by Seung Lee
From South Africa, Finland, Indonesia and more, 28 startups from 27 countries congregated in San Francisco in the “Startup World Cup” on Friday in hopes of winning $1 million.
The annual competition to select the best startup outside of the Silicon Valley bubble came to a finale in downtown San Francisco, as startup founders made their presentations to a panel of six venture capitalist judges in two minutes. The winner was Leuko Labs, a startup from Cambridge, Mass., which developed a non-invasive white blood cell level monitor for home-based screening to detection possible infection in chemotherapy patients.
In the United States, there were two regionals on the East Coast and West Coast. Representing the West Coast was a Berkeley-based startup called Nodexus, a biotechnology company which seeks to commercialize a microfluidic platform which can deliver live single cells for applications including gene editing, drug development, and more.
All 28 startups won the regional competition in their respective companies to advance to the final round. The total number of startups who applied for this year’s Startup World Cup was almost 20,000, according to Annis Uzzaman, co-founder of the San Jose-based Fenox Venture Capital, to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Fenox Venture Capital started the Startup World Cup last year.
“We saw more participation than ever from people around the world,” said Uzzaman. “The Startup World Cup brought together startups, VCs and corporate investors from every continent for a cross-learning experience, and type of Silicon Valley event that will foster innovation in the U.S. and globally. Perhaps the real beauty of the Startup World Cup is that everyone had something to learn and like.”
Other finalists offered startup ideas that ranged from an app connecting Brazilian truck drivers to available delivery jobs, a Northern Irish wearable which helps with weight loss to a Japanese robot which folds laundry.
Before the startups went on stage for their presentation, the Startup World Cup lined up a bevy of prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to speak about their experiences, what they see as the future and other practical advice on becoming an entrepreneur. Some of the speakers were former LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman, former Cisco CEO John Chambers and prominent venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.
Speakers gave advices such as not relying on experts too much and sticking with their original vision even when their company struggles.
At a private luncheon between the 28 startup founders, Chambers — who now runs a venture capital fund called JC2 Ventures — said he envied the young entrepreneurs.
“Dream big,” said Chambers. “I wish I was in your position right now.”