By Claudia Fan Munce
Starting a business is no easy task. According to even the most optimistic studies, three out of every four startups fail, equaling only a 25 percent success rate. To combat these odds, entrepreneurs must search for new ways to gain a competitive edge, network with the right people (foster make-or-break relationships with them), and most importantly, raise funds.
Because they themselves have learned what it takes to succeed, corporations are quickly becoming an important support system for entrepreneurs. According to the National Venture Capital Association, in the first half of 2013, corporate VCs invested an estimated $1.38 billion in 303 deals. Since launching in 2010, IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program has helped startups through mentorship and partnership rather than direct funding—a unique approach compared to other large organizations.
One way the Program helps startups is through IBM SmartCamps, events held around the globe to empower startups to bring new technology to market and tackle the world’s greatest challenges, in such areas as healthcare, water management and energy efficiency.
Entrepreneurs receive mentorship from venture capitalists, industry experts and IBM executives, and then pitch their business to a panel of expert judges. The winners receive mentoring, services, further access to industry experts and deeper partnership opportunities. They also receive an invitation to IBM’s SmartCamp Global Finals and the chance to be named IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.
This year, SmartCamps have been taking place in Russia, Italy, China, Australia and France. This week we will host SmartCamp Silicon Valley 2013 in Mountain View, Calif. The startups we’ve begun to work with there are extremely promising and we can’t wait to see where the program will take them.
Here’s a list of the competitors and what they’ll be bringing to the table:
- Connectem has designed the first affordable commercial platform to securely process mobile data traffic between handsets, encrypted software and the internet, offering it at 10 percent of the traditional cost.
- Coriell Life Sciencies (CLS) has engineered a secure storage repository for genetic data, harmonizing it from different platforms. Held as a medical record available to any physician, patients can test their genome once, store it securely, and access interpretations when needed.
- Focused on brain health, Mindful Scientific has developed an accurate, portable method to assess a person’s level of conscious awareness, diagnosing concussions and cognitive problems in five minutes and compressing hours of lab time.
- Integrating field sensor, control and agronomic farm data for the first time in the industry, OnFarm helps farmers optimize crucial nutrient, water, labor and energy input.
- Toopher is solving online fraud and identify theft through invisible, two-factor authentication for internal and external users, as well as tapping into the location awareness inherent in smartphones for every transaction.
- Rifiniti is advancing office utilization, using analytics and sensors to report occupancy of each office, cubicle and conference room in real time. Scalable across multiple sites, Rinfiniti determines how to use real estate efficiently and sustainably.
Over the last three years, I’ve attended SmartCamps globally, in Boston, SilliconValley, Nairobi, Shanghai, Dublin, Sao Paulo and Sydney. Though I’ve heard hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their business, it never gets boring. There is always a new idea that could change the way we live and do business. However, what I find even more exciting than learning about these new innovative companies is coaching and watching their business grow.
Visit the IBM SmartCamp blog for updates and winners leading up to global finals.