This past year saw one of the most difficult times in the history of our modern global community.
Here at GIST we appreciated, like never before, those who worked on the front lines of this calamitous time. Teachers and healthcare workers joined the ranks of superheroes. We all quickly learned what it really means to “work remote” as well as the term “Zoom fatigue.” And while some events were cancelled, others went virtual. Many businesses could not weather the storm and closed. Others were able to pivot and reimagine themselves. Throughout this harrowing time, the GIST community showed true resilience.
As the pandemic began to shut down the world, a number of groups stepped in to take on the challenges it presented. At the forefront of addressing these issues were the GIST Innovation Hubs (IHub). Each Innovation Hub is, by design, a focal point for the innovation ecosystem they serve, and we have over 40 of them strategically placed all over the world. As such, they were ideally suited to bring the innovation mindset to this unique problem. We saw IHubs rally their startups to enter COVID-solution competitions, develop online virus infection tracking systems, and create physical products to help the most vulnerable. In true collaborative fashion, IHubs organized their ecosystems to quickly develop and distribute health and safety products at record speeds. As a result, these ecosystems formed even closer ties to their partners and innovators.
The struggle to maintain effective programing while becoming a near virtual-only community resulted, for many, in a cessation of all normal activities. While many in-person programs were cancelled or postponed, GIST aimed to find a balance. And although some of our planned events were moved on the calendar, we were also able to shift certain programs to a virtual model and we were impressed with how innovators adapted to these programs.
In April, GIST launched the GIST Innovates Ukraine program. Designed to be an accelerated eight-week training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology, the program went 100% virtual and ended up extending throughout the fall, becoming GIST’s longest running program to date. This allowed even more time for the intensive customer discovery process where participants quickly identified and evaluated opportunities and made informed decisions on how to best move their idea forward. A celebratory closing event took place virtually in December, highlighting one of the most highly participant-rated programs GIST has ever run.
Similarly, in partnership with the National Academy of Sciences, we found that the virtual GIST U.S.-Pakistan Startup Training in July and August boasted a vibrant cohort of innovators all eager to participate. Through the 6-week long program from July - August, Pakistani founders were introduced to internationally recognized best practices in technology commercialization. The results were better than we’d hoped for considering the newness of the virtual structure. Participants overwhelmingly praised the training.
This unusual year also allowed us to begin building the GIST Virtual Accelerator, a completely asynchronous acceleration certification course for innovators. Utilizing years of knowledge in startup formation and growth, the program provides a treasure trove of resources to bring innovators to the next level. Trialed in Malaysia and Tunisia to great success, we officially launched the GVA in February, 2021.
In addition to running new virtual programs, GIST continued to build alliances through new partnerships with the idea of further strengthening GIST’s commitment to its community. This past year, GIST entered into a partnership with the Angel Capital Association to support S&T startup innovation across the globe. The partnership seeks to expand opportunities for market access, grow foreign investment opportunities, and will foster additional joint ventures.
At the heart of GIST’s mission is the work we do with innovators across the world.
The talented founders we have been so fortunate to have in our programs bring their amazing energy and creativity to ground-breaking solutions that have true impact. For many young innovators, GIST provides the launch pad for their startup journey. Innovators like Tonee Ndungu and Nermin Sa’d, Hoang Dao Xuan, and Syed Abrar Ahmed have counted GIST as a pivotal contribution to their successes. Whether it’s in a GIST Startup Training, a GIST Innovates program, or a competition such as the GIST Catalyst Pitch Competition, participants have gone on to achieve many future successes, spring boarded by their training and experiences within the GIST community. We were delighted to see many innovators, despite the difficulties this year brought, succeed in their endeavors, and their startups thrive. Here are a few of the successes that made us proud in 2020.
GIST Business Incubation and GIST Startup Training alum Yakau Buta of Stringershub.com raised $500k seed funding backed by Starta Ventures.
GIST Business Incubation alum Baurzhan Shalbayev’s startup, ClickLog raised $50k seed funding.
GIST Catalyst winner Ajaita Shah and her startup Frontier Markets raised successful pre-series A funding of $2.25 million.
GIST Business Incubation alum Elven Technologies raised pre-seed funding of $160k.
Arsalan Somjee (GIST Tech-I 2016 3rd place winner) of Wonder Tree was selected for the UNICEF Innovation Fund.
GIST alumna and mentor, Dr. Iffat Zafar of Sehat Kahani was awarded a grant by Microsoft's 4Afrika Initiative for her work bringing quality, affordable healthcare to those most in need.
GIST superstar alum Syed Abrar Ahmed of Azaad Health/Liber Health was chosen to represent the UAE in 2020 Entrepreneurship World Cup.
GIST Business Incubation alum Elven Technologies reached the regional finals of the StartUp World Cup.
GIST Business Incubation alum ElKoffa won 2nd Place in the Entrepreneurship World Cup Algeria.
GIST Business Incubation alum, Tanzer Abazi of FindBug won the ICT Cyber Security Award.
GIST Alumnae Sophia Triantis and Madeline Lee of Ithemba LLC reached the UC Davis Big Bang! Business Competition finals.
GIST Innovates Ukraine team RAIM, was accepted into STARTA Ventures Accelerator.
GIST Business Incubation alumna Alyona Glushko, founder of iCardy, received the Award of the President of Ukraine for Young Scientists.
Hydrotec Solutions, whose founder is GIST Business Incubation alumna Rituparna Das, won Cisco’s Global Problem Solver Challenge India Impact award ($10k USD).
GIST alumna and mentor Dr. Iffat Zafar of Sehat Kahani was one of 10 winners of the Elevate Prize.
GIST Tech-I 2019 finalist Varinder Singh’s startup received the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award.
GIST Business Incubation alum ThermoNorth received business development support after winning a startup competition sponsored by BP Energy in Azerbaijan.
Rituparna Das of Hydrotec Solutions, a GIST Business Incubation alumna, had her Arosia water kiosk implemented in India.
GIST Alum and Tech-I 2019 winner Donatus Njoroge teamed up with fellow Kenyan innovators to develop an app for tracking spread of COVID.
Box Synergy, winners of the 2019 GIST Startup Training in Argentina opened their product line to the U.S. market.
GIST Innovates Ukraine team Melytix has orders for 350,000 initial units of their software platform for convenient viewing and quick analysis of data from various services such as Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Mailchimp and others.
GIST Innovates Ukraine team Krovospas, a next-generation hemostatic agent and a range of devices that stop arterial bleeding within moments, has a contract with the military in Ukraine to test their product for various applications.