Heads Up, Sharks: New Entrepreneurs Take the Stage

Online games. Stolen passwords. A cousin with Down’s syndrome.

The ideas that launch businesses can come from absolutely anywhere.

No place is this more evident than the Intel Global Challenge, where young entrepreneurs come to pitch their big ideas and then sell them to the world.

Take Manoj Sanker, from India, for example. After seeing his aunt struggle to raise a child with a mental disorder, he was motivated to create a wearable device that could help caregivers better interpret the emotions of children with autism, and in turn, help them better navigate the world.


Manoj Sanker’s EmoteSensor for autistic children.

Look at Ivan Klimek, from Slovakia. Fed up with cybercrime and the need to manage a multitude of passwords and security prompts to avoid being victimized, Klimek came up with a way to turn a cell phone into a universal and secure key to all of one’s digital accounts.

Consider Mohamed Sheikhaldeen, from Bahrain, for that matter. Sheikhaldeen, who enjoyed playing online games with his college buddies, had a light bulb moment when he realized he could design cloud-based software to create professional caliber animations and renderings in a fraction of the time it takes the big studios.

Ibrahim Modad Zakaria Benhamouche and Mohamed Sheikhaldeen

Mohamed Sheikhaldeen (right) and his teammates Ibrahim Modad and Zakaria Benhamouche were recognized for their work in gaming animation.

And Victor Popescu, of Romania? Also a gamer, Popescu came up with the idea for software that anyone can use to create sophisticated, online, role-playing games.

All four of these young entrepreneurs took top prizes at regional entrepreneurship competitions last year to qualify as finalists for the prestigious 2013 Intel Global Challenge (IGC).

At the heart of IGC is a focus on novel technologies that may change the world as we know it. Intel, a name synonymous with innovation, not only sponsors the event, but often plays a role in the development of the technologies presented, since most rely on advancements in computing to develop their solutions. This spans from tiny microcontrollers, such as the Intel Edison module, designed specifically for wearables, to super processors, such as the Intel Xeon processor line, that power the cloud.

At IGC, Klimek, Sanker, Sheikhaldeen and Popescu pitched their ideas and business plans to esteemed judges, including experienced entrepreneurs, investment gurus and venture capitalists, as they vied for $100,000 in prizes.


Victor Popescu’s Gameleon took First in Internet, Mobile and Software Computing, as well as Best Pitch.

But ask any participant and they will tell you that – prize or no – everybody at the global finals is already a winner, and many take the lessons learned there to catapult their startups to success.

Just one year later, Sanker’s EmoteSensor is in the R&D stage, going through quality checks and certifications. Associated software – a basic app to perform tasks like calibration of the device and sending alerts to a smartphone, as well as a cloud-server app to store data in the cloud for progressive analysis – is in field trials. “And,” says Sanker, “customers are already lined up.”


Team Excalibur won investors and kudos at IGC.

Klimek’s Excalibur, which incorporated not long after IGC, quickly secured funding from two major investors and has moved full speed ahead. Klimek reports that the Excalibur cell-phone-as-key product is scheduled to launch late in 2014.

Sheikhaldeen’s EXA Technologies already has an international presence, with clients throughout the Middle East and Asia. Plans are underway to open an office in Japan, where animation is popular and demand is high, as well as to expand into Malaysia.

And though Gameleon was not as profitable as Popescu had hoped, the serial entrepreneur has launched yet another new technology – software to combine and analyze complicated databases to improve online exchanges and sales – under his startup, eMotion Concepts. He says this latest product started generating profits before the first line of code was even written.


Participants in the 2013 Intel Global Challenge.

“The Intel Global Challenge helped us tremendously,” says Klimek, echoing the sentiments of his peers. “We met highly experienced people who shared their expertise with us. This gave us clarity on how to build our company from both technological and business perspectives.”

Additionally, Sheikhaldeen notes the importance of Intel technology in keeping his company on the cutting edge.

“We are using Intel Xeon E5 V2s, which are much faster than what our clients typically use. And since they are drop-in compatible with the software our clients use, we can provide an immediate boost to their projects,” he says. “We are also in talks with a supercomputing facility in Kobe that has a commercial supercomputer built not just of Intel Xeon E5s, but also the GPU-like Intel Xeon Phi co-processor accelerators.”

Curious about what new technologies will launch from this IGC 2014?

Tune in this November to learn more about the big ideas from the 2014 finalists.


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