Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for. Jim Corgel did the honor of announcing the winners. The online People’s Vote award went to French startup CaptainDash. For their impressive technology, honorable mentions were given to QuintessenceLabs and HistoIndex. And the overall winner of the event, the 2012 IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year, was Mo De from Kenya. Theirs had undoubtedly been one of the strongest presentations with a great connection to the audience. “When you bring an African man to cold New York,” said Mo De CEO Julian Kyula in his presentation, “make sure you let him bring his wife.”
Everyone celebrated afterward with a wine reception sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank, congratulating all the finalists and discussing the day’s events. Overall it was an exciting day with an amazing display of innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Congratulations again to Mo De for their win and we wish continued success for them and all the finalists. Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the event, and if you missed it you can watch the replay on our Livestream.