The lively digital innovation trend isn’t restricted to national ecosystems such as Silicon Valley, French Tech or Startup America. There are also organisations like Seedstars, a huge international network that identifies and supports projects launched by young entrepreneurs all over the globe.
In four years, Seedstars Group has created the ideal conditions help startups in emerging markets thrive. During this time it has gradually put in place summits, national and international competitions, accelerators, experimentation labs, mentoring, venture capital and collaborative environments. Co-founded in September 2012 by three Swiss entrepreneurs – Michael Weber, Adrien de Loës and Pierre-Alain Masson – Seedstars Group was originally an incubator and now works with a network of public and private partners.
Seedstars World: the flagship event
Seedstars World is a competition that rewards the best startups identified through a series of challenges organised over a year in several countries. The projects selected and supported are then submitted at the Seedstars Summit when the overall winner is chosen.
The Seedstars Summit is held every year around the end of the first quarter. 63 finalist startups attended in 2016, which took place on the campus of EPFL in Lausanne. These 63 projects were selected from a total of 4,000 applicants from 55 countries.
In order to make it to Global Winner and win $500,000 in equity, applicants had to give a 5-minute pitch followed by a 5-minute question & answer session. Prizes worth between $25,000 and $50,000 are awarded in each of the following categories: Education, Satellite & Connectivity, Fintech, Innovation, Intel Solutions Challenge (Hardware, IoT, Cloud and Analytics) and Women Entrepreneur. Every year, Seedstars and its many partners award up to $1 million in prizes.
The 2016 winners
Last year’s top prize went to Giraffe, a South African startup that developed a low-cost app for recruiting staff and putting employers in touch with candidates.
In the Women Entrepreneur category, meanwhile, Loan Duong won for OmniUp Ads, a solution that offers free Wi-Fi access in public places after watching an advert. Launched in Morocco in 2014, OmniUp Ads already has an impressive portfolio of clients, including Maroc Telecom, Société Générale, Coca-Cola and Club Med.
Winners in the other categories last year were MapTasking, a mobile platform able for tracking field-operations live (Panama), travel agency TripMyDream (Ukraine), eora3D, a 3D scanner powered by a smartphone (Australia) and SlideBean, an app for creating slideshows, (Costa Rica).
Looking ahead to Seedstars Summit 2017
For the past few months, Seedstars World has been planning the next Seedstars Summit, which will take place on 6 April 2017. There are a number of stages in the selection process, from local to regional.
The local competitions took place between May and October 2016 in 296 cities worldwide including Bamako (Mali), Accra (Ghana), Lima (Peru), and Tehran (Iran). During these competitions, the best seed-stage startups are identified, given pitch training and up to $600,000 in funding to help them reach the Seedstars Summit stage. 600 startups will be selected at this stage.
The regional summits were then held between the end of November and mid-December 2016 in Argentina, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Rwanda and Bahrain. The 65 finalists from this final heat will be able to apply for the Seedstars Summit 2017 – but there can be only one winner!