Lately it seems that a day doesn’t pass without the media bemoaning the lack of progress in resolving the Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis, the failure of the congressional super-committee to reach agreement on deficit reduction, severely diminished liquidity in the European banking system, a palpable slowdown in the emerging economies of the world and the auction of German bonds that was not fully subscribed. All of which has contributed to a crisis of confidence which could potentially tip us into a recession.
However, as bleak as the outlook may be, there is cause for optimism. Entrepreneurship is alive and well throughout the world and ultimately it will lead us out of this darkness by creating new companies that will create jobs. Perhaps if it were not for the headwinds cited above it might even be flourishing.
The past two weeks have been exhilarating being surrounded by so many bright and enthusiastic entrepreneurs with an intense desire to succeed. First it was the 7th Annual Intel Global Challenge at UC Berkeley. It is a global business plan competition that encourages student entrepreneurs and rewards innovative ideas that have the potential to have a positive impact on society. Teams competed from 60 countries and were whittled down to 30 teams from 20 countries that were brought to campus. Over a period of several days 24Silicon Valley venture capitalists and industry executives culled the group down to the 8 finalists.
The Intel Foundation awarded $100,000 in cash prizes: first place and $50,000 went to Forward (Gaitu) which is an integrated, web based platform that enables consumers to add special effects to photos without expensive and hard to use photo-editing software.
Second place and $20,000 went to Maxygen-mobile DNA of Russia which invented a low-cost, portable DNA test solution used at the point of care to quickly identify thousands of infectious diseases.
Third place and $10,000 went to NanoDiagX of Egypt, which used gold nanoparticles to develop a virus test that can detect Hepatitis C in less than an hour at one-tenth the cost of current commercial tests. Four other teams won special science awards of $5,000 each.
It was a remarkable evening and the keynote presentation by Dr. Genevieve Bell from Intel was absolutely fascinating. Dr. Bell is an Intel Fellow and Director of User Interaction and Experience in Intel Labs. I cannot remember the last time I was so riveted by a keynote speaker’s presentation. Her compelling presentation on where technology is headed in the future is well worth watching and can be seen by clicking on this link. The presentations of the 8 finalists follow Dr. Bell.
A week later it was the Keiretsu Forum’s annual Angel Capital Expo with some 350 angel investors, institutional investors and entrepreneurs participating.
The Keiretsu Forum is one of the largest angel investor networks inNorth America. Since its founding in 2000, members have invested over $260 million in companies in technology, consumer products, healthcare/life sciences, real estate and other industries with high growth potential. Northern Californiamembers are among the most active having funded 20 companies in 2011 and 16 in 2010.
The twelve companies that made presentations were:
Medicore Global develops advanced technology for reducing skin infections through a unique textile fiber application.
Cartelligent helps clients purchase a car, including best price negotiation, trade-in service, financing and lease analysis, and delivery of the new vehicle at any one of its locations
PaperCutz is a publisher of mass market graphic novels (comics in paperbacks) to the tween/teen audience. The graphic novel market is the quickest growing in book publishing.
iCapEquity provides real estate owners and developers with the necessary equity capital to secure construction loans from traditional lenders.
Belveron Real Estate Partners is a secondary real estate partnership focused on creating early liquidity for institutional and individual real estate investments.
Les Concierges is a provider of global concierge services and solutions. Concierges are supported by a state-of-the-art proprietary Global Concierge Technology system.
Bucha produces Kombucha, a natural, low calorie, fermented tea with a history as a health elixir.
HydroVolts designs, builds and sells portable micro-hydropower turbines powered by water currents for distributed renewable energy generation.
Zamzee is a fun, engaging and scientifically proven movement-based incentive program to get young people and families moving more.
AMHC Inc. is a holding company that acquired two cutting edge technology firms with a strong revenue history as well as a portfolio of technology patents.
Clearly there is a bright future ahead. It is evident that the entrepreneurial spirit with its creativity and passion is alive throughout the world. There is little doubt in my mind that many of the presentations of the past two weeks would meet the “holy grail” test of a venture capitalist friend -it presents an elegant solution to solve a complex problem.