FAQ & Advice
The following frequently asked questions have been compiled to assist individuals preparing their application for the competition. Please note, though, that the responses given are valid only for the recently closed 2016 competition and subject to change in future seasons of GIST Tech-I.
If you have a question and you cannot find it listed here, please feel free to email [email protected] and we will be happy to assist and offer advice. We may even add your question to the library for others to learn from as well.
- GIST Tech-I Basics
- Competition Eligibility
- Idea Stage vs. Startup Stage
- Focus of the Application
- Types of Ideas and Startups Considered
GIST Tech-I Basics
WHAT IS GIST TECH-I?
GIST Tech-I is an annual competition for science and technology entrepreneurs from emerging economies around the world. Aspiring innovators pitch their Ideas or Startups online, and the global voting public and experts choose up to thirty contestants to receive an all-expense paid trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) to showcase their ventures and receive intensive training. GIST Tech-I winners, selected by mentors and entrepreneurs at GES, win prizes and receive up to three months of one-on-one mentoring.
WHAT IS THE GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP SUMMIT?
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), where GIST Tech-I Finals are held, is a platform to facilitate the exchange of views and ideas between global business leaders and entrepreneurs and strengthen alliances among entrepreneurs around the world. The GES is a follow-through on President Barack Obama's emphasis on entrepreneurship as a pillar of U.S. global engagement, underscoring the importance of entrepreneurship as one of the most powerful ways for individuals to improve their own economic circumstances, and in turn, their lives.
The first GES was held in Washington D.C. in 2010 and has since been held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2011; Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2012; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2013; Marrakesh, Morocco in 2014; Nairobi, Kenya in 2015; and Silicon Valley, USA in 2016.
HOW DOES THE GIST TECH-I COMPETITION WORK?
- Eligible entrepreneurs submit an online application, which includes a 90-second pitch video, for their Idea or Startup.
- Expert panels compromised of regional experts, scientific and technological experts, and innovation and entrepreneurship experts evaluate each application and select approximately 50 Idea Stage and 50 Startup Stage semifinalists.
- Semifinalists put their networking and marketing skills to the test in an online public voting round.
- Scores from the preliminary expert review round and the vote totals from the voting round are combined to determine which 15 Idea Stage and 15 Startup Stage applicants will advance to Finals.
- Finalists travel all-expenses paid to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) where they receive in-person training and mentorship, network with entrepreneurs and investors, and pitch their Idea or Startup in front of GES attendees for the chance to bring home seed capital prizes.
IS GIST TECH-I FOR ME?
If you are aged between 18-40 years old on the application deadline, are from a GIST-eligible emerging economy, and have a great science or technology Idea or Startup, then the answer is YES! If you have an Idea or Startup but are looking for funding or mentoring assistance to take your project to the next stage, then the answer is YES! If you enjoy participating in exciting competitions and networking with peers, then the answer is YES!
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PAST GIST TECH-I COMPETITIONS?
Visit our News and Past Winners page for information on GIST Tech-I alumni.
WHEN IS THE APPLICATION DEADLINE?
The application period for the 2016 competition has closed. Please stay tuned to www.gistnetwork.org for updates on future seasons of GIST Tech-I.
Last year’s full eligibility criteria can be found in the 2016 Program Announcement (also available in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish). Please note that eligibility and rules are subject to change for future competition seasons.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM ELIGIBLE TO APPLY?
During the 2016 competition, individuals had to meet ALL of the following eligibility requirements:
- The applicant must be aged 18-40 years old at on the day of the application deadline.
- The applicant must be a citizen of at least one of the 135 GIST-eligible emerging economies (full list here).
- The applicant must not hold dual-citizenship or permanent resident status in a non-GIST economy.
- The applicant must not submit more than one application per GIST Tech-I competition year.
- The applicant must not be a previous GIST Tech-I finalist who traveled to and competed in the GIST Tech-I Finals at GES.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY IDEA OR STARTUP IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE COMPETITION?
In addition to meeting the applicant age and citizenship requirements above, 2016 applications had to be for Ideas and Startups that met ALL of the following eligibility requirements:
- The Idea or Startup must be for-profit. Applications from non-profit ventures or NGOs will not be reviewed.
- The Idea or Startup must be developing an innovative science or technology solution with market potential in a GIST-eligible economy.
- The Startup must be less than three years old.
- The Idea or Startup must be, at least in part based, in a GIST-eligible economy.
- The Idea or Startup must be developing or selling products and services that use its own innovations in science and technology. Applications from organizations that buy and resell technologies and other goods will not be reviewed.
- The Idea or Startup must not submit more than one application per GIST Tech-I competition year.
I CURRENTLY LIVE IN AN ELIGIBLE EMERGING ECONOMY, BUT I AM A CITIZEN OF AN ECONOMY WHICH IS NOT ON THE GIST LIST. CAN I APPLY?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. GIST Tech-I is only open to all those who are citizens of a GIST-eligible emerging economy. If your startup team includes someone who does meet the eligibility requirements, he or she could submit the application and act as the team’s representative instead.
I CURRENTLY LIVE OR STUDY IN AN INELIGIBLE ECONOMY (E.G., U.S.A.), BUT I AM A CITIZEN OF AN EMERGING ECONOMY ON THE GIST LIST. CAN I APPLY?
As long as you are not also a dual-citizen or permanent resident of a non-GIST eligible economy, yes. If you are a citizen of eligible emerging economy AND your business will be focused or based in a GIST-eligibly economy, you are eligible to apply to the GIST Tech-I Competition.
I AM A STUDENT WITH A BACHELOR'S DEGREE. CAN I PARTICIPATE?
There are no minimum education criteria for qualifications to compete in GIST Tech-I. GIST Tech-I encourages eligible applicants of all educational backgrounds to apply.
CAN THE TEAM BE COMPRISED OF ONLY ONE MEMBER?
Definitely! Some of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs in the world have achieved their success on their own.
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN BE ON ONE PROJECT TEAM?
There is no limit to the number of people on a project team. However, all teams must appoint one person to represent the team throughout the entire competition. This person is required to meet all of the eligibility requirements and is the person under whose name your application should be submitted. Your team representative will also be the only person to travel to and pitch your project at the GIST Tech-I finals, should your application advance. If you have any specific questions as to who you should choose to represent your team do not hesitate to email [email protected] for advice.
I HAVE MULTIPLE PROJECTS THAT NEED FUNDING. CAN I SUBMIT MORE THAN ONE BUSINESS PLAN APPLICATION FOR THIS COMPETITION?
No. Each individual/startup is only permitted to submit one application to GIST Tech-I.
Idea Stage vs. Startup Stage
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY VENTURE IS AT THE IDEA OR STARTUP STAGE?
An entrepreneur should apply as an Idea Stage venture, if…
- He/she has research or a technology with commercialization potential.
- He/she has not started a business yet and is willing to start a business.
- He/she has defined the qualifications of a management team needed to execute the idea.
- He/she has started to identify advisors.
- He/she has started market research.
- He/she has a plan for developing the science or technology, but does not yet have a working prototype.
An entrepreneur should apply as a Startup Stage applicant if his/her venture…
- Is less than three years old.
- Has some funding already—either through revenue, through external financing (from public or private sources), or a combination of both.
- Has a working prototype that is currently in a testing or pilot stage and that can be made available for commercial release soon.
If you still have any questions, please feel free to get in touch and we will be happy to work with you on an individual basis to ensure that you complete your application.
DO IDEA AND STARTUP STAGE APPLICANTS COMPETE AGAINST EACH OTHER?
GIST Tech-I is broken down into two distinct stages, Idea and Startup, with an equal number of participants in each stage advancing to the finals at the GES. That is, half of the GIST Tech-I finalists will be Idea Stage and half will be Startup Stage. Once at finals, the entrepreneurs compete within their stage for seed capital prizes. The stages only compete against each other for a few overall awards at GIST Tech-I Finals (i.e. Outstanding Female Entrepreneur, Science and Technology Excellence Award, etc.), which vary each year.
Focus of the Application
WHAT ARE THE JUDGES LOOKING FOR IN MY APPLICATION?
Applications are broadly evaluated based on the Idea/Startup’s significance, scientific and technical merit, and commercial potential. This includes a consideration of the business strategy presented, the Idea/Startup’s proposed management team, what problems the idea solves, what the benefits of such an idea are, and how this product compares to competitors. The application will be reviewed using specific criteria laid out in the season’s Program Announcement.
WHAT MATERIALS WILL I NEED TO SUBMIT?
In past seasons, the GIST Tech-I application has consisted of a 90-second pitch video, a short summary of the Idea/Startup, and a 750-word executive summary that addresses all of the criteria outlined in the season’s Program Announcement. This format is subject to change in future seasons, but generally, the GIST Tech-I application amounts to fewer than 1,000 words of writing. Applicants will therefore need to concisely explain the problem their project addresses, the science and tech behind it, and their business plan.
All written application materials must be in English, and the pitch video must be in English or with English subtitles provided.
Please stay tuned to www.gistnetwork.org for updates on future GIST Tech-I Competition’s official rules and application format.
DO I NEED TO DEMONSTRATE THAT MY IDEA WORKS AND THAT IT IS PRACTICAL?
It is not necessary to have a finalized, market-ready product to apply to GIST Tech-I. However, you should be able to demonstrate that your idea is technically feasible and practical, to explain the work and team needed to develop a viable product, and to demonstrate that you have identified and understand your target market.
HOW DO I IDENTIFY MY TARGET MARKET?
Innovation is exciting, but in order to do well in this competition, you need to also show that there is a need for your product and that customers would be willing to buy it. Start by identifying the problem your technology solves and who that problem affects. Why would those people buy your product over alternatives? For whom would your product be affordable? Check out the GIST Tech Connect session on Product Market Fit for tips.
Types of Ideas and Startups Considered
TO WHAT SECTORS/INDUSTRIES IS GIST TECH-I OPEN?
GIST Tech-I is open to Ideas and Startups across science and technology sectors. The important thing is that your business/idea be built around your own scientific or technological innovation. Past applicants have had projects in Agriculture, Energy, Education, Environment, Health, and Information and Communication Technology sectors. If you do not feel your project fits in one of these broad sectors, please contact [email protected] for advice, or use the “other” option provided on the application.
CAN PURELY RESEARCH PROJECTS APPLY?
You may apply with a research project provided that the project has a demonstrable commercial potential, your intention is to convert the project into a for-profit company, and you have started to form your business plan. If you are very early on in your research and your product is still very far from being commercialized, unfortunately you are not eligible to apply to the competition.
CAN WE SUBMIT AN APPLICATION FOR A SERVICE OR DOES IT HAVE TO BE FOR A PRODUCT?
Services are often great innovations. Provided that your service relies on a scientific or technical innovation you developed, we are happy to review your proposal.
DO I HAVE TO PROVIDE A NEW IDEA THAT HAS NEVER BEEN INTRODUCED TO THE MARKET?
You do not need to provide a completely new idea, but you need to show that you are approaching the problem in an innovative way. How can you solve this problem better than your competitors who might have a similar product? What technical or scientific innovation are you bringing to the idea?
DOES MY IDEA/STARTUP NEED TO BE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET, OR CAN I HAVE A PRODUCT OR SERVICE FOCUSED ON MY LOCAL MARKET?
Products and services for the local market are more than encouraged to apply. If you are at the Idea stage, we advise you to focus on developing within your local (“pilot”) market. If you are at a more advanced Startup stage, we would like to see that you have aspirations and a strategy to eventually enter other markets. These do not have to be geographical markets; they can also be new demographic new markets or niches (for example, if your Idea/Startup serves children, maybe you want to eventually expand to serving adults or the elderly). It is important to describe both your current market and potential markets.