December 12, 2014

Choosing the Brightest Ideas in Four Important Sectors: Powerful Answers Award Announces the 2014 Finalists

After a decade of investing in growth stage startups, we at Verizon Ventures really enjoy the chance to meet and hear from new startups that are working on solutions that make a big social impact. And our involvement in this year’s Powerful Answers Award program was another great chance to do just that.

From the more than 1,870 submissions for the 2014 Powerful Answers Award, ten finalists were chosen in four categories – education, healthcare, sustainability, and transportation. Mostly small companies with big visions, each entrant aims to solve real world problems using technology, and Powerful Answers Award gives them a chance to pitch their big idea.  

Back in October, the ten finalists in each category presented their solutions in front of an esteemed panel of judges hailing from their respective industries. Verizon has now announced the winners in each category who will find out at a live award event in NYC on January 27, 2015 that they’ve won either the runner up prizes of $250,000 or the top prize of $1 millon.. 

Below are the winners in each category: 

Education

The education category had many clever ideas of which these three stood out as leaders. The first, Books that Grow, is a learning acceleration program. According to Books that Grow, 1 billion people worldwide need specialized support to read and learn due to inadequate literary skills. This solution provides a new learning platform featuring Common Core-aligned, downloadable eBooks that adapt to each user’s reading ability, turning learning to read into a personalized experience. School Yourself has created a platform for scalable, personalized education courses. The platform is built by industry experts from Harvard, Google and MIT, and creates actionable analytics that let authors quickly improve courses. Sesame Enable has developed touch-free smartphone and tablet technology designed to serve those who can’t use touch-controlled devices. The technology integrates with games and applications and allows children access to educational opportunities that were previously inaccessible to them.

Healthcare

The healthcare winners tackled tough problems and delivered innovative solutions. Aldatu Biosciences provides a new way to harness the power of a specific technology – Pan Degenerate Amplification and Adaption (PANDAATM) to take an already low-cost diagnostic and, for the first time, enable it for HIV drug resistance genotyping worldwide. Another winner, ORGANIZE, aims to streamline the organ donation process. More than 120,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ donation and ORGANIZE believes that by creating a new donation system with increased portals of entry and a coordinated approach to registration, they can create a modern U.S. organ donation program. Talkitt is a unique speech-based product designed to address multiple disabilities/illnesses including autism, Parkinson’s, stroke, Alzheimer’s and ALS to name a few. They have created a voice-to-voice application that translates distorted pronunciation to understandable speech.  

Sustainability

The winners of the sustainability category sought to bring environmentally sound answers to rural and less developed parts of the world. In the developing world, there are 1.2 billion people without access to reliable energy, and 85% of those people live in rural areas. The first winner, d.light, has created a model for a mobile-enabled distribution grid that provides energy to those in need by designing, manufacturing and distributing solar light and power products throughout the developing world. Another winner, Eco-fuel Africa, helps create cheap, clean burning fuel made of recycled agricultural waste. According to Eco-fuel Africa, 2 billion people across the globe depend on dirty and expensive wood-based fuels leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation and COemissions. To solve this problem, Eco-fuel Africa has created a solution in the form of green charcoal that is sold through a network of female retailers. The final winner in this category, Radiator Labs, seeks to modernize radiator heat technology. Radiator Labs has found a way to help solve wasted energy use through the use of the “Cozy,” a smart, low-cost drop-on retrofit for radiators that eliminates overheating while connecting less sophisticated heating technology to the cloud.

Transportation

The winners in the transportation area solve a variety of problems by rethinking how we transport people and goods. The first winner, HopOn, is changing the experience of ticketing and boarding public transport systems through cloud service technology. Using the HopOn Beacon and associated application, customers can enjoy simultaneous validation and payment with reduced wait times. The second winner, Matternet, specifically targets those countries that have no or limited access to all-season roads and aims to reduce delivery and energy costs to those areas that need it most. Matternet coordinates small flying vehicles to connect rural areas needing goods and services. The final winner, Vaxess Technologies, solves the problem of vaccine access in rural areas. With 97% of vaccines requiring cold storage between 2˚ and 8˚C, and a lack of cold chain infrastructure limits this access. They have created a solution in the form of a soluble, silk-stabilized vaccine that can be shipped without refrigeration.

To find out who the $1 million winners are, watch the Powerful Answers Award Event live on January 27 via www.verizonwireless.com/news. And don’t forget to join the conversation via #VZPAA.

Tags: innovation , Venture Capital , Verizon Ventures , Transportation , Powerful Answers , Healthcare , Education , Sustainability , Start-up