NEW YORK – IBM held its third annual SmartCamp Global Finals event to choose the IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year here as a snowstorm threatened the area.
Despite the portent of bad weather, the climate inside the Waldorf-Astoria where the IBM SmartCamp took place was quite warm. Indeed there was a storm of a different sort, a storm of ideas and innovations going on.
Jim Corgel, IBM’s general manager of entrepreneurs and ecosystem, said innovation from the startup community is critical to building a Smarter Planet and IBM has been looking all over the world for the best and brightest startup companies through its SmartCamp program.
MoDe, a Kenyan startup focusing on delivering credit to customers in emerging countries via prepaid mobile, won the competition.
“MoDe goes to the heart of what it means to make the planet smarter,” Corgel said. By providing a solution and helping out people who had nowhere else to look, MoDe is making a difference, he said.
IBM SmartCamps are two-day-long events that judge the best startup companies in different cities around the globe. At the events, IBM brings together local venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, professors and IT industry experts to provide mentoring and advice to the startup participants.
“Working with IBM and the SmartCamp was a life changing experience for us,” said Gustavo Lemos, CEO of IDXP, a behavioral analytics firm and past IBM SmartCamp participant. “There is no successful startup without mentorship.”
At the conclusion of the local events, the winners receive mentoring, services, access to industry experts and deeper opportunities from IBM, VC firms and industry partners. Winners also receive an invitation to participate in IBM’s SmartCamp Global Finals, where the IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year is named. There are eight finalists for the 2013 award.
This is the third year for the IBM SmartCamp program and participants are already making an impact in the industry, Corgel said. Past SmartCamp finalists have gone on to generate more than $90 million in venture capital and angel funding following their SmartCamp appearances. In addition, several have gone to market with IBM with new solutions.
The 2010 SmartCamp Finals winner was Streetline, a San Francisco based startup offering a smartphone solution allowing citizens to quickly find inexpensive parking while helping cities manage their parking resources more efficiently.
The 2011 SmartCamp Finals winner was Profitero, a UK-based company that analyzes competitor pricing data and offers retailers new levels of insight, helping them maximize profits by adjusting pricing and merchandising strategies.
In 2012 there were 22 SmartCamp events held around the world in cities including: Amsterdam, Bangalore, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Boston, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Derry, Dublin, Istanbul, London, Mexico City, Miami, Munich, New York, Paris, San Paolo, Sydney, Singapore and Tel Aviv. The eight 2012 finalists came out of these events.
HistoIndex is an analytics startup that was a co-winner of the Beijing regional finals and winner of the SmartCamp Kickstart Singapore. It is one of the eight 2012 finalists. The company provides researchers and hospitals with analytics tools and techniques to assist in the speedy and accurate diagnosis of fibrosis.
QuintessenceLabs is another of the eight 2012 finalists. The company is a co-winner of the Beijing regional finals. QuintessenceLabs develops cyber security products empowered by quantum science to protect electronic information even in the presence of network and system breaches.
SkyFoundry, another 2012 finalist, provides an analytics solution and is a co-winner of the North America regional finals. SkyFoundry’s SkySpark solution automatically analyzes the vast amounts of data generated by smarter devices to detect patterns, revealing issues, faults and opportunities for operational improvement.
IBM SmartCamp Finals Take NYC By Storm
StreetLight Data, the other co-winner of the North America regional finals, also provides an analytics solution. The firm uses advanced analytics on transportation and behavioral data to help retailers make smarter business decisions and determine the ideal location for storefronts and improve sales by adjusting inventory and marketing campaigns.
CaptainDash, co-winner of the Berlin regional finals, also stands as a finalist for entrepreneur of the year with its Software as a Service marketing platform. CaptainDash produces interactive and visual dashboards for marketing organizations. Marketers can synchronize all company data, add data from open sources and external factors, such as weather reports and traffic conditions, and generate visual explanations of their business in real time.
Poikos, co-winner of the Berlin regional finals, delivers the Poikos FlixFlit technology, which uses consumer devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs for imaging and measuring the body in 3D.
GetWay, co-winner of the Latin American finals, produces an analytics solution for retailers. Their solution enables any industry to monitor real-time sales data from retailers that are spread all over a territory.
Finally, MoDe, pronounced “mode,” is a Kenyan startup and co-winner of the Latin American finals. The company provides value added services to mobile network operators in emerging nations. MoDe’s flagship product is Airtime Credit Service (ACS), which provides emergency airtime credit to prepaid mobile subscribers. The mobile micro credit firm provides micro and nano credit products to prepaid customers of mobile telcos and other utilities.
“You’ve heard of microfinance, well we operate at a level below that that we call nanofinancing,” said Julian Kyula, group CEO and co-founder of MoDe. “We have customers who may only need to borrow as much as $20.”
Josphat Kinyua, group commercial director and co-founder of MoDe said to date the company has facilitated more than 200 million transactions in the five African countries where it has operations, which has helped mobile network providers such as Airtel and MTN to increase both subscriber revenues and talk time on their networks. Kinyua said MoDe is about to enter another five countries as demand for its services continues to grow.
“One thing we have to deal with is the issue of companies wondering whether they can rely on a company based in Nairobi,” Kyula said. “Of course they can. But that’s where working with a big name like IBM comes in handy.”
The IBM SmartCamps are designed to spark innovation and help startup companies using advanced technologies such as cloud, big data, analytics, and mobile computing bring their solutions to market faster. As evidenced by this year’s finalists, the innovations tackle some of today’s most pressing issues, such as healthcare, water management, cyber security, finance and energy efficiency.
Corgel said IBM has a deep commitment to the entrepreneurial community. Since launching the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program in 2010, IBM has helped launch more than 500 new businesses in areas such as green energy, healthcare and transportation.
IBM Venture Capital Group professionals work with nearly 300 VC firms and have broadened beyond the Silicon Valley area to more than 30 countries, focusing on key initiatives such as cloud computing and analytics.
Corgel said IBM’s former CEO, Sam Palmisano, identified analytics as the number one opportunity Big Blue had ahead of it prior to his leaving the post last year. And analytics figures heavily in IBM’s 2015 roadmap.
Meanwhile, IBM nurtures startups, bringing them into its 121,000 strong business partner ecosystem, and helps to get their technology ready for market. Over the past six years, IBM has engaged with more than 1,500 startups to bring new technologies to the market. In that time, IBM has accepted more than 1,400 startups into the Global Entrepreneur Program.