The first truly global InnoVention competition promised the world ... and delivered
Not one, but three, keynote speakers; six eager teams from New York, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi; four judges with a difficult task ahead of them — it all added up to an InnoVention final like no other before.
On April 28, the regional winners of the 2021 competition gathered virtually to hear from NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević; Ramesh Jagannathan, Vice Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at NYU Abu Dhabi and Managing Director of startAD; and Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen of NYU Shanghai — and to pitch the ideas they had been developing since InnoVention kicked off on February 8.
Everyone agreed that the judges (who included Ayoola Brimmo of Cycled Technologies; Jenny Fielding of Techstars; Winston Ma, a Founding Partner of CloudTree Ventures and an NYU Adjunct Professor of Law; and Frank Rimalovski of NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and NYU Innovation Venture Fund) had an unenviable job given the high caliber and competitiveness of the pitches.
It’s a good thing organizers planned entertainment (viewers were treated to a performance by Brooklyn-based singer Tor Miller, booked via InnoVention 2019’s winner, GigFinesse) because the judges had a great deal to deliberate. And by the time the dust finally cleared, several songs later, they realized that they couldn’t pick just one winner as planned.
In the end, the grand prize of $25,000 was awarded to Peer-Minded from NYU Abu Dhabi, creators of a peer-to-peer network for university students in the United Arab Emirates. The platform consists of an online learning platform that disseminates interactive, self-paced mental health support training — valuable, as the team pointed out, because 85 percent of students they interviewed in the UAE reported diminished mental health during the pandemic, and many schools have an insufficient counselor-to-student ratio.
“It was humbling to see three ecosystems come together to help celebrate the progress of the six finalists and the dozens of participating teams that worked tirelessly over the last year,” said Steve Kuyan, Tandon’s Director of Entrepreneurship and Managing Director of the Future Labs.
“Their achievements and milestones made for an undeniably difficult judging decision, and I’m confident that this year, like many previous years, will lead to some truly exciting early-stage companies in the near term. Many thanks to our partners at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai for their hard work to make this such a success, despite the difficult year leading up to finals.”
The unexpected second-place prize of $5,000 was given to NYC team Stan, which envisions a loyalty platform where fans can earn points for engaging with their favorite content, and redeem them for exclusive creator prizes, like a video shoutout.
The audience choice award went to an NYU Shanghai team, Shepard, creators of a DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency)-based hardware solution that turns every elevator button digital, which had already impressed judges during the 2020 Summer Tandon Made Challenge.
Words of excitement and encouragement
I’m very thankful to the InnoVention team and all the resources the Future Labs and NYU Tandon have provided to make this global initiative happen. Global InnoVention marks the first cross-campus entrepreneurial collaboration and is a true presentation of NYU’s expansive multinational network. I’m beyond excited for InnoVention 2022!”
— Ann Huang (President of the InnoVention Society)
The promising startups from NYU campuses represented cutting-edge venture ideas from global innovation centers of Abu Dhabi, New York and Shanghai. The global network of NYU is a powerful engine for future unicorns.”
— Winston Ma (who wrote the investment book The Hunt for Unicorns)
What a great idea to take the NYU InnoVention Competition global this year! Having served as a judge for InnoVention in years past, I can say with certainty that this year's finalists presented the most diverse, impactful, and compelling business ventures that I have seen! Bringing in teams from NYU's Abu Dhabi and Shanghai campuses clearly raised the stakes for all.”
— Frank Rimalovski (NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and NYU Innovation Venture Fund)
I’m thrilled by the global diversity on display here today, but as the first woman dean in NYU Tandon’s history, I have to say I’m equally thrilled that 10 out of the original 14 teams from New York had a woman founder. That’s an incredible testament to both our entrepreneurial spirit and our commitment to making this a welcoming place where everyone’s voice is heard and respected.”
— Dean Jelena Kovačević (NYU Tandon)
We’re living in an age of historically unprecedented opportunity, and participating in InnoVention can be the first step.”
— Vice Provost Ramesh Jagannathan (NYU Abu Dhabi)
NYU Shanghai was established only eight years ago, so in a sense, we’re a start-up ourselves; I’m well aware of the creativity and nimbleness it takes to be a success during transformational times.”
— Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen (NYU Shanghai)