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!

Mentor Day recap: Lund, Sweden

Mentorday Lund#2On Wednesday April 10th, IBM Global Entrepreneur hosted a Mentor Day in Lund, Sweden, where five early-stage tech startups participated to receive expert mentoring and have a chance to be selected for an upcoming IBM SmartCamp competition. The five startups who participated were:

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

Mentorday Lund#5An excellent team of mentors was also present to give the startups advice on how to improve their business pitches and continue to grow their company. The mentors had a range of expertise in business and technical development and entrepreneurship. 

Not only did the day allow the entrepreneurs to learn from experts, but also from each other. One of the startup participants, Ingemar Petterson, founder of Kvittar, commented, “It has been exciting to work across a network of different Global Entrepreneur members. We have been able to talk about some of the issues that we are dealing with, with experts but also fellow entrepreneurs. The opportunity to bounce off ideas and discuss solutions is something I would not have been without.”

Mentorday Lund#8At the end of the day two participants, Kvittar and TimeZynk, were selected to go to the interview stage for an upcoming SmartCamp. Congratulations to those two startups and a big thank you to all who participated!

Through the eyes of an entrepreneur: Urvashi Mathur

At the SmartCamp Global Finals on Feb. 7 2013, IBM was happy to welcome many entrepreneurs in the audience, including budding entrepreneur Urvashi Mathur. She is the COO and co-founder of TestRocker, global startup which delivers a comprehensive online education platform for standardized test preparation. Urvashi is also a proud 2010 graduate of University of Notre Dame, with a BA in Management. Below she writes some thoughts on her SmartCamp experience.

urvy1As an entrepreneur, I think about my startup at all times. Even while I’m asleep. I spend most of my days caught up in the minutia and details because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that is on my list. As I walked into the IBM SmartCamp finals, my fingers were frantically typing out more to-dos on my phone. I sat down in my chair and I looked around only to realize I was surrounded by some of the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

Each of the 8 finalists that presented at the finals were inspirational in their own way. What stood out to me most was that big, bold ideas are being generated and executed in all parts of the world – and this was the perfect venue to recognize such efforts. The presentations were extremely well put-together and the answers to the judges Q&A sessions were spot-on. I left the event with a lot of lessons, some of which are captured below.

Sometimes, it’s good to stop and smell the roses.
Most would agree that Park Avenue is not usually where cost-cutting entrepreneurs tend to ‘hang out.’ But for one day, the day of the IBM SmartCamp finals, the energy and excitement of New York City’s very own ‘Silicon Alley’ was transported to the grand ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria. I looked down at my name badge. It read ‘Urvashi Mathur, Start-Up Owner.’ And that’s when it hit me; these innovators who are set on changing the world are actually my peers. Being amongst such bright minds and ideas gave me the opportunity to stop and take a moment to smell the roses.

Inspiration has a trickle-down effect
When Mayor Bloomberg takes the time out of his day to come and speak to you, you listen. He greeted the finalists and attendees and had us on the edge of our seats as he told us about his entrepreneurial endeavors. He gave advice, thoughts and some great laughs. And the night ended with Barbara Corcoran’s story of her rise to the top. The big lesson learned here was that all ideas start at the very bottom. And it takes a lot of perseverance, hard work and heartbreak to climb to the top. But it is possible. Seeing leaders like Mayor Bloomberg and large companies like IBM supporting entrepreneurship was inspiring, and should be viewed as tremendous encouragement to all aspiring entrepreneurs.

It’s good to think and dream big.
Guy Kawasaki said, “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning – to create a product or service to make the world a better place.” One of this year’s finalists, HistoIndex, is a small company with a big mission – helping early and accurate detection of fibrosis through technology. Medical research and technological innovation is thriving in today’s world. Yet nothing stopped this company from entering the market as a strong contender. Even the smallest of companies have the potential of making a big impact in big industries. Should this company continue to deliver on its mission, the possibilities and benefits to society are endless.

The winner of this year’s IBM SmartCamp was MoDe. This group of talented individuals has taken micro financing and M-Pesa to another level. Nano financing that provides opportunities to people in emerging markets that thrive on borrowed pre-paid airtime. MoDe is well on its way to impacting the lives of millions in Africa and beyond.

From the day we founded TestRocker, our goal has been bigger than just SAT preparation. We want to provide a life-changing impact by transforming the way students prepare for standardized tests, as these tests can change the trajectory of their college admissions process. A mission to improve lives in some way is the most rewarding type of revenue that exists. And the speakers and presenters at the IBM SmartCamp finals reinforced my belief in exactly that.

Through the eyes of a student: Yusuf Roso

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 Yusuf Roso from Columbia Business School.

Chubby_Planet_Icon_Western_NewBlue_620Smarter Planet

by Yusuf Roso
MBA 2014
Columbia Business School

When IBM celebrated its centennial, the Economist argued: “IBM’s secret is that it is built around an idea that transcends any particular product or technology. Its strategy is to package technology for use by businesses.” It was this secret that was on stage on Thursday at the 2013 SmartCamp. The idea was using technology to build a smarter planet and the strategy was bringing passionate entrepreneurs from all over the world to New York to showcase their ways of making the planet smarter.

The ideas of the entrepreneurs were smart in a panacean way:

Imagine you can try all the clothes in a giant retailer on your smartphone and let your smartphone tell you what suits you best by just taking your own picture –Poikos (Netherlands) develops technology for imaging and measuring the body in 3D with very high accuracy, using consumer grade hardware such as smartphones, tablets and PCs.

Think of how much faster patients could be treated if physicians had the results of a sophisticated medical test in one day instead of one month –HistoIndex (Singapore) designs integrated medical diagnosis systems (hardware and software) that enable instantaneous imaging and standardized measurement.

Try to conceive the power of accessing credit through your mobile phone in a continent with the lowest access to financial services but with the fastest growing mobile phone userbase–Mo De (Kenya) enables qualifying prepaid mobile subscribers to access airtime on credit and hence creates a platform for the distribution of micro credit products.

The diversity and magnitude of the challenges that the respective entrepreneurs took upon themselves made me think of why these particular companies made it to the global finals of the 2013 SmartCamp. Perhaps, the answer was hidden in Mayor Bloomberg’s speech at the beginning of the event when he quoted former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch: “New York is the place where the future comes to audition.” It wasn’t only the entrepreneurs’ ability to solve problems but it was also their passion to change the future in their given fields that brought them to New York to create smarter planet.

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 1: Master Class

027_IMG_6602Today was Day 1 of the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals, a three-day event which kicked off today with a Master Class for the eight startup finalists, featuring a powerhouse lineup of guest speakers. The goal of the day was to provide the finalists with insights and advice on tackling various aspects of growing a startup company.

Martin Kelly, Partner at IBM Venture Capital Group, was emcee for the day and after a brief introduction handed things off to Deborah Magid, Director of IBM Venture Capital Group. To set the stage for the day Deborah walked the eight finalist teams through some of IBM’s strategic priorities for 2013 and beyond, emphasizing the importance of being at the forefront of new wave technology, like mobile and cognitive computing.

028_IMG_6813Toward mid-morning, after a briefing from the IBM Public Relations team on some media best practices and tips for dealing with reporters, the finalists heard from Professor Robert Farrokhnia of Columbia Business School. After amusing the crowd with a slide depicting the proper pronunciation of his name (a picture of an oak tree in the distance + “nia”), Prof. Farrokhnia spoke about working with strategic partners. He advised the finalists not to let their boards be dominated by one or two investors, and also busted some myths about different kinds of venture capitalists, like the myth that corporate VCs are not good for startups.

Up next was Gerald Brady, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Bank, who gave an energetic presentation on what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. One potent quote he shared with the audience was, “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” He also shared an excellent and hilarious French video on the importance of story-telling, which surprised everyone with its twist ending:

On the point of story-telling, Brady emphasized to the finalists that in order to get investors on board, they should be able to explain what they do to a 9-year-old, since investors are rarely interested in the complexities of the technology and rather want to understand the value.

014_IMG_6306The bulk of the Master Class Day, however, was presented by the next speaker Ken Morse, serial entrepreneur, sales veteran, and Visiting Professor from ESADE Business School. During Morse’s presentation, the audience got a taste of what it must be like to be a student in one of his classes–with Morse pacing up and down the aisles and keeping everyone on their toes by asking direct questions to various individuals. Among the many gems of advice he gave, here were some of the highlights: You can’t get great sales people unless you can convince them that they’ll make more money working for you. You won’t get anywhere with your business until you can convince potential clients that you thoroughly understand THEIR problem. Everybody and anybody is not a client; you have to know exactly who you’re selling to. And finally–an audience favorite–it takes a pig and a chicken to make a ham omelet. The difference is that the chicken was only involved; the pig was fully committed. As a startup, you have to be the pig, and be fully committed to your clients and solution.

043_IMG_7396The day wrapped up with an informative and lively panel discussion, featuring Bill Reichert, Managing Director, Garage Technology Ventures; Kazim Yalcinoglu, Metutech-Ban; Patrick de Zeeuw, Co-Founder and CEO, Startupbootcamp; and Phillippe Herbert, Partner, Banexi Ventures. They talked about global investment and cultures of innovation, but perhaps the most fun topic was the craziest thing a startup has ever said to them. Bill Reichert recalled an incident where a startup claimed that their company would be worth $30 trillion. “You mean the GDP of the entire planet?” he asked incredulously.

The day was interesting and informative, generating excellent questions and discussion among the finalists. Tomorrow the eight startups will work closely with expert mentors to refine their business models and pitches even further, before the final presentations this Thursday Feb. 7th. Already, the IBM SmartCamp Finals are off to an exciting start! Make sure to follow @IBMSmartCamp on Twitter for live updates this week.