A startup that helps rural communities treat and purify sewage is taking home the top prizes at the GIST APEC Startup Training in Brisbane, Australia. The training, as part of APEC’s Women in STEM events, specifically worked with startups that support women entrepreneurs, vulnerable communities or rural communities.
iSTP System for Rural Coastal Settlements from Malaysia has created an independent sewage treatment plant (also known as iSTP) for rural communities that do not have centralized sewage collection and treatment. The treatment plant is one of the smallest on the market, easily transportable by boat, can fit underneath the toilets of rural water-based communities and treats sewage to meet the specs of Malaysia’s National Water Services Commission.
As the winners, co-founders Rafeah Mustafa Kamal and Rahinah Ibrahim have won the GIST Amazon Women’s First Prize, which includes $50,000 in Amazon Web Services (AWS) credits as well as $5,000 USD in seed capital. As the first place winner, iSTP will also be able to participate in Austrade’s Landing Pads program. The Landing Pads program connects Australian entrepreneurs with economies around the world. As winners of this prize, iSTP will be able to work in the Australian startup ecosystem or at a Landing Pad in either Singapore, Shanghai or San Francisco.
“It’s very fulfilling because this is the first endorsement that we have with the intent of what we wanted – to get this technology to people who can’t even pay for this technology. But we know that they need it,” said Ibrahim. “I’m very happy, I’m very grateful.”
Burnflex from the United States is taking home the second place prize, which includes $25,000 in AWS credits and $2,000 USD in seed capital. Burnflex has developed a foam that can be quickly applied to help protect and treat burns. The formula is being developed for home use.
Cynthia Villar, co-founder of MiBolsillo from Peru, has won the Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur award, which includes $10,000 in AWS credits and $500 USD in seed capital. MiBolsillo is a mobile financial app for entrepreneurs that improves financial health and access to formal financial services.
Amazon Web Services has also generously provided every single participating startup with $1,500 in AWS credits. These credits can be used for tech training or scaling on the cloud – critical resources for science and technology startups.
"I was both honored and humbled to bring AWS support to women STEM entrepreneurs who are working innovatively to launch startups that drive economic growth for communities across APEC while improving social welfare across education, health and ecology," said Mani Thiru from Amazon Web Services. "We want to do all that we can to encourage young women to prepare to become the next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, leaders."
“There is no question that growth of nations around the world is being driven by technology,” said Dr. Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist. “Competitions like this give these young people aspirations to use their science, use their technology, and it’s the job of the rest of the community to support them, to clear the bar.”
A full list of participating startups can be found by clicking here.
The GIST APEC Startup Training was a four-day program that helped startups learn valuable skills, including customer discovery, the Lean Startup Method and how to approach investors. Over 70 percent of the participants were women founders representing 12 APEC economies. Their startup ranged from health care to education.
Thanks in part to the APEC Secretariat and the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the training also included several opportunities for participating entrepreneurs to meet policy makers, other entrepreneurs, and APEC Chief Scientists and their equivalents. This type of networking allows founders to expand their perspectives, receive feedback on their ideas and grow as entrepreneurs.
The GIST APEC Startup Training is one of several programs by the GIST Initiative that supports women founders and entrepreneurs from more than 130 emerging economies. GIST is the U.S. Department of State flagship science and technology entrepreneurship program. To learn more about the GIST Initiative, click here.
For media inquiries about the winning team, the GIST APEC Regional Startup training or GIST, please contact Tomas Harmon via email at [email protected].