On April 14, twenty-four science and technology entrepreneurs met for the first time at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Bahrain. After starting with hundreds of applicants, these 24 arrived in Bahrain to compete for their opportunity to win over $200,000 in entrepreneurial resources from Amazon Web Services and others. These entrepreneurs represented ideas and startups from 18 countries, in sectors from health care and ICT to energy and the environment. Beyond the prize pot, the finalists leveraged the GEC to expand their network, find business partners, and connect with interested investors.
The State Department’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Initiative hosts GIST Tech-I, a global pitch competition for science and technology innovators. Through the competition, aspiring innovators submitted their ideas and startups; industry experts reviewed the submissions and made selections for a global public vote. Online voters cast over 120,000 votes to select the 24 startups who attended the finals in Bahrain. Once there, American business leaders offered the finalists two days of intensive business and pitch training before the finalists competed on an international stage in front of an expert panel of judges.
This year’s Startup Stage first place winner is Donatus Njoroge of Kenya, founder of Vinis Limited, a bio-pesticides startup using essential oils to combat crop pests and increase crop yields for farmers. Donatus created Vinis Limited after losing his uncle to a cancer he believes was linked to pesticides exposure. Vinis Limited already has multiple investors. As the 2019 winner, Donatus will receive $15,000 in seed capital and $50,000 in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Credits. AWS Credits can be used to purchase training for cloud computing or to scale on the AWS cloud—critical resources for science and technology startups.
“I feel good! I feel excited to continue… making an impact in my country and my continent, especially with the issue of food security which is one of Kenya’s big four agenda items,” said Njoroge. “I will use this capital and training to define my business model to improve the growth of my business over the next year.”
Outstanding Female Entrepreneur winner Queenny López from Ecuador won with her microalgae carbon dioxide capture startup Anuka. Anuka—which means algae in Kichwa—consumes large amounts of carbon dioxide and cleans the air we breathe. Her prizes include $1,000 in seed capital and $25,000 in AWS Credits.
Along with Donatus and Queenny, six other young innovators took home prizes at GIST Tech-I 2019:
- Second Place: Syed Abrar Ahmed from Pakistan won $8,000 in seed capital and $20,000 in AWS Credits. Ahmed founded AzaadHealth, which works to improve patient health record sharing to mitigate medical errors.
- Third Place: Varinder Singh from India won $2,000 in seed capital and $15,000 in AWS credits. Singh founded GFF Innovations, which converts biomass into very fine powder and activated carbon, reducing air pollution from burning waste.
- First Place “Idea”: Anatoli Kirigwajjo from Uganda won $5,000 in seed capital and $25,000 in AWS Credits. Kirigwajjo’s startup idea Yunga Technologies would create a local rescue digital network that allows neighbors to help each other.
- Second Place “Idea”: Isaac Sesi from Ghana won $3,000 in seed capital and $15,000 in AWS Credits. Sesi’s startup idea FarmSense is a low-cost soil monitoring solution that helps farmers monitor their soil to produce higher crop yields.
- Third Place “Idea”: Ariuntuya Altangerel from Mongolia won $1,500 in seed capital and $10,000 in AWS Credits. Altangerel’s startup idea BETME is an education app that makes it fun and easy for people to learn English.
- Spirit of Tech-I: Heriberto Solano from Colombia won $500 in seed capital and $5,000 in AWS Credits. Solano founded Black Square, which creates precision agriculture tools farmers can use to improve how they monitor the health of their crops.
Since 2011, innovators from around the world have showcased their science and technology ventures to an international audience through GIST pitch competitions, startup trainings, and online innovation hub. More than 1.8 million votes have been cast in support of these young founders, helping driving their innovation forward and making the world a better place.
About the Authors: Hillary LeBail is the Public Affairs Officer and Sarah Staton is the Senior Coordinator for GIST and Partnerships in the Bureau for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
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