Israeli startups showed spectacularly at the finals of the Global Innovation Awards 2016, a global startup competition featuring 21 startups from around the world competing for $1.5 million in cash prizes.
NiNiSpeech, which developed a revolutionary digital platform for treating speech disorders, took first place in the competition. AerialGuard, which developed an autonomous navigation system for unmanned aircraft, came in second place.
The competition was initiated by Chinese consulting firm ShengJing360. The Beijing finals are part of the Entrepreneur Festival, attracting entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world.
This is the second consecutive year that an Israeli startup won first place in the competition. Last year, Israeli startup DiaCardio, developer of innovative software for decoding echocardiograms, took first prize.
The two Israeli winners competed against 21 finalists from across the globe: 10 from China, six from the US, three from Israel and two from Europe. The prizes totaled $1.5 million in cash, with no equity. The winners were selected by 11 judges from around the world and real-time voting from an audience of over 1,000 people. The finalists were selected from 3,000 international startups in an eight month process spanning four geographic regions.
The top 5 startups will each receive $200,000 in cash, while the startups in 6th to 10th place will each receive $100,000. The finalists will also embark on a road show with Chinese internet giants over the next several days. The ShengJing Group is also considering investments in some of the startups through a dedicated investment fund set up for the competition.
Israel was represented in the competition by Israeli ambassador to China Matan Vilnai and JVP partner, Yoav Tzruya, both of whom spoke at the event. Yoav Tzruya served as a judge in the competition.
Semifinals were held in four locations throughout the world over a period of more than eight months.
Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) led the Israel segment of the competition, in collaboration with leading technology companies and service providers. These included EMC, Microsoft Accelerator, Poalim Hi-Tech, Ernst &Young Israel, HFN, Nautilus by AOL, and PR Newswire.
The Israeli competition was launched in March 2016. Eight startups out of 140 ventures from across the Israeli hi-tech ecosystem reached the semifinals. Three finalists were then chosen to represent Israel at the global finals in Beijing.
NiNiSpeech was represented at the competition by founder and CEO Yair Shapira, whose child suffers from a speech disorder. “Winning first place is a personal victory for me and offers new hope for millions of children and adults around the world who suffer the daily agony of difficulty in expressing themselves fluently,” said Shapira.
NiNiSpeech is revolutionizing speech therapy using unique mobile technologies. Speech therapy is a $30B annual industry, but is still conducted with traditional methods, resulting in very poor outcomes – i.e., an 84% relapse rate in stuttering therapy. NiNiSpeech offers a first of its kind digital solution that boosts therapists’ and patients’ experiences, maximizes outcome, and reduces costs. The NiNiSpeech system is used in top clinics around the world and is endorsed by key leaders in the industry. NiNiSpeech has won prestigious awards in the US, Europe, and China for its novel, disruptive products.
AerialGuard was represented by co-founder Itay Orr. “The competition has been an empowering experience which underscored the real need for our technology, which, with relatively simple means, transforms every drone into a smart, autonomous drone,” said Orr. “China is a drone superpower. We hope that our win at the competition will help us advance our operations in China and in other strategic locations in East Asia.”
AerialGuard develops advanced autonomous navigation systems for unmanned vehicles. The company targets the civilian drone industry and helps drone manufacturers automate their drones by providing them with autonomous capabilities such as ‘sense and avoid’ and intelligent navigation in compliance with the drones’ missions.
According to JVP partner Yoav Tzruya, who served as a judge in the finals: “The fact that an Israeli startup won the competition for the second year in a row not only demonstrates Israel’s technological edge and out-of-the-box thinking, but also the Israeli tech market’s relevance for global markets, specifically with a focus on China. A true competitive edge is based on deep technological thinking and acute understanding of market and problem domains. Israeli entrepreneurs have become great at both, paving the way to an outstanding Israeli startup ecosystem.”