To date, the Intel Global Challenge has helped more than 125,000 startups turn a big idea into a business.
Here, some IGC successes:
When he was growing up in Sofia, Bulgaria, Kiril Rusev remembers his classroom looking like something out of the last century. “It was very Old World,” he says. “Learning was based heavily on textbooks and paper.”
Despite the absence of high-tech learning devices, Rusev knew the technology revolution was racing along in other parts of the world. He imagined what it would be like to have computers in Bulgarian classrooms.
A decade later, when faced with the task of creating a project for a college business plan competition, Rusev’s childhood dream resurfaced. He was determined to bring Bulgarian classrooms into the digital age.
If funding was the barrier, he would find a way to use what schools already had. By this time, most classrooms were equipped with at least one computer and a projector. His solution: Fill the classroom with inexpensive computer mice – one for each student – and connect them to a single computer via interactive software.
But it wasn’t until Rusev qualified for the 2009 Intel Global Challenge that he truly saw the potential of his idea. As he and his team – dubbed Nimero – shared their “Envision” software design and business plan with other teams, experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists at iGC, Rusev found the inspiration and support to forge ahead and build a business. His goal: bring technology to the next generation of students to enable them to follow their dreams.
Today, just a few years later, Nimero’s “Envision” platform has grown from serving a few students in Bulgaria to more than 25,000 around the world.
And it’s making a difference. Teachers report that students are more engaged and on task. Student performance is on the rise, particularly for those who often struggled with traditional methods.
As a result, Nimero is expanding its educational software offerings to include platforms for special education and university students.
Octavian Florescu had worked as an engineer in the semiconductor for a decade, designing computer chips and “experiencing the technology revolution firsthand,” when he made a simple observation. The way computers communicate bears a striking resemblance to how molecules in the human body communicate. With that insight, Florescu began to think about how technology could be used to read these molecular communication signals and provide valuable health information, quickly and precisely.
His solution: a small, disposable, point-of-care diagnostic device that can measure multiple analytes, accurately, from a drop of blood (much like a glucose monitor) and instantly transfer the results to a mobile device or wireless service-accessed electronic medical record (EMR) system.
The potential of this high-tech, lab-on-a-tab device qualified Florescu and his startup, Silicon Biodevices, a spot as a finalist at the 2009 Intel Global Challenge (IGC) at UC Berkeley.
“The experience gave us new insights into corollary businesses, which helped us understand our business better,” says Florescu. “We also benefited from the connections, from talking to other teams and judges, and from just sitting in the audience to absorb ideas like how to make our presentations better. It was very valuable.”
Since then, the company acquired funding and succeeded in developing a working prototype. One application of this lab-on-a-tab is a fast, accurate test, which can be used in clinics or even at home, to determine if a person with chest pain is experiencing a heart attack, allowing those in need to get urgent care more quickly. Pharmaceutical companies could also use the device to monitor patients’ personal reactions to drugs on a case by case basis, allowing them to develop medications more effectively and safely.
Applications for this next-generation, point-of-care diagnostic device are virtually limitless.
“Our diagnostic device truly represents the next generation in personal healthcare,” says Florescu.
Silcon Biodevices is poised to remain at the heart of this new US $50 billion market.