Wassim El Hariri from Lebanon was named the 2018 Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I competition First Place winner. His company SASHA uses a uniquely designed robot to fully automate food distribution in hospitals. El Hariri was one of 10 GIST Tech-I finalists competing for more than $170,000 USD in startup resources, thanks to GIST Tech-I partners Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Alice, an artificial intelligence based business advising platform.
GIST is the U.S. Department of State’s flagship science and technology entrepreneurship program. By empowering and strengthening science and technology entrepreneurs, GIST helps connect American businesses and investors to innovators worldwide while promoting economic stability and security in over 136 emerging economies through online and in-country programming, partnerships, and pitch competitions.
“Tech-I will help me a lot in terms of resources, because the technology that we are using is really expensive and we really need this kind of support to push this project a step further,” said El Hariri. “I will go back home a totally new person from what I got here.”
As the first place winner, El Hariri will receive $3,500 USD, $50,000 in AWS credits, a scholarship ticket to the 2019 Circular Summit, a feature on the Alice blog and three hours of mentorship with Team Alice. Second place was awarded to Ja’far Albadarneh, founder of augmented reality tourism start-up ARtour in Jordan, and Sadef Naz of Pakistan took third for Her Ground, a feminine hygiene products company. Entrepreneurs from Morocco and Syria also took home prizes for best alumni pitch and outstanding woman entrepreneur. A full list of the winners can be found here.
The finalists for the GIST Tech-I competition were chosen based on a combined score that took into account their performance during the public vote porton of the competition with over 200,000 votes cast from the public in over 160 countries, the quality of their 90 second pitch video, and feedback from former Tech-I competitors. During the April 16 – 19 finals at the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, the 10 GIST Tech-I finalists pitched their startups or ideas to an expert panel of judges who selected the seven winners.
“GIST entrepreneurs epitomize perseverance, not only prevailing against unique challenges in their home economies, but also capitalizing on their ingenuity to solve those challenges and create opportunities and markets for all,” said Judith Garber, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “Our 5,500 GIST alumni have become role models in their communities and created jobs worldwide with Tech-I finalists alone generating over $218 million in revenue by commercializing their innovations.”
GIST Tech-I is an annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from emerging economies around the world. New this year, former GIST Tech-I competitors played an active role as Alumni Mentors in soliciting, selecting and mentoring the 2018 semifinalists and finalists. Since 2011, Tech-I has helped hundreds of young entrepreneurs showcase their startups, provided founders with thousands of expert reviews, and collected over one and a half million public votes in support of entrepreneurship.
A full list of the 2018 Tech-I finalists, including name, country and startup description can be found online at www.GISTNetwork.org.
About the Authors: Tomas Harmon is a Marketing and Communications Associate at the Global Entrepreneurship Network and Sarah Staton serves in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.