Insight Robotics wins the SmartCamp Finals

Insight Robotics’ fire fighting solution won the day!

Insight Robotics wins SmartCamp 2014! Congrats to Insight Robotics for winning what was one of the most competitive SmartCamps ever! Very impressive!

The difference for Insight Robotics is that they had proven technology that was very innovative with a great social impact: fighting fires.

insight robotics logoUsing thermal imaging sensors and advanced artificial intelligence vision technology, Insight Robotics’ solution allows fire fighters to locate a forest fire quickly, giving them a jump at extinguishing the flames. So precise is their solution that it can spot fires as small as an area of 2m x 1m within 5km radius!

Also, congratulations to blue, Inc. for winning the People’s Choice Award! Clearly, blue, Inc. has a loyal fanbase. Be sure to check them out!

Congratulations to all our finalists!

1 week, 3 Mentor Days: Denmark, Sweden, Massachusetts

This week, the IBM Global Entrepreneur program will kick into high gear, hosting three Mentor Days in three different cities–Copenhagen, Denmark on Tuesday, April 9th, and Waltham, Massachusetts and Lund, Sweden on Wednesday April 10th.

Each event has a great lineup of startup companies who will to receive mentorship from investors, serial entrepreneurs, technology and business development experts. Here is the rundown of the startups in attendance this week:

Copenhagen, Denmark, April 9th – Software to award and manage progress from employees
GenoKey – Provide faster information-processing through new formulas in GPU computing
Intertisement – Provide designs and ideas to end consumers through Augmented Reality
OrtoSense – Advanced Wind Turbine Monitoring using Auditory Perceptual Pulse Analysis
Pamci – Provides innovative and user-friendly security solutions
Zerved – Allows customers to pay for food without ever leaving their seat

Lund, Sweden, April 10th
Cook’n Smile – Provide social platform for innovation on food and sustainable development
E-Maintenance – Provide platform for making more cost-effective maintenance decisions
Kvittar – Transforming paper receipts into a digital form to help you organize
Oricane – A big data startup providing faster solutions that use a fraction of the hardware
Pinstriped – Digital agency with creative solutions for better client performance
TimeZynk – Provides cloud platform for personnel planning, communication & reporting

Waltham, Massachusetts, April 10th
ConnectedVisits – Empowers consumers to access convenient and affordable healthcare
Dreamech, Inc – Provide platform to connect consumers and their cars to service experts
Green Status Pro – Enable efficient management of adherence to standards and regulations
Mindful Scientific – Builds diagnostic, monitoring & management solutions for brain health
Patient Engagement Systems – Provide platform for physician-patient engagement
Head-2-Head Technologies, Inc  – Provides dynamic and granular consumer intelligence

Interview with 2012 IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year: MoDe

Just a few weeks ago, at the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals on Feb. 7th 2013, MoDe was announced winner of the competition. But before being named IBM Entrepreneur of the Year MoDe began like any other startup; as just an idea. During the SmartCamp competition we sat down with co-founders Julian Kyula and Josphat Kinyua who told us their startup story, as well as the sacrifices and difficulties that come with the entrepreneurial journey. Watch the video interview below:

MoDe is a Kenya-based startup with a catchy slogan: they provide “nano credit in a nano second.” In developing African regions, their service goes a long way for people who don’t have access to banks and loans. They provide small amounts of credit for people who wish to purchase airtime for their mobile phones. Though their service currently focuses on airtime in the telco industry, Kinyua told us that in 10 years they hope to be in over 50 countries worldwide, providing nano credit for anyone who needs it, whether it’s to buy a movie ticket, airtime, or power.

MoDe has already experienced excellent traction particularly in Africa, however this success did not come easily. In the interview, Kyula recalled a piece of wisdom he received from a mentor at one of the SmartCamp events: “Being an entrepreneur is like putting your face out daily just to be punched by everybody that walks along.” He admits that by becoming an entrepreneur, people may view you as a bit naive and therefore one must compromise a bit of reputation.

Kinyua added that one must truly be obsessed with the idea in order to make it work and there are many sacrifices along the way. He spoke about his family, including two kids, “I’ve been away from them 800 days in the last three years.”

However, when asked if there was ever a time during this entrepreneurial venture when they considered giving up, Kyula said there was not. “There’s never been a moment when I thought, ‘I want to quit,’ because I had a business that failed before.” Though he feared that his previous failed venture might be a negative for potential investors, he was surprised to find that the investors actually considered the failure a positive point, since “there is no better teacher in life.”

Once again, congratulations to the team from MoDe for an excellent performance at the IBM SmartCamp and best wishes for continued success.


Through the eyes of a student: Mikhail Pozin

At the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals on Feb. 7th, IBM was happy to welcome not only business leaders and entrepreneurs in the audience, but many students as well. Here is a piece about the event written by Mikhail Pozin from CUNY Baruch Zicklin School of Business.

Mikhail Pozin IBMThink. Global.

by Mikhail Pozin
Zicklin School of Business, CUNY Baruch
Honors BBA in I/O Psychology ’12

“New York City is where the future comes to audition,” announced Mayor Michael Bloomberg, echoing the late Ed Koch. Responsive murmurs fanned through the Vanderbilt Room. Moments before, a show of hands indicated how many audience members did not live in New York. An audible sports stadium wave passed through the seating sections; the distinctive majority was full of out-of-towners. The hubbub was only momentarily surprising, however. This was, after all, the Global Finals of the IBM SmartCamp entrepreneurship competition.

The Global Finals featured an expert scientist from China separated from her family during Lunar New Year and an idealistic African businessman jocularly chiding IBM for dragging him into New York City’s frost without the company of his wife. Both took the stage, along with representatives of six other companies who took their experience, ingenuity, and guts to task to build a smarter planet. These are the folks who saw a need and made it their mission to provide for it. Luckily, they are not without a supportive ecosystem.

A large corporation can throw a number of shiny pennies at new projects. These projects will be tackled with its respective standard practices, some of which are far better suited to fostering innovation than others. But if they fail, a write-off solves all. Rinse, repeat.

Entrepreneurs lack the shiny pennies. More importantly, they lack the stability to write off any time and any energy expended. Boy, do they have energy; they are busy creating under their own rules, which are nimble and constantly refined. Those who take this route are sustained by those who nurture their ambition—the mentors, the devout supporters, and of course, the financial backers.

Financial backing, however, is not simply about a paycheck. Entrepreneurs were fearless enough to become parents and it is now up to them to choose the best college for their baby, if it will have them. There is probably some irony in this analogy, what with the debatable necessity of college for an entrepreneur and all. There is also no shortage of financing. With no shortage of angel investments, as well as the plummeting cost of backing new ventures, the barrier has never been lower.

So too with the barrier to entry as an entrepreneur. The world over, teenagers and seasoned PhD professionals alike are pursuing an alternative to the yet standard, if not hackneyed, path. As with their numbers, the influence and perception of entrepreneurs continues to swell. With it, they are ushering in a new set of values—one of embracing failure, admitting weaknesses, accepting coaching, sharing freely, challenging convention, solving problems, and dedicating wholeheartedly.

Our browsers have tabs, our personalities have tabs, and our choices have tabs. This is the new paradigm of business—multifaceted, non-mutually exclusive choice. We are this, this, and that. Overwhelmingly mass adoption is less likely than ever before. Just ask a music mogul about his mainstream acts. There is likely an audience for everything, but it is smaller than may be preferred and it is the most dedicated one you could hope for, after the mere visitors fade. Rest assured, they will fade and pick up something new. This is merely cyclical.

A panelist, David Rose of The New York Angel Network, remarked that entrepreneurship is also cyclical, but this time, it is different. An increased capacity to accomplish, coupled with decreased limitations on support and funding, means that the world is a tad smaller. No longer are a brilliant mind and an executed idea restricted by its country of origin. This is how the planet grows smarter. Those who are driven to execute and surround themselves with supporters are beyond elementary financial motivation. Their goals exceed their individual selves. They are out to create, fix, revitalize, disrupt, amend, delight, enlighten, redesign. They are out to dream and to do, because being isolated by their location is no longer a hindrance. The elimination of geography as a limiting factor is the great equalizer—and the bolsterer.

An overwhelming number of ideas will fail. Teams will dissolve, competition will usurp, and hypotheses will fall flat. Let them. This is how the planet grows smarter, with a cycle in which all sides of the new holy trinity—entrepreneurs, financiers, and users—adjust to a landscape of ever-growing options. Some of these options are fueled by existing businesses seeking solutions beyond their capacities, therefore turning to larger institutions who in turn to entrepreneurs. Luckily, IBM has already been prepared for this with its three-horizon company portfolio since Gerstner. Supporting entrepreneurship has now become its premier emerging business opportunity.

At the peak of every cycle lies excess waste, full of me-too drudge and chindogu. These are the pests of entrepreneurship—recurring, costly, and altogether a nuisance. They are not, however, without merit. They are a training ground for both the hard and soft skills so instrumental to traversing the newly redefined paths to success. Some entrepreneurs will bow out of college, perhaps even high school. Others will continue their higher education and take their advanced skill elsewhere. Neither should be glorified or shamed—these are merely alternative paths previously unavailable. Both are needed for balance, just as each team needs its set of “expanders” and “containers.”

The recent upsurge in global entrepreneurship is indicative of more options, bigger appetites, and ample accommodations for our varied learning styles. As it becomes more front-facing, its values will change the business world, and in turn, the planet. That means a smaller planet, a more connected planet, and ultimately, a smarter planet.

As for next year, I reckon IBM should keep its eye out for an Antarctic dark horse.

SmartCamp alum Sproxil named #1 innovative healthcare company

Fast Company names SmartCamp alum Sproxil the 7th most innovative company in the world. Sproxil CEO Ashifi Gogo pictured here.

The business magazine Fast Company has recently released their annual guide to the state of innovation in the economy, featuring businesses whose innovations are having the greatest impacts across their industries and the culture as a whole. They identified the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2013 and we are proud to announce that IBM SmartCamp 2010 finalist Sproxil was named #1 in the Healthcare industry and #7 overall, ahead of the likes of Google and Apple.

Sproxil’s service places a scratch-off label on products which consumers remove after purchasing to reveal a unique, random code. The code is sent via SMS to a country-specific short code, and the consumer receives a reply almost instantly indicating whether the product is genuine or not.

Sproxil’s services are currently used by several pharmaceutical companies in the fight against counterfeit drugs. The fake drug market, according to the World Customs Organization, is estimated to be a $200 Billion a year industry. The problem of counterfeit drugs is particularly acute in emerging markets; the World Health Organization estimates 30% of drugs in these markets are fake and may be very harmful to consumers.

Now Sproxil is expanding into other fields and discovering that customers for all sorts of products are eager to confirm that they got what they paid for, from agricultural goods to auto parts to the copper in electric wires. “There are lots and lots of uses for our services,” CEO Ashifi Gogo says.

Congratulations to Sproxil on this recognition, and IBM is proud to have been a part of their entrepreneurial journey. Best of luck and much continued success in the future!

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals Day 3: Public Session

186_IMG_1759On 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.

046_IMG_0639Then 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.

146_IMG_1530After 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.

227_IMG_2158But 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.

249_IMG_2426Finally, 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.