There is a notion that innovation comes from places like research centers or labs, but in reality innovation is found in all places. This is what we learn each year with the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, which challenges entrepreneurs, companies, and innovators to provide innovative tech solutions to worldwide issues. Last week, Verizon announced 12 finalists (four in each of the three categories) have been invited to attend the awards presentation for the 2015 Powerful Answers Award hosted by The Talking Dead’s Chris Hardwick on December 9 in San Francisco. Three $1 million winners will be announced at this event and one first runner-up and two second runners-up in each category will receive $500,000 and $250,000 prizes, respectively.
As we are entering the final stages of the PAA awards, we wanted to take a look back at some of the biggest highlights. Last September, Verizon held the Powerful Answers Award finals in San Francisco and San Jose, for 12 startups in each of this year’s competition categories – emergency response, transportation and the Internet of Things (IoT). Indeed, nerves were high as participants from around the world rehearsed their pitch one last time before standing in front of the judges’ table to present their powerful answer. After three months of honing messaging and strategizing on a go-to-market implementation plans, founders and entrepreneurs made their case to executives from organizations including BMW Ventures, Verizon Telematics, the American Red Cross, the Consumer Electronics Association, AMC Health, and more. Judges evaluated the importance of the social change or problem being addressed as well as commercial feasibility, market strategy, and validation.
“I think we live in a world where people’s expectation about their safety is so high, and time can be so critical. Technology becomes this way to make a difference in people’s lives because, for example, rescuing someone in an hour versus rescuing someone in 24 hours or 72 hours is huge,” said Chuck Wexler, Executive Director at the Police Executive Research Forum and emergency response category judge. From lifeguard drones to first response apps, the emergency response category saw a diverse group of startups offering intriguing solutions to search and rescue challenges. Disaster Mesh, a finalist in the emergency response category, is headed by three female students who met through the Exponential Youth Camp at Singularity University. “We are not engineers by any means; however, we’re passionate about changing the world and participating in this contest has grown our startup significantly,” said co-founder Karla Dana.
Startups received mentorship on their presentations and the development of their ideas. “The coaching we received was extremely helpful and our pitch got a lot better with practice, so that was instrumental for us,” said Melissa Lehman, co-founder of transportation finalist POGO, a finalist in the transportation category. In the IoT category, finalists presented solutions in smart agriculture and smart cities. Connected devices monitoring a barn’s temperature and water usage in an urban home were solutions presented by IoT finalists Smart Barn and CityTaps, respectively.
“I applaud Verizon for providing resources and funding with no strings attached,” said Chris Young, member of the Contra Costa County Search and Rescue. “It’s nice to see organizations, especially large ones, take an active interest in innovative solutions that people don’t often think about. There’s little or no industry opportunity to develop the ideas we’ve seen at the finals and I’m thrilled to see people wanting to be part of the solution.”
Stay tuned as we announce the winners in each category on December 9th! For more information on the 12 finalists, click here.
Related posts from Verizon Ventures:
3 Winning Startups Take-On Why Accelerators Matter
Fueling Innovation: A Look at Where Powerful Answers are Coming From
Verizon Ignites Innovation for Third Year with 2015 Powerful Answers Award