Sixty-four tech start-ups. Nine countries. One world champion.

Sixty-four technology upstarts from around the world traveled to Washington last week for the final rounds of the inaugural Challenge Cup, a global business competition organized by District start-up incubator 1776.

During the weeks leading up to the finals, we touched base with every one of the competitors to learn more about their businesses, what challenges they are trying to solve and what inspired them to start a company. Here’s a look at all 64 start-ups including the winners and runners up in each category, as well as the competition’s grand champion (marked in those colors below), which were announced on Saturday.


Which one of the finalists went on to win the Challenge Cup? Scroll down to find out. (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)

U.S. START-UPS

Chicago, Illinois competition winners

Youtopia (Education competitor)

Founder: Simeon Schnapper

Founded / Location: 2012 / Chicago, Illinois

Capital raised: $750,000

What they do: Youtopia’s student engagement platform uses gamification tools, badges and leader boards to encourage students to become more engaged in their school and community.

What was the spark behind the company? “The spark was asking the question: ‘How can we create a Utopia?’ Behavior design, education, and technology were just things we love.” – Simeon Schnapper

myPower (Energy competitor)

Founders: Tejas Shastry, Michael Geier and Alex Smith

Founded / Location: 2013 / Chicago, Illinois

Capital raised: $78,000

What they do: myPower makes a fitness device that clips to your hip, captures your kinetic energy as you run or bike, and stores it as electricity that can be used to charge your smartphone.

What was the spark behind the company? “We started myPower in an entrepreneurship class at Northwestern. As runners ourselves, we wanted to figure out a way to use the calories we burned while running to recharge our smartphones.” – Shastry, Geier and Smith

Caremerge (Health competitor)

Founder: Asif Khan, Michael Davolt and Fahad Aziz

Founded / Location: 2010 / Chicago, Illinois

Capital raised: $2.5 million

What they do: Caremerge’s online platform and mobile apps help senior living communities coordinate care and communicate more easily with various onsite and offsite stakeholders, including their residents’ physicians, insurance providers and family members.

What was the spark behind the company? “We all have personal experiences with aging parents.” – Asif Khan

Cityscan (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: David Guttman

Founded / Location: 2011 / Chicago, Illinois

Capital raised: $1.5 million

What they do: Using mapping technology similar to Google’s StreetView, CityScan collects and analyzes visual data about a city to help local officials identify and address problems more quickly and efficiently.

What was the spark behind the company? “The original idea came from seeing how inefficient billboard enforcement was conducted in Chicago and realizing the use Mobile Terrestrial LiDAR provided an opportunity to efficiently and accurately solve the problem while saving cities millions of dollars a year.” – David Guttman

Austin, Texas competition winners

Aceable (Education competitor)

Founder: Blake Garrett

Founded / Location: 2012 / Austin, Texas

Capital raised: $535,000

What they do: Aceable’s online and mobile software weaves game mechanics and entertainment into required education coursework, helping individuals and organizations to achieve their learning goals. The company is starting out with driver’s education.

What was the spark behind the company? “The focus on mobile learning came from my personal passion to empower our younger generations with tools to succeed in life by leveraging scalable technologies. The business model was refined in conjunction with the aceable partners at the Capital Factory incubator and accelerator in Austin.” – Blake Garrett

Spot on Sciences (Energy competitor)

Founder: Jeanette Hill

Founded / Location: 2010 / Austin, Texas

Capital raised: $100,000

What they do: Spot on Sciences makes an easy-to-use device that allows individuals to take, store and mail blood samples to diagnostic test sites for analysis.

What was the spark behind the company? “My ailing mother, who lives in a rural area, was having difficulty traveling to a lab to have blood drawn for frequent diagnostic tests. We developed our device so that a blood sample can be taken at home and then mailed in, using a technology currently used in hospitals for newborn screening tests, where a drop of blood is dried on paper.” – Jeanette Hill

WaterLens (Energy category runner up)

Founder: Keith Cole

Founded / Location: 2012 / Houston, Texas

Capital raised: $1.7 million

What they do: WaterLens’ patented technology gives oil and gas companies a simple, fast and accurate method for testing water used in hydraulic fracturing.

What was the spark behind the company? “The public has become acutely aware of the billions of gallons of fresh water being used to frac wells in the United States, putting a tremendous amount of cost and environmental pressure on the oil and gas industry to reuse water from previous wells. However, those waters can do substantial damage to the well if their quality is not managed properly. We realized the industry needed a fast, accurate, and dirt simple way to test frac water at the well site.” – Keith Cole

Reaction (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Michael McDaniel

Founded / Location: 2013 / Austin, Texas

Capital raised: More than $2 million

What they do: Reaction makes a rapid-response, reusable shelter system designed to provide instant, temporary housing to those in need in the wake of a man-made or natural disaster

What was the spark behind the company? “I am from Mississippi and was appalled by the response efforts mounted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, particularly the lack of housing. The most powerful country in the world handled the situation with army cots in sports arenas, shipping people to distant cities, and the infamous FEMA trailers. It left me wondering what do others around world do if this was the best we could do here.” – Michael McDaniel

Los Angeles, California competition winners

SmartestK12 (Education competitor)

Founder: Craig Jones, Kevin McFarland and Dave Tanquary

Founded / Location: 2013 / Los Angeles, California

Capital raised: $100,000

What they do: SmartestK12 lets teachers collect and monitor personalized student data from digital classroom documents and assignments, helping them differentiate the learning experience for each student.

What was the spark behind the company? “With four years in the classroom, I became obsessed with data-driven instruction and differentiating to the needs of each student.  However, with 170 students per day, it often took the whole evening just to read each student’s responses before factoring in all the time required to grade, track and communicate results.” – Craig Jones

Enervee (Energy competitor)

Founders: Matthias Kurwig and Don Epperson

Founded: 2010 / Santa Monica, California

Capital raised: $1 million

What they do: Enervee has developed an energy-efficiency scoring system (like the miles-per-gallon rating for cars, but for electronics and appliances) to help consumers and businesses cut costs and save energy by purchasing the most efficient products on the market.

What was the spark behind the company? “During a hot summer in 2010, two friends faced a problem – choosing new energy-efficient appliances for their homes. Making this choice turned into a daunting task as Matthias and Don sifted through 18 different sources to compare the energy efficiency of new air conditioners, televisions, refrigerators, and washing machines. Unsatisfied with their options, Matthias and Don began their quest to create a platform that ranks products of all sizes and types based on their energy consumption.” – Alex Katzman, vice president of business development

Neural Analytics (Health competitor)

Founder: Leo Petrossian, Robert Hamilton and Dan Hanchey

Founded / Location: 2013 / Los Angeles, California

Capital raised: $1.7 million

What they do: Neural Analytics has developed technology that allows physicians and first responders to quickly measure the pressure inside an individual’s skull, a key factor in assessing the severity of a traumatic brain injury.

What was the spark behind the company? “The technology was developed over seven years in my research lab at the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA. Following a first-place finish in a UCLA business competition, Neural Analytics was founded through a cross-campus event with the UCLA Anderson School of Management.” – Robert Hamilton

Causora (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Kai Buehler

Founded / Location: 2012 / Los Angeles, California

Capital raised: $200,000

What they do: Causora runs a loyalty-based philanthropy platform through which users can donate a certain amount to their favorite cause or charity and receive some portion (or even the same amount) back in the form of a gift card from a socially conscious merchant.

What was the spark behind the company? “I worked on the first loyalty program for television before, Watchpoints, which was later acquired by Viggle. I wanted to get into the social enterprise space to create a company that drives a double impact. Causora is a provider of loyalty solutions for cause partners and socially conscious corporations.” – Kai Buehler

New York, New York competition winners

Pathgather (Education competitor)

Founders: Eric Duffy and Jamie Davidson

Founded / Location: 2012 / New York, New York

Capital raised: $118,000

What they do: Pathgather offers an enterprise learning platform that helps employees discover, review and recommend to their coworkers the best learning and education content.

What was the spark behind the company? “We started Pathgather because we’re passionate learners who know the enterprise learning market is poorly served. 60 percent of large enterprise companies are dissatisfied with existing learning systems, and we knew we could fix this.” – Eric Duffy

SimplyGrid (Energy)

Founders: Mike Dubrovsky and Jeffrey Hoffman

Founded / Location: 2010 / New York, New York

Capital raised: $160,000

What they do: Simply Grid uses proprietary technology to provide on-site, self-service electricity via charging stations and in-wall outlets, with customers initiating service using their mobile phones.”

What was the spark behind the company? “Mike was sitting in his apartment in Brooklyn and a food truck’s generator was pumping pollution into his window. The food truck was sitting right next to a lamp post with access to the grid. He ran the numbers and realized we could both cut the pollution and save the food truck money on its energy costs.” – Jeffrey Hoffman

Focus Fertility (Health competitor)

Founder: Sarah Robinson

Founded / Location: 2013 / New York, New York

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: Focus Fertility offers a suite of information and resources to help women navigate the process of fertility treatments, with additional guidance including labor and delivery classes.

What was the spark behind the company? “I watched countless friends struggle to navigate the fertility and pregnancy space. It was shocking that there wasn’t a modern resource in an intelligent voice for women to turn to. I have been lucky enough to have a doctor as a best friend who could answer my medical questions, so my goal is to provide all women with the same opportunity to get personalized advice.” – Sarah Robinson

Soceana (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Tess Michaels

Founded / Location: 2013 / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Capital raised: $100,000

What they do: Soceana is a social media platform that helps connect individuals who want to give back with nonprofits and corporations running volunteer programs, and it tracks their hours and progress.

What was the spark behind the company? “After frustrating experiences volunteering in hospitals doing just files and charts as well as leading some community initiatives, I realized that my peers were more motivated when they could see the social media aspects of volunteering. So I sought to enhance their motivation by matching them with volunteering opportunities and measuring their impact.” – Tess Michaels.

Boston, Massachusetts competition winners

Brightloop (Education competitor)

Founder: Molly Levitt and Marco Morales

Founded / Location: 2012 / Boston, Massachusetts

Capital raised: $85,000

What they do: BrightLoop offers tools designed to help teachers capture student insights, allowing them to turn their daily audio, video or text notes about each student into personalized instruction in the classroom.

What was the spark behind the company? “I had always intended to be a career teacher, but after taking over my first classroom, I was shocked by how challenging it was. I knew just by sitting with my students what I needed to do to support them, but those insights were left on post-it notes scattered around my room, and they would just get lost in the shuffle. I felt as though I needed to come to terms with not being able to do it all, or I needed to create something to enhance my impact, and that’s where the idea was born.” – Molly Levitt

nCarbon (Energy competitor)

Founder: Todd Davidson

Founded / Location: 2013 / Austin, Texas

Capital raised: Did not disclose

What they do: nCarbon’s founders have developed an entirely new class of carbon, which could provide low-cost solution for auto manufacturers to help them meet fleetwide fuel efficiency standards.

What was the spark behind the company? The patent-pending technology invented by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin.

BeTH (Health competitor)

Founder: Jason Hill

Founded / Location: 2012 / Cambridge, Massachusetts

Capital raised: $125,000

What they do: BeTH has designed a silicon socket for prosthetic limbs that allows the wearer to quickly and easily adjust to a perfect fit, lowering the costs of building (and when the individual grows, rebuilding) a custom-fit orthotic or prosthetic limb.

What was the spark behind the company? “Our interface technology emerged after pursuing a long-standing challenge in prosthetic interface materials that are not designed to accommodate the natural changes that occur in the body daily. Modern prosthetic interface solutions still rely on a half-century-old process, which can take weeks to fabricate a comfortable fit which is only temporary creating discomfort driving up costs of rehabilitation.” – Jason Hill

Silverside Detectors (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Sarah Haig and Andrew Inglis

Founded / Location: 2013 / Boston, Massachusetts

Capital raised: $125,000

What they do: Silverside Detectors produces low-cost radiation detectors that can be imbedded in transit and urban infrastructure to help governments reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

What was the spark behind the company? “As a post-doctoral researcher at Boston University, Dr. Inglis worked on large area detector design and construction. Wanting to apply this cutting-edge research to areas that would impact the nuclear terrorism threat, he used a Department of Homeland Security research grant to develop a nuclear bomb detector that integrates academic detector design with low-cost manufacturing processes. I have an  international security and business background, and we teamed up to build Silverside Detectors, the vehicle for commercializing this radiation detection technology.” – Sarah Haig

Denver, Colorado competition winners

Campuscene (Education competitor)

Founders: David Meyer and Ryan Schwartz

Founded / Location: 2012 / Denver, Colorado

Capital raised: $480,000

What they do: Campuscene’s marketing platform helps college admissions offices create customized outreach campaigns based on an applicant’s interests, with automated follow-up communications and data analysis to help them more accurately predict enrollment numbers.

What was the spark behind the company? “Our founders come from both sides of the admissions divide: Dave from admissions, and Ryan from college prep. We’ve been friends since we were 10 years old, and after comparing our frustrations in the industry, we realized we could create a data-driven solution that made the admissions process more efficient and effective for applicants and administrators alike.” – David Meyer

Avivid (Energy competitor)

Founder: Lockett Wood

Founded / Location: 2004 / Longmont, Colorado

Capital raised: $275,000

What they do: Avivid cleans industrial waste water, largely oil water including water from hydro fracturing, using a first-of-its-kind electrocoagulation device.

What was the spark behind the company? “The idea originally started as a way to create clean water in third world countries.  It is a good technology for this application, also.” – Lockett Wood

Asius Technologies (Health competitor)

Founder: Stephen Ambrose

Founded / Location: 2006 / Longmont, Colorado

Capital raised: $1 million in research grants (no outside private funding)

What they do: Asius Technologies designed an inflatable in-ear audio technology that, when used in tandem with hearing aids, headsets and earbuds, gives the user a richer sound quality, a custom fit, and a safer listening experience, taking pressure off the user’s ear drums.

What was the spark behind the company? “My story is the history of the invention and development of the personal listening devices which became our modern day earbuds and in-ear monitors. With the support of my friend and mentor Stevie Wonder, I have dedicated many years to researching how to properly couple in-ear sound so that the ear’s natural, inherent sensitivity would permit lower, safer listening volumes to sound louder and better than conventional devices.” – Stephen Ambrose

WeatherCloud (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Duer Reeves, Rich Powers, Jeff Martin and John Mickey

Founded / Location: 2013 / Boulder, Colorado

Capital raised: $600,000

What they do: WeatherCloud places sensors on motor vehicles that collect data on elements like through-the-windshield visibility, tire grip and pavement profile, analyzes the information in a cloud-based meteorological model, and then delivers real-time voiced hazard warnings back to drivers depending on their location and route.

What was the spark behind the company? “WeatherCloud was incubated as my Cleantech Fellows Institute 2012 Capstone project. It is based on research the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has been doing under Department of Transportation grants for the past 6 years.” – Duer Reeves

San Francisco, California competition winners

UClass (Education competitor)

Founder: Chris Yim, Varun Gulati, Zak Ringelstein, Leah Schrader

Founded / Location: 2012 / San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $600,000

What they do: UClass runs an online marketplace and curriculum exchange where teachers, school districts and textbook providers can share educational content and resources, helping teachers save time on lesson planning and helping school districts disperse the best materials.

What was the spark behind the company? “Our founders were Teach For America alum who saw a gap between the instruction that students were receiving and the amount of knowledge and resources available. We started this company to connects the minds and experiences of teachers and students to ensure that students would have access to a higher quality of education. The idea came from our students in New Orleans, Phoenix, South Korea and Tanzania.” – Chris Yim

enACT Systems (Energy competitor)

Founder: Deep Chakraborty and Manasij Kar

Founded / Location: 2013 / Dublin, California

Capital raised: $1 million

What they do: enAct’s software platform connects consumers interested in solar energy to local service providers, equipment providers and financial institutions, helping each party streamline and cut costs in the sales and delivery process for solar energy systems.

What was the spark behind the company? A rapidly growing residential and small commercial solar market has a broken eco-system. Consumers face complex buying decisions, service providers spend up to 30 percent of their revenue in sales acquisition, and banks rely on service providers for quality deal-flow. I spent several years as CEO of a solar distribution company where all these inefficiencies were affecting my business. This led to the genesis of enACT SYSTEMS, with the mission to reduce transaction inefficiencies in the clean energy industry.” – Deep Chakraborty

ReferralMD (Health competitor)

Founder: Jonathan Govette and Jason Coppola

Founded / Location: 2011 / San Francisco, California

Capital raised: $350,000

What they do: ReferralMD is a HIPPA-compliant Web platform that helps health care providers manage and expand their referral network, helping them track and monetize patient referrals.

What was the spark behind the company? “My previous company had created a think tank with 55 others with the purpose of developing strategies to run our businesses better along with exchanging referrals to help monetize the group’s activities. I was tasked with managing the group’s referrals with paper triplicate forms, faxes and spreadsheets, much like healthcare’s current system.  A few years and a startup later, with the help of dozens of hospitals and clinics, we morphed our referral concept into what referralMD is today.” – Jonathan Govette

Handup (Smart cities winner and Challenge Cup champion)

Founders: Rose Broome and Zac White

Founded: 2013 / San Francisco

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: HandUp’s mobile app lets users donate directly to homeless people living in local shelters and outdoors in your neighborhood, with assurance that the money supports food needs, medical care and other basic essentials.

What was the spark behind the company? “In the winter of 2012, I walked past a woman sleeping on the street and wanted to help but didn’t know how. I brainstormed the idea of a direct donation system with my friend Zac, and we decided to build it as a side project. After being accepted into the Tumml urban accelerator, we incorporated HandUp as a public benefit corporation in August 2013.” – Rose Broome

Washington, D.C. competition winners

eduCanon (Education category winner)

Founder: Benjamin Levy and Swaroop Raju

Founded: 2013

Location: Galesville, Maryland

Capital raised: $18,000

What they do: eduCanon offers tools that help teachers build and share interactive video lessons, transforming normal videos into active, engaging student experiences with time-embedded learning assessments.

What was the spark behind the company? “I built the first prototype of eduCanon in my 8th grade science classroom. I realized my 150 plus students deserved an experience differentiated to each of their unique learning needs and interests.” – Benjamin Levy

Ethical Electric (Energy competitor)

Founder: Tom Matzzie

Founded / Location: 2011 / Washington, D.C.

Capital raised: $13.4 million

What they do: Ethical Electric sells clean energy from local solar and wind farms and gives consumers the option to buy exclusively renewable energy through regular utilities providers.

What was the spark behind the company? “As homeowners in D.C., my wife and I went solar. During the process, I realized that many people wouldn’t be able to go solar for a variety of reasons. Offering renewable energy as a service is an easier alternative.” – Tom Matzzie

Dorsata (Health competitor)

Founders: David Fairbrothers and Daniel Gibson

Founded / Location: 2011 / Washington, D.C.

Capital raised: $500,000

What they do: Dorsata provides an online platform that helps doctors collaborate across various health systems to determine, share and implement best practices in health care delivery.

What was the spark behind the company? “It grew out of Dan’s clinical training at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. He has always been impressed by the value of evidence-based best practices in health care but was frustrated by the absence of this content at the point of care.  We teamed up to solve this problem to drive better patient outcomes and reduce waste and costs.” – David Fairbrothers

RideScout (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Joseph Kopser and Craig Cummings

Founded / Location: 2011 / Austin, Texas, with an office in Washington, D.C.

Capital raised: $2.5 million

What they do: RideScout’s smartphone app aggregates all ground transportation options around a user in real time, allowing you to see the costs of nearby buses, trains, taxis, bike-sharing programs and carsharing programs – like Kayak.com for ground transportation.

What was the spark behind the company? “I was living in Arlington, Virginia and commuting just five miles down the road to the Pentagon. I wanted a tool to show me the best way to get to work depending on my circumstances and time of day. When I couldn’t find a comprehensive tool, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and with some convincing from Craig, RideScout’s journey began.” – Joseph Kopser

INTERNATIONAL START-UPS

Moscow, Russia competition winners

We Study In (Education competitor)

Founder: Sasha Olenina and Stanislav Shchukin

Founded / Location: 2013 / Moscow, Russia

Capital raised: $300,000

What they do: We Study In runs a peer-to-peer information-sharing platform to help prospective students choose the right university, apply to schools and find scholarships.

What was the spark behind the company? “The idea came from our own personal experiences studying and interning abroad.” – Sasha Olenina

EcoCat (Energy competitor)

Founder: Sergey Sunchugashev

Founded / Location: 2011 / Moscow, Russia

Capital raised: $230,000

What they do: EcoCat makes catalytic heaters and filters that used for the decomposition of combustion products, eliminating heat exchange and thereby reducing heating costs.

What was the spark behind the company? “The technology was developed at the Boreskov Institute of Catalysis of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk. Our management team acquired All rights for technology and introduced it into business.” – Sergey Sunchugashev

Medesk (Health competitor)

Founder: Vladimir Kovalskiy and Dmitry Lazutkin

Founded / Location: 2012 / Moscow, Russia

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: Medesk provides a cloud-based collaboration platform for patients, employers, insurance providers and health clinics to store, share and analyze health care data.

What was the spark behind the company? “We are IT-guys from doctor families. But to get money in Russian health care was a lot harder than we thought. It took us 3 years to find a business model that could work, and we moved into the cloud and soon learned that we could make money through collaboration across health care services.” – Vladimir Kovalskiy

Aunt Bertha (Smart cities replacement competitor)

Founder: Erine Gray

Founded / Location: 2010 / Austin, Texas

Capital raised: $955,000

What they do: AuntBertha’s online platform makes it simple to find and apply for free and low-cost programs of any kind – including food, housing, health, eduction and work / career assistance programs.

What was the spark behind the company? “As a kid, my mother caught a rare brain disease which left her permanently disabled, and she was subject to seizures. From this early experience, I became curious about the human services (government and charitable) industry in general and spent four years helping governments administer programs.” – Erine Gray

Berlin, Germany competition winners

WriteReaderApp (Education competitor)

Founder: Babar Baig and Janus Madsen

Founded / Location: 2012 / Copenhagen, Denmark

Capital raised: $80,000

What they do: WriteReader is a new iPad app that teaches children between the ages three and 10 years old to read through writing, based on research that shows children find increased capacity for information retention when they are concurrently reading and writing.

What was the spark behind the company? “One fifth of all students who leave 10th grade are functionally illiterate. To solve this problem, Janus Madsen, a teacher for the past 16 years, and my team researched for three years before developing this app.” – Babar Baig

Plugsurfing (Energy category winner)

Founder: Adam Woolway and Jacob van Zonneveld

Founded / Location: 2012 / Berlin, Germany

Capital raised: $275,000

What they do: Plugsurfing’s smartphone app shows electric vehicle drivers where they find charging stations and allows them to pay for recharging directly through the app.

What was the spark behind the company? “Jacob and I have lived in and obsessed over enough modern cities to spot the integral problems of modern living such as pollution, congestion and noise. Electric vehicles can solve all of these problems, as long as the puzzle of charging can be solved. Plugsurfing is our contribution to this future vision of clean, beautiful mega cities.” – Adam Woolway

OPTRetina (Health competitor)

Founders: Mark Ruiz, Miguel Ángel Zapata, Didac Royo and Alejandro Dussan

Founded / Location: 2012 / Barcelona, Spain

Capital raised: $200,000

What they do: OPTretina offer software the takes a detailed photos of a patients’ retinas, then sends those pictures to a network of optometrists and ophthalmologists to search for early signs of blindness, which can usually be prevented if caught early enough.

What was the spark behind the company? “Dr. Zapata realized that, when the people arrive at the hospital, often, it’s too late. With an early detection, he could avoid most of blindness cases. So, how to detect it earlier? By sending photos from the optician shop.” – Mark Ruiz

Hoard (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Anthony Forsans, Nicolai Prüsmann, Arne Petersen

Founded / Location: 2013 / Berlin, Germany

Capital raised: $200,000

What they do: Hoard builds small, strategically placed lockers in cities where users can drop off goods, gadgets, mail – anything – for a friend or company to pick up later.

What was the spark behind the company? “It was our personal need for simple access to things and services independent of opening hours and appointments.” – Arne Petersen

London, United Kingdom competition winners

Fluency (Education competitor)

Founders: Sinead Mac Manus and Ian Anderson

Founded / Location: 2013 / London, United Kingdom

Capital raised: $100,000

What they do: Fluency operates an online marketplace that helps business owners and government agencies find young people with web, social media and digital marketing skills.

What was the spark behind the company? “We wanted to help some of the 1 million unemployed young people in the UK (and the 5.6 million in Europe and 75 million worldwide) find work. We think many of our young people have skills that businesses need – they get digital.” – Sinead Mac Manus

Open Utility (Energy competitor)

Founders: James Johnston, Andy Kilner and Alice Tyler

Founded / Location: 2013 / London, United Kingdom

Capital raised: $200,000

What they do: Open Utility runs a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling renewable power, be it from your neighbor’s solar-panelled roof or a nearby wind turbine.

What was the spark behind the company? I spent three years researching the electricity industry as part of my Ph.D., and I realised there was a big opportunity to disrupt the electricity sector using renewable power, scalable software and big-data. When my studies came to an end, I teamed up with Andy and Alice, and Open Utility was born.” – James Johnston

CancerIQ (Health category replacement and category winner)

Founder: Feyi Olopade, Olufunmilayo Olopade, Haibo Lu and Moe Alkhafaji

Founded / Location: 2013 / Chicago, Illinois

Capital raised: Did not disclose

What they do: Cancer IQ helps oncologists collect genetic information from cancer patients and compare that information against a large database of similar patients, with the goals of identifying high-risk patients and offering preventative treatment.

What was the spark behind the company? The need came from Dr. Olopade’s expert observations that genomics can be used to predict, pre-empt, and personalize cancer, but this has not been broadly adopted in community settings. There is far too much for doctors to process, it is far too time consuming, and takes a team of experienced specialists to make optimal decisions.

SocioTransit (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Niral Desai, Pranav Shah, Alap Shah and Dawn Wall

Founded / Location: 2012 / Copenhagen, Denmark

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: SocioTransit helps travelers earn extra money by serving as peer-to-peer couriers for individuals or businesses to need goods or mail delivered to that same destination.

What was the spark behind the company? “The Idea struck Pranav when he forgot his phone in a Berlin hotel and had to courier it Copenhagen, which cost him $150, much more than the price of the phone. So, we thought if we can create a network of travelers who are already traveling on same route, then this can be a blessing for the seekers and earnings for the travelers.” – Niral Desai

Sao Paulo, Brazil competition winners

Edukar (Education competitor)

Founder: Roberto Felipe Tesch

Founded / Location: 2012 / Sao Paulo, Brazil

Capital raised: $500,000

What they do: Edukar’s platform connects investors with top-performing students, allowing them to invest in students who agree to pay a percentage of their future income for some number of years.

What was the spark behind the company? “More than 90 percent of people do not have access to higher education no matter how hard they work, how good they can be and how much they can produce. If no one invests in them, they will simply have no chance in life. As I worked for more than 10 years in financial markets, I knew there had to be a business model capable of bringing opportunity to these students, because investing in education is profitable – we just needed the right way to plant and extract that value.” – Roberto Felipe Tesch

Solarbrush  (Energy competitor)

Founder: Ridha Azaiz

Founded / Location: 2014 / Santiago de Chile, Chile

Capital raised: $50,000

What they do: Solarbrush manufactures robots that clean solar panels in arid regions, such as deserts, providing an alternative to costly and sometimes dangerous manual labor in high heat and high voltage environments.

What was the spark behind the company? “I had the idea actually as a school kid in 1999, so I was a worldwide pioneer on the issue, but the market was not ready back then. I am on the mission to deploy an army of robots in the fight against global warming.” – Ridha Azaiz

Medicinia (Health competitor)

Founder: Daniel Branco

Founded / Location: 2014 / Sao Paulo, Brazil

Capital raised: $1.5 million

What they do: Medicinia’s digital platform allows doctors, patients and hospital staff to communicate and share critical, time-sensitive information more easily, especially at health care institutions that lack a streamlined information-sharing network.

What was the spark behind the company? Have you ever been in a hospital as an inpatient wondering: What am I waiting for? When is that MRI being performed? When is the doctor coming to see me?  Shouldn’t I have been taken to surgery already? If you have, you know hospitals are hectic places, where people do not always work collaboratively, because communication is broken.” – Daniel Branco

Transit Labs (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Marcelo Fujimoto and Karim Hardane

Founded / Location: 2013 / Sao Paulo, Brazil

Capital raised: $200,000

What they do: Mandae’s mobile app lets users snap a photo of an item that needs to be shipped, and the company sends a driver to pick it up, package it and ship it off via the appropriate carrier.

What was the spark behind the company? “We ran an e-commerce store and our biggest pain point was shipping. Between the two of us, we personally packaged and carried thousands of items to the post office. What we realized was that in Brazil’s R$10 billion small package transport industry, comprised of millions of shippers, there isn’t a single person that enjoys the shipping process. We created Mandaê to solve this huge problem.” – Karim Hardane

Cape Town, South Africa competition winners

SquirrelThat (Education competitor)

Founder:  Willie Maritz and Brad Ardenink

Founded / Location: 2013 / Johannesburg, South Africa

Capital raised: $100,000

What they do: SquirrelThat provides a note-taking program that allows users to capture what they learn immediately on mobile devices and share it with friends and groups with similar interests.

What was the spark behind the company? “ A lot of the recent innovation in education focused on learning content distribution, packaging and access. Today, we all learn differently – learning is not any more about memorizing stuff, but about considering what is relevant and useful and doing something with it, and that’s what our service facilitates.” – Willie Maritz

Khaya (Energy competitor)

Founders: Billy Hadlow and Dave Lello

Founded / Location: 2012 / Cape Town, South Africa

Capital raised: $30,000

What they do: Khaya sells solar power packs through a prepaid voucher system, providing electricity to customers in developing countries who do not have access to the AC grid power normally provided by utilities.

What was the spark behind the company? “Billy was moved after seeing a scholar studying at night under a street light. He developed a solution to replace kerosene lamps with a battery and LED lights.” – Dave Lello

Anasodiabitiz (Health competitor)

Founder: Chibuzo Anaso

Founded / Location: 2013 / Cape Town, South Africa

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: Anasodiabitiz provides an online and mobile platform to help patients with diabetes and their doctors to monitor the individual’s lifestyle, health and nutrition data and design custom treatments to help them manage the disease.

What was the spark behind the company? “I have had to deal at work with an increasing number of patients who are living diabetes, and their plight often seems to be worse than those living with HIV. Most are helpless, moving from one doctor or practice to another, hoping to find solutions for their problems. Then I thought of a way of interacting with them while managing their conditions and putting them in charge of their care.” – Chibuzo Anaso

Mellowcabs (Smart cities runner up)

Founder: Neil du Preez

Founded / Location: 2012 / Cape Town, South Africa

Capital raised: $280,000

What they do: Mellowcabs manufactures and operates electric mini-cabs for public transport in cities, with its main source of income coming not from passengers, but from advertisers.

What was the spark behind the company? “I’ve always been really interested in public transport, and the idea of a Mellowcab vehicle seemed extremely super cool and very viable. I did a lot of research about successful business strategies, entrepreneurs, business principles, sectors and ethics before starting to embark on this path.” – Neil du Preez

Tel Aviv, Israel competition winners

Lingual.ly (Education category runner up)

Founder: Jan Ihmels and Orly Fuhrman

Founded / Location: 2011 / Tel Aviv, Israel

Capital raised: $800,000

What they do: Lingua.ly offers a digital language learning program that combines an online dictionary with a personalized flashcard system to teach beginner through advanced learners.

What was the spark behind the company? “The Web provides a unique opportunity for language learning spanning all subjects, levels and registers with a constantly updated array of authentic content, but it’s very hard to use in its raw form. As language learners and academics, we know from research and experience how learning must be organized to be efficient, through gradual expansion of existing knowledge with repetitive exposure to new facts. Lingua.ly was designed to bridge the gap between the incredible yet overwhelming wealth of online content and the requirements for systematic learning.” – Jan Ihmels

 Winflex (Energy competitor)

Founder: Eliezer Kliatzkin and Vladamir Kliatzkin

Founded / Location: 2009 / Kibbutz Moran, Israel

Capital raised: Did not disclose

What they do: Winflex, led by a father-son duo, has developed a new rotor and a unique inflatable wind turbine design that improves the economic viability of wind energy projects.

What was the spark behind the company? “Dr. Vladamir Kliatzkin formulated the idea for an inflatable rotor while working on a basic research project to evaluate the feasibility of a hovering wind turbine that can harness energy from the jet stream. Development of the rotor was part of the proof of concept phase.” – Eliezer Kliatzkin

Medisafe (Health category runner up)

Founder: Omri Shor and Rotm Shor

Founded / Location: 2012 / Haifa, Israel

Capital raised: $1 million

What they do: MediSafe operates a cloud-based, medication-management platform called “Virtual Pillbox” that attempts to assess why individuals sometimes fail to adhere to medical prescriptions and encourage better patient engagement and medication adherence.

What was the spark behind the company? “Inspired by his diabetic father’s accidental insulin double-dose, Omri Shor co-founded the company to help people manage their medication regimens and health.” – Yaara Grinberg Dana, MediSafe Director of Strategic Partnerships

Pink Park (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Tomer Blustein

Founded / Location: 2011 / Tel-Aviv, Israel

Capital raised: $1 million

What they do: Pink Park is an online marketplace that connects home and business owners who want to earn money for renting their space with drivers in need of a place to park.

What was the spark behind the company? “It came from the smartest city ever created – the living cell. During my Ph.D studies in cell biology, I came across proteins in a “parking” cell that operate with a similar mechanism. It inspired me to create a similar solution in the real world.” – Tomer Blustein

Beijing, China competition winners

iMedia.fm (Education competitor)

Founders: Raj Sodhi, Byron Chen and Brendan McMahon

Founded / Location: 2011 / Beijing, China

Capital raised: $200,000

What they do: iMedia is an online English language program for Chinese children ages 4 to 11, which includes lessons, exercises, games and assessments, as well as some offline materials.

What was the spark behind the company? I took inspiration from the challenges and experiences I have had in my life teaching my two kids from such a long distance, as I am in China and my children are in the U.S. I want to offer a model for children to have fun, learn, and engage in experiences that helps them realize their amazing talents.” – Raj Sodhi

Beijing J&F (Energy competitor)

Founder: Wang Da and Wang Di

Founded / Location: 2011 / Beijing, China

Capital raised: $160,000

What they do: Beijing J&F manufactures a small device that plugs into a car’s diagnostic system and delivers real-time feedback to mobile phones, helping drivers improve their engine’s efficiency and reduce harmful emissions.

What was the spark behind the company? “Oil consumption and emission gas pollution are one of the biggest headaches for China and the world, and the vehicle industry consumes most of the oil and produces most of the emission pollution. As we have spent nearly 15 years in the automotive industry, we want to do something to address those two issues.” – Wang Da

Coyote Bioscience (Health competitor)

Founder: Sabrina Li

Founded / Location: 2009 / Beijing, China

Capital raised: $5 million

What they do: Coyote Bioscience has developed small, battery-powered molecular diagnostic devices, allowing patients to conduct clinical, genome-related analysis that has traditionally had to be performed in a research lab.

What was the spark behind the company? “When I was a research student, I was always hoping to have smarter tools for gene analysis to relieve the day-and-night experimental work. When I became a mother, I was always feeling helpless when my baby got a fever and I didn’t know how to treat it. So now we are trying to make smart tools and low-cost gene analysis tools for both researchers and consumers.” – Sabrina Li

ScanTrust (Smart cities competitor)

Founder: Justin Picard, Nathan J. Anderson, Olivier Delseth, Margot Stuart

Founded / Location: 2014 / Beijing, China and Lausanne, Switzerland

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: ScanTrust creates copy-proof QR codes that can be placed on product packages and verified using a smartphone, helping manufacturers protect against counterfeit goods and helping consumers determine whether a potential purchase is real or fake.

What was the spark behind the company?  Justin is a long-time veteran within the anti-counterfeiting and security industry, having invented technologies to secure products that are now used on billions of units worldwide. He identified a disconcerting duality that exists in today’s world, where awareness of counterfeiting and its negative effects have never been so well known, however, end-users who are buying and using these products, especially in emerging markets, have no power to protect themselves, as no secure, cost-effective and reliable solution exists. From this, a vision was born.” – Nathan Anderson

New Delhi, India competition winners

RockYourPaper (Education competitor)

Founders: Nadeera Nilupamali, Neeraj Mehta and Praveen Samariya

Founded / Location: 2013 / Tallinn, Estonia

Capital raised: $60,000

What they do: RockYourPaper offers a low-cost research article database that helps users publish their research, connect with reviewers and find others with similar subject interests. Currently, the company is targeting emerging markets like South Asia, Africa and Latin America, where students and schools often can’t afford to subscribe to peer-reviewed journals.

What was the spark behind the company? “Our co-founder Nadeera was facing difficulty accessing research articles while doing her Ph.D, as her university could not afford to subscribe to many expensive journals. We decided to solve the problem not only for ourselves but for millions of students who face the similar challenge everyday.” – Neeraj Mehta

Longman Suntech (Energy competitor)

Founders: Sujith Thannikatt, Sameer Patel, Hartej Singh and Priyam Venkat

Founded / Location: 2012 / Mumbai, India

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: Longman Suntech offers solar power systems to consumers and businesses in India at no upfront costs, with the initial funding provided by solar companies, after which customers simply pay for the electricity they consume every month from the equipment.

What was the spark behind the company? “I was working as a consultant for a solar power firm in the United Kingdom. While doing research, I discovered the enormous potential for solar power in India. Soon, the rest of us were on board and Longman Suntech Energy with the concept of Solar Leasing at its core was born.” – Sujith Thannikatt

Zest.md (Health competitor)

Founder: Vinayak Garg and Piyush Bansal

Founded / Location: 2012 / Delhi, India

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: Zest.md provides an e-clinic platform for health coaches, allowing them to provide online consultations and to stay updated with their clients and patients.

What was the spark behind the company? “About 60 percent of U.S. adults track one or more of their health parameters, but that information is typically not shared with doctors or health practitioners in a regular manner. We decided to close this loop and provide a robust platform with which health coaches could consult their clients better, even remotely.” – Vinayak Garg

Spaceship App (Smart cities competitor)

Founders: Alap Shah, Arjav Dave and Niral Desai

Founded / Location: 2013 / Bangalore, India

Capital raised: No outside funding

What they do: Spaceship’s ride-sharing app lets drivers input their destination, find riders who need to go the same direction, pick them up and collect cash-free payment during their travels.

What was the spark behind the company? “Every big city in the world needs to solve traffic issues and we are trying to solve them by designing the most amazingly simple mobile app as an end-to-end solution for ride-sharing. Imagine a city where everyone’s needs are met because people make the personal choice to share. Spaceship is an effort towards a shareable city future.” – Alap Shah

Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.
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