Start-up fever is spreading across the globe as tenacious innovators find new ways to change the world. To get a pulse reading on the trend, the Kauffman Foundation sponsors Startup Open, a competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week that starts Nov. 18, where entrepreneurs pitch their fledgling ideas and compete for an a trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow, next March. The ultimate end goal: learn how to attract seed funding and a coveted spot in an incubator or accelerator.
Here are the top 25 start-up contenders that are trailblazers in such places as Croatia, Ghana, Israel, Mexico, Norway and the Philippines. They were chosen based on the uniqueness of their concept and the vast market potential for their product or service. Here's a look at their breakthroughs.
—By CNBC's Lori Ioannou
Posted 18 Nov. 2013
Aha Design's aim is to fight youth unemployment by providing young people with paid opportunities to showcase their digital talents, get client recommendations and improve their employability in the digital sector. Many young people already have the necessary skills to get a job in this sector but lack the opportunities to prove themselves to employers, so Aha Design tries to solve this problem.
Any young person can sign up at www.ahadesign.co.uk if they are suitably skilled in one of the site's service areas, such as graphic design, web development, app development and video production. Aha currently has 50 students signed up and is continuing to grow. Its clients range from individuals and charities to businesses and government institutions.
Biosen Mx is a revolutionary start-up that creates solar energy applications that provide an urban oasis, or green spots, around all Mexican cities. These spaces function as a relaxation agent that helps improve human relations. The start-up works with a lean philosophy: manufacturing with the least possible volume of materials and energy. For example, Biosen Mx applies recycled materials, such as tires, soda cans and wood, combined with solar energy for decorative lightning. It also includes small greenhouses where children can learn how to plant and get their own fruits, seeds and vegetables.
Mexico City, Mexico
Carrot is Mexico's first car-sharing service—an affordable and convenient alternative to the high costs and hassles of owning or renting a car. The start-up offers cars of various sizes that are kept at self-service pods throughout Mexico City. Customers can rent a vehicle through their smartphone and access it with an RFID card for hourly or daily use. The rental comes with tariffs, including gas and insurance.
The concept helps curb CO2 emissions in cities. It has been proved that each shared vehicle removes between 15 and 20 private vehicles from the road daily. Carrot's long-term goal is to diminish up to 1 percent of Mexico City's car traffic (40,000 vehicles daily) and pollution.
New York, N.Y.
Classicl is a mobile app (currently iOS only, with plans to expand to Android and Windows Mobile) that helps music lovers get the empty seats for performances through peer-to-peer mobile micro-philanthropy.The app allows people with extra tickets to give them away and transfer them free of charge. According to the most recent survey from the National Endowment for the Arts, most of the 2.6 million Americans that regularly attended classical music or opera performances in the last five years got their first tickets for free.
Classicl was created as a way to connect these two groups—those with extra tickets and those looking to experience live music—with a simple, fun, socially integrated mobile app. Classicl gives more people the opportunity to get their "first tickets" and become regular supporters of the arts while reducing what we consider the worst kind of waste: an empty seat.
Interactive simulations can help explain how things work. Explain3D simulations are built in a 3D environment where the user can rotate and play with them. The main advantage is interactivity—providing educational simulations on technical mechanics, such as engines, jackhammers, submarines and hydroelectric dams. Processes that are difficult to imagine are explained in a fun way. The simulations are online at explain3d.com, and access to the system is free for all users.
There are no technical requirements. It is currently available for Windows and Mac OS X.
Oak Park, Calif.
Force Impact Technologies was started by friends Anthony Gonzales and Bob Merriman with the goal of improving the safety of athletes in a meaningful and cost-effective manner. The FIT Guard™ aims to solve the problem of athletes returning to play when they have a high probability of having a concussion.
The innovative mouthguard uses standard ethylene-vinyl acetate "boil and bite" plastic that is an industry standard. However, it also contains electronic components—an accelerometer and gyroscope—and proprietary software that measures the force and rotational acceleration of an impact. The software runs data through an algorithm and illuminates colors to indicate risk. Green indicates little to no risk, while red indicates the likelihood of concussion for the user.
Frilp—short for Friend's Help—is a social platform to discover shopping venues, businesses and services through personalized recommendations from your friends and trusted circle. Inspired by the way information gets passed over in real world, Frilp is built to counter information overload and offer better insight. Frilp identifies the right people in your network who are most likely to help you with the recommendation you are looking for while surfacing relevant recommendations for you to consume instantly.
Human blood transfusions (whole blood, plasma, platelets) save millions of lives every year. However, blood is temperature-sensitive and must be properly stored and transported to avoid spoilage. HemoStable has developed a suite of new technologies to greatly improve the safety and temperature uniformity of blood and blood products during collection, shipping and use, while decreasing labor and material costs. Among these technologies is a new type of thermal "siphon" that relies on a flexible material that conducts heat very quickly away from areas you want to keep cool, instead of trying to maintain constant temperature through sheer bulk of insulation.
It has been demonstrated that it can keep a bag of whole blood within 2 degrees of the optimal temperature range of around 4 degrees centigrade for 20 hours without supplemental refrigeration. Without this technology, blood in a normal room environment exceeds the safe range within 20 minutes. HemoSafe's goal is to make the use of blood affordable to even the poorest countries in the world while not sacrificing safety.
Inno Domotics is a company devoted to developing and building innovative home-automation solutions with the vision of making every house into a smart home through affordable technology. Its offerings include controls for lighting, appliances, home security systems, energy consumption monitors and more. The goal is to help users save money with the help of presence and movement sensors, ambient light senors and temperature and humidity sensors configured to create optimal energy-saving conditions.
iSpye is a social travel app that shows you places, events and people around you in every city in the world. The application was built to solve a common problem faced by many people as they travel—how to make sure you discover the best things to see and do, share the places you love with others, and meet new people along the way. The social network for travelers enables users to build an international friends list, invite friends to specific venues and send virtual postcards.
Listnerd is a new, vibrant community of nerdy listmakers. Create, share and explore interesting and interactive lists about the stuff in your life you care about. Top red wines, video games, the best Beatles' albums or animated movies—it is all on Listnerd, a kind of "Trip Advisor for everything."
Lost in a sea of people, a lot of musicians are clueless as to what to do about their obvious talent for creating music. Lost Beat is a musical networking platform that aims at establishing an identity and creating a brand out of musicians—promoting raw and original talent rather than commercial music.
As the name suggests Lost Beat is a community of talented people who have still not been recognized by the general public. It is a virtual space where musicians can connect to fellow musicians, their fans and an ocean of opportunities to make it big in the music scene.
Medifund is a crowdfunding platform that aims to solve a global shortage of doctors by supporting existing or would-be students around the world who are struggling to pay their school expenses. Students start a crowdfunding campaign to get donations or loans that they would pay back when they become doctors and start earning a salary. Think of it as Kickstarter meets Kiva for medical students.
My Dealer Service, a web-based app that works on all smartphones and mimics the look and feel of a native smartphone app, gives customers real-time updates—via text and/or email—on the status of their vehicle while it is at a service department for repair. After a customer drops off their vehicle, repair workers conduct standard diagnostics and can use their smartphone to take pictures of issues and send to the customers.
My Dealer Service allows the customer to rate their satisfaction at each step of service through a built-in web survey—negative responses notify the service department manager so he or she can address issues immediately and be more responsive to the needs of the customer.
San Francisco, Calif.
Notelr is a web and widget platform that combines the traffic of a blog network and the revenue options of a personal blog—allowing users to create content that engages their audience and earn money from their writing. Independent publishers, website owners and bloggers earn money by embedding smart monetization widgets into their content that enable readers to conduct transactions without the need to leave the application.
Notelr provides a simple CMS interface that gets writers up and running in seconds. Notelr widgets also work in such blogging platforms as WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and more.
OFunnel was founded with the idea that business happens when people meet people and establish profitable relationships. But relationships are often hard to establish, and getting a key introduction can be the difference between success and failure—especially if you are in the business of sales, recruiting, business development or consulting.
OFunnel acts as an intelligent filter that tracks all of your social network activity and notifies you when something happens that would be useful to you. It helps uncover opportunities in your network that would normally get lost in the noise.
OFunnel Alerts does two key things to help people establish those relationships. First, it tracks users and alerts them when someone in their network makes an interesting connection. This could be contact at a particular company or someone in a particular type of role. Second, it provides a way for teams to work together to aggregate connections so people are no longer working in silos.
Panacea is a mobile application that allows customers to verify by themselves whether a medicine is genuine or fake—an all-too-common problem in Bangladesh. The start-up imprints a unique eight-digit code, a QR code and a three-color code sequence into every medicine pack in the manufacturing line of partner companies.
During purchase, a customer enters the eight-digit-code or simply scans the QR code. If the information on the product packaging matches the information stored in the app, the medicine is genuine. If there is no match, the app automatically sends a notice of forgery, including place, time and type of medicine forged, to its servers so action can be taken against counterfeiters.
Moreno Valley, Calif
Retail Run is a peer-to-peer on-demand delivery service that allows its users to get what they want when their friends are shopping, or get recommendations and requests from their friends when they are shopping. Want a Big Mac while your friend is in McDonald's? Click on the item in the mobile app and it sends them the order. It even allows for payment from PayPal (or cash on delivery).
Retail Run also recommends products as you enter stores, based on products that your friends buy from those locations.
Coffee and tea lovers unite. No longer will you have to choose between the two; Roispresso combines the best of both in one. The ideal choice for tea and coffee lovers alike, Roispresso looks like coffee and is served like coffee, but it is in fact a caffeine-free rooibos tea with an extraordinary antioxidant potential.
When the tea is paired with the right superfood, Roispresso makes for a really powerful combination.
RosterBot takes the work out of play. It is a team-management service that is employed by tens of thousands of teams—from Pee Wee leagues all the way through adult recreation leagues—in more than 300 different sports and activities. RosterBot's team-management tools make life easier for managers and players alike; saving hours per week in sharing schedules, handling RSVPs, managing positions and collecting fees (among other mundane but essential tasks).
RosterBot is evolving its feature set and expanding to support mobile and tablet devices. RosterBot began as a hobby by founder Ian Bell, an avid recreational hockey player who recently partnered with Stanley Cup–winning NHL veteran Bret Hedican to pursue RosterBot as an enterprise in late 2012.
Splinter.me helps employers headhunt by matching their job descriptions with the best candidates for the role—all in real time. To do that, it looks into 50 variables, such as soft skills, hard skills, interests, connections and more, that it extracts and analyzes from people's activities online. Splinter.me saves search time for both employers and talents.
For employers, Splinter.me is a sourcing and selection tool. For talents, Splinter.me is a place for presenting all the relevant information about their professional life in an automatic way.
Teddy the Guardian is an individually designed and completely organic plush teddy bear that measures children's vital signs seamlessly as they play—in a way that is completely intuitive and interactive, without causing stress or inconvenience to the child. Each Teddy has built-in medical sensors that monitor a child's heart rate, body temperature and oxygen saturation and sends the data wirelessly to a physician's tablet or web application.
Every time a child puts Teddy's paw on his forehead or hugs him, sensors detect values, record them and transmit in real time. Teddy the Guardian uses state-of-the-art medical sensors and open-source platforms, as well as web and mobile applications developed by the start-up's team, and is supported by an advisory board consisting of worldwide established experts in the medical industry.
Growing businesses and start-ups require top-notch employees with outstanding technical experience in their field. Telehire Partners found out from most recruiters and hiring personnel that finding top technical talent—experienced software engineers, network professionals, graphic desginers and IT professionals—was their greatest challenge.
Telehire Partners has built a massive database of skilled tech workers participating in online skill-based communities—like GitHub, StackOverflow and others—who have shifted their energy from looking for better work to making their work better.
One Step Solutions has a clear vision of using technology to make lives simpler and make a dent in the universe. Its XGear app is programmed to scan your vehicle to retrieve valuable information, including fault codes and prognostic data, that helps keep your vehicle in top-notch condition.
Zzzzapp is a Wi-Fi software content delivery platform that is designed to offer businesses and advertisers a "mobile first" way to showcase their goods and services to on-site customers using any Internet-connected mobile device. Zzzzapp users are instantly redirected to a a highly-interactive "welcome" page that features location-specific content and custom applications to keep them actively engaged for an average of more than 40 seconds.
For business and advertisers who want to reach on-site captive audiences, Zzzzapp offers a 24/7 opportunity to capture and monetize them via sponsored links, applications and/or display video advertising. Its metrics not only validate actual audience delivery but also time of day, how often, what language, what device, how long and more. Zzzzapp's beta site is currently generating more than 100,000 welcome page views/month. Its focus will be conference centers, duty-free shops and other venues with high-density captive audiences that top-tier global advertisers want to reach.