Emerging Entrepreneurs Face Off at Intel Global Challenge

Education and med-tech startups among the winners of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship contest.

Lab4U, a startup based in Santiago, Chile, is the 2014 Intel Global Challenge winner, taking the grand prize at this showcase for international startups.

The company, which makes a mobile app that enables schoolchildren to perform hands-on science experiments at schools that don’t have funds for pricey lab equipment, won $50,000.

“I’ve always believed that through science we can improve and solve the problems of the world today,” said 25-year-old CEO Komal Dadlani, who’s finishing her master’s in biochemistry at the University of Chile while running her year-old company in shared office space provided by Santiago startup incubator Socialab.

Dadlani said that as young scientists-in-training, she and her co-founders experienced first-hand what it was like when their schools didn’t have enough equipment for them to perform experiments. “Even at our university … there was a lack of equipment,” she said.

Lab4U’s software uses sensors that are already standard on mobile phones to let students conduct experiments. And the company is developing a crowd-learning web platform so students and teachers can analyze and share their lab results.

This year’s competing entrepreneurial teams were selected for the IGC finals from more than 20,000 applicants from 60 countries and six continents.

To get to the IGC stage in Silicon Valley, teams went through the equivalent of playoffs, competing in regional tech, science and business contests held worldwide.

Twenty-six finalists from 20 countries reached Intel’s final competition held November 3 through 6. They pitched ideas across a diverse range of products and services, with innovations they propose for education, telemedicine, agriculture, communication and social networks, finance, scientific research, water treatment, assistive devices and social enterprises.

“Competitions are a way to inspire students and young entrepreneurs and inventors to have an end point that they’re reaching for,” said Staci Palmer, an IGC finals judge and Intel’s director of global strategic initiatives and marketing, which ran the competition. “It gives them a way, when they have accomplished a goal, to be able to celebrate it, to be able to share it with others and to get feedback.”

She added that Intel considers education, and equal access to education, critical for maintaining a skilled workforce and a vibrant economy.

In addition to Lab4U, three other winning IGC teams were announced in the following categories, receiving $15,000 each.

Internet, Mobile and Software Computing

Servtech, a Taiwanese company that makes a small diagnostic device that interfaces with factory machines to diagnose operating problems and improve machine efficiency through customizable apps.
SERVTECH

Computing for Social Innovation

Karisma Kidz, a United Kingdom startup that makes mobile games that teach young children ways to improve their emotional intelligence.
KARISMAKIDZ

Internet of Things and Hardware

Neuron Guard, an Italian company developing a portable medical device that will fit stroke patients like a collar, reducing brain temperature so that neurological damage is minimized during transport to a hospital and during treatment.
NEURONGUARD

“This is amazing — it’s beyond our wildest dreams to come out to San Francisco and to be surrounded by so many amazing teams and then come away with a top prize. We’re delighted,” said Karisma Kidz CEO and “Chief Superhero” Erika Brodnock. “The whole experience has been totally amazing. To go to Zynga and learn from some of the top business minds in our field, mobile gaming, is totally inspirational.”

The finalist teams were given a crash-course on Silicon Valley — they were exposed to the experimental culture at IDEO and got insights from high-tech startups like AirBnB.

They came to learn how to get bigger and compete for better market share and new investors. “(The IGC) gives you visibility and opens up a more international network,” said Neuron Guard’s Enrico Giuliani. “We had a medical network, we had an Italian business network, but we didn’t have an international network.”

The young entrepreneurs “don’t just go home having won a prize,” said Intel’s Palmer. “With or without a prize they’ve developed a new network of potential future investors and also likeminded friends and role models they can partner with — as well as new skills.”

Lab4U’s Dadlani and her two cofounders came up the idea with for their company last year when they met at a startup brainstorming session at their university last year. “I’ve learned a lot,” Dadlani said. Just a year ago, “I had no idea what a VC was, I had no idea what the term ‘seed’ meant, I had no idea what a startup was.” Now, Lab4U is operating on $240,000 in seed money from angel investors and in government grants.

Lab4U-Winners instagram_smaller

The Lab4U app can measure magnetism, solution concentrations and the speeds of moving physical objects with just a smart phone or tablet. The company is now developing several other science experiments and a curriculum

“The winners were the teams that did the best job of understanding their customers and how to use innovation to help them,” said Andre Marquis, Executive Director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, who oversaw the judges. “The most interesting thing about the finalists is how they were working on very different startups in very different regions. It shows the opportunities for entrepreneurs are truly endless worldwide.”

The winners of this 10th annual IGC were announced Thursday night after a day of pitching and judging at UC Berkeley. Since 2004, Intel has offered this multiple-day competition, with the support of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of California, Berkeley. Intel has helped more than 125,000 startups scale their inventions.

 

William Harless contributed this story.

 

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