The world's top 25 innovators have concluded pitching their solutions in the GIST Catalyst Pitch Competition Semifinals. Over the course of three days and five exciting pitching events, innovators representing a variety of sectors and regions brought forward their visions for tomorrow’s solutions, today.
Great ideas alone however are not enough; our semi finalists received mentorship, investor feedback, and growth opportunities to help them in their journey to refine their venture development and foster the skills needed to translate their innovations into real world impact.
From this round, five innovators have emerged to present their solutions at the Catalyst Finals on 9 November, 2021. With such a fantastic cohort of semifinalists, these decisions were difficult, and we are so proud of all our contestants for making it this far. Each one of them is a valuable addition to our growing GIST family, and we can’t wait to see what they go on to accomplish in the future. Our finalists however, have one more chance to show the world what they can do, and with this level of talent, any one of them could take home the prize.
Curious as to who these innovators are? Let’s take some time to meet them! In each of the regions represented, innovators have presented solutions that speak to impact at both the regional and community levels, as well as globally.
From Uganda, finalist Mark Musinguzi of Hya BioPlastics is excited to go to the finals to “continue telling our story about what we’re doing at Hya Bioplastics, what we’re building, and the future we envision for eco-packaging on the African continent”. His venture, Hya Bioplastics, uses cassava starch and pulped fibers from banana pseudo stem to create biobased food packaging. Hya Bioplastics' range of food packaging, including fruit and vegetable trays, takeaway food boxes and disposable plates, are a more cost-competitive alternative to petroleum-based plastic packaging. He describes the Catalyst experience as transformative, stating that “winning Catalyst would propel us to the next components of our expansion plan, working to increase our production line, as well as growing our network; we have built great connections here.”
Selen Senal, of ALGBIO, is moving onto the finals as well, representing the European region with her venture from Turkey. Her venture treats industrial wastewater and flue gases with microalgae and produces carbon negative biofuels (biogas, biojet/rocket fuel, bioethanol, biodiesel) and algal bioplastic from these wastes. She describes the mentorship she has received in the program so far as invaluable: "Working with our mentor allowed us to really develop our go-to-market strategy, and working on our points of differentiation from our competitors... We paid a lot more attention to these slides, thanks to that.” She is planning on implementing her learning even further in the Finals, focusing on the unique carbon capture capabilities of her venture. For her, everything she can do to win is worth it: "Winning GIST Catalyst would allow us to connect with other networks, to start scaling... we are here to build networks, while improving ourselves.”
On the role of mentorship, finalist Ayman Sabae of the venture iCheck from Egypt, also spoke of the transformative effect it has had. As a founder who comes from social enterprise, this was the first time he pitched with a strong business component. He explained, “A 90 second pitch is really quite difficult, knowing what really matters and what makes a difference. To be able to test the pitch, be able to make mistakes... Having that mentorship has made Catalyst such a learning experience.” We are sure he will be putting that experience towards the Finals, where he will continue to share his unique vision for iCheck, a service that integrates technology, management and clinical expertise in a way that bridges the geographical and logistical barriers restricting the provision of eye health appointments from those who need it. iCheck's solution enables highly specialized investigative ophthalmologists to visualize and operate remote equipment, which can mean access to services that were never accessible beyond central cities in a way that is affordable, safe, and equitable.
The finalist and people’s choice winner from the Americas, Federico Restrepo of Energia Vectorial, based in Colombia, is an innovator in the automotive sector. Energia Vectorial is a company that focuses on decarbonizing mobility by converting Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEV) into Electric Vehicles (EV,) particularly focusing on last-mile delivery fleets and public transport buses. His victory is personal as well, speaking to the negative effects pollution has had on the health of his family. He shared “One of the best takeaways from Catalyst is the promotion, but the reason we do all of this is to leave a better world for children like my niece, who is suffering from lung damage, and for all the children who she represents around the world who are dealing with the effects of pollution... moving forward matters, and we are excited to be part of that change."
The power of personal perspective and stories is present in the work of the winner from Asia-Pacific, Jay Arneil Gajudo of Galansiyang Inc., in the Philippines. Galansiyang is a forestry support services startup that aims to help the mining industry speed up the process of mine rehabilitation by providing them with drone and IoT technology to automate forestry, including aerial seeding for reforestation and forest monitoring. On winning, finalist Jay Arneil Gajudo spoke of the transformative effect this might have on some of the most marginalized communities in the Philippines: “This is a great opportunity for us, as the Philippines right now is navigating a very challenging recovery from the pandemic, but also is essential as we renew our supply chain for raw materials and to our island as we fight rapid deforestation. So you're not helping us, but are helping the the people who are doing their job with blood, sweat and tears... to the communities we represent, the marginalized indigenous people we work with... this is an enormous help"
We could not be more excited to see each one of these incredible founders put it all on the line in our finals as they compete for tens of thousands of dollars in mini grants and entrepreneurial resource prizes, the opportunity for mentorship and training, a chance to showcase their innovative solution to the entire GIST community including investors, and the prestige that comes with every GIST event.
Don’t forget to join us; You have a part to play as well with public voting! Make your mark on what you think is the most compelling of tomorrow’s solutions, today. Finals Live Virtual Pitching is 9 November, 2021, 10:00 AM EST (03:00 PM UTC.)
See you then, and a huge congratulations to all of our contestants!