For the remaining 20 startups that have travelled to Medellin for the final of the startup competition Get In The Ring, today is the day. The day when their blood, sweat and tears from the past year finally come to fruition. Who is going to be in the boxing ring for tomorrow’s final showdown? Today they had to pitch in front of the judges to find out who will be in the final 6.
“All of you have fought your way through this competition” said Get in the Ring Director Jochem Cuppen during the announcement of the six finalists, Monday night. “The real value of this process lies in making connections”. It’s true, many of the startups have already found new customers, investors and mentors. Yet this is little consolation, the main prize that everyone wanted was one of the six final places for tomorrow night. The final spots mean more exposure, a greater chance of finding investors and the chance to pitch in front of a crowd of 650 business minded spectators.
Before Cuppen could announce the six finalists, one participant grabbed the microphone: “I wanted to sign a contract with the judges. If I get to the final, I’ll get drunk. If I don’t make it I’ll still get drunk!” After seeing his coordination the contract should be fine. It later turned out that he didn’t have to worry about his hangover tomorrow as he didn’t make the final: “I won’t be drowning my sorrows, I’ll be celebrating that I made it this far” he said.
A smartwatch for blind readers
The startups were eliminated one by one through a knockout system at three different stages, local, national and regional, before the global finals. Of the 5,000 original participants from 80 countries only 22 qualified for the finals in Medellin, Colombia. Although two teams couldn’t make the event, because of visa problems, 20 teams were met Sunday by the the main organiser Jochem Cuppen.
“The adrenaline slowly built up and it was all very inspiring!” said Fatih Kahyaoglu, the former managing director of ID&T and Sensation and currently an advisor for six different startups. As one of the judges, he had just reviewed six pitches from hopeful entrepreneurs. He was impressed by many, such as Dot, a Korean company that has developed a smartwatch for reading braille that is 20 times smaller and much cheaper than current devices. Kahyaoglu said: “Not only do Dot have a product that has great social benefit, but it also has a fantastic team that includes former executives from Nokia and Microsoft. However, as a seasoned entrepreneur he is also critical. He says of the British based music app ‘Choosic’, which is based on swiping, that they engage “with passion” but they fell short because “there is a lack of business development, because they have no links to social networks like Facebook and Instagram.”
“Have people around you who are honest and will tell you if you’re doing something risky”
Monday was all about pitches; a pitch training session, a video recorded pitch and finally a pitch in front of the jurors. So why all the focus on pitching? “When you pitch your business you soon see where your weak points are. Plus, you’ll get lots of critical questions.” said Kahyaoglu. His main advice for entrepreneurs was to gather people around you who are honest and will tell you if you’re doing something risky: “For instance, I told the guy from Lik that it’s nice to have friends around you, but make sure that there’s someone there who will tell you when they disagree with you, especially concerning ‘financial matters’.”
Throughout the day each startup were given a short interview with professional journalists. They were questioned about their business model, future ambitions, weaknesses and their motivation for the company. The 5 minute interviews were seen as useful media training, but it also provided some interesting facts, worthy of a late-night talk show. It turns out that the startup Shake4help uses his own product to check up on his wife, and Dot gives out his business card to everyone that is interested, including the journalists.
Getting back to the announcement of the finalists for tomorrow’s grand finale at Plaza Mayor, six participants made it. There will be two startups battling each other in each weight class: lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight. One winner from the lightweight category is Lik (which means ‘for you’ in Arabic). He is sipping a victory glass of aguardiente, a Colombian liquor, with Seven Up. He has not only reached the final, but he’s made some great connections in Medellin: “I had some good conversations with the judges, both in and outside of the pitches, including with Fatih, which was very valuable.” Moments later they are chatting again, presumably about ‘financial matters’.
SpeakEZ (Israel), unites the power of social networks with its patented technology to provide a platform where people can speak using their language of choice.
LIK (Morroco), an app that gives you phone credit in exchange for targeted, contextualized and geolocated advertisement receptions.
Aquanos (Israel), has a unique wastewater treatment technology and process, which produces high quality of water while utilizing a fraction of the energy required by conventional wastewater treatment plants.
Biodencell (Colombia), has a dental stemcell bank to repair damaged tissues (e.g. burned skin) and solve immunologic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
DOT (South-Korea), designed a braille smartwatch, which gives blind people access to affordable education and effective communication.
OnOff-App (France), allows users with their app to instantly add multiple phone numbers on their own and other smartphones.