Whoever said that good ideas only come out of Silicon Valley? Once again, GIST finalists for the Technology-Idea, or Tech-I, competition identify this as a myth. A team from South Africa has created a low-cost fire detection device and alert system to mitigate loss of life in high-density slums. A startup in Colombia has created a biological wastewater treatment technology that separates out waste for fertilizer and now-clean water for irrigation use. These are just two of the innovations from 23 countries represented in the 30 Tech-I finalists who will compete to win Tech-I at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit this November in Marrakech, Morocco. But how did they get to this stage?
Global Innovation through Science and Technology or GIST is a program led by the U.S. Department of State that seeks to strengthen economies by empowering young innovators around the world. The Tech-I competition, which this year is implemented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is GIST’s annual competition designed to help youth develop successful startups. The entire competition is designed to build the skills and profile of each young innovator.
Take for example, the initial application. Most competitions ask for a business plan. GIST asks entrepreneurs to submit a simple executive summary about their idea or startup and a 90 second video explaining their innovation to a potential customer. Tech-I applicants shared that while creating a video was challenging, it forced them to do something important because now they have a product they can use to promote their venture with real potential customers. GIST expert judges combed through more than 500 applications from 61 countries to down select the 67 Tech-I semi-finalists whose videos were voted on by the general public.
The semi-finalists went to work again, as GIST encouraged them to be innovative in generating public votes. True to form, the semi-finalists outdid themselves with creative outreach and learning how to market their products and services. Many reached out and received radio, TV, and blog interviews to generate awareness of their innovations and the competition. “One of my friends had the idea to set up temporary internet booths/cafes at my alma mater where students could walk in each day and vote daily with the computer on their way to or from class. This proved to be a masterstroke as we had hundreds of students each day who would come in and vote for me,” explained finalist Charles Akhimien from Nigeria. Finalist Dilmurod Eshmuradov from Uzbekistan commented, “I learnt a lot about word of mouth, and I really felt how it look like to advertise products and services. The good news is already I have more than 50 orders for my product.”
The public rewarded the semi-finalists with over 400,000 votes while determining the top 30 who will attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech, Morocco, November 19-21, to pitch for the final round of Tech-I. Are you going to the Summit? You can register here.