The popular South by Southwest cultural event, a virtual gathering this year, has announced the winner of the Pitch Event, as part of the SXSW Online digital event, with innovative recipients ranging from AI to wearable startups.
“Now in our 13th year of programming, Pitch continues to showcase the best technology from around the world, proving our dedication to highlighting today’s most forward-thinking movers and shakers,” said SXSW Pitch event Producer, Chris Valentine.
“Adapting to a digital experience can come with unexpected challenges, but this year’s event was a big success, and we’re thrilled to recognize each of the winners within this mature class of startups,” he noted.
This year’s SXSW Pitch featured 40 interactive technology companies from 8 different categories. These companies virtually pitched and participated in a 5-minute Q&A with three judges.
2021 Winners were announced on Saturday, March 20 at the 2021 SXSW Pitch Awards ceremony hosted by Co-Emcees Andrew Hyde, Paige Hendrix Buckner, and Mandela SH Dixon.
In addition to a winner chosen from each of the 8 categories, the most promising project of the finalists also took home the overall “Best in Show” award.
The category winners of the 2021 SXSW Pitch event in each category are: Artificial Intelligence, Parrot, Inc., Enterprise & Smart Data, Persefoni, Entertainment, Gaming & Content, holoride, Future of Work, Honest Jobs, Health, Wearable & Wellbeing: Leda Health Company, Innovative World, MolyWorks, Smart Cities, Transportation & Logistics, MicroTraffic Intersection Safety Plan 9, and Social & Culture demo, Applied Bioplastics.
SXSW Pitch 2021 crowned as “Best in Show” winner startup holoride as well as awarding “Best Bootstrap” to Refiberd, “Best DEI” to Sisu Global Health and “Best Alternate” to Colorcast.
Each of the winners received $1,000, two badges for next year’s SXSW conference, and most importantly, exceptional exposure to SXSW attendees and potential investors who are looking for the latest in cutting-edge technology and innovation.
Among the strong trends showcased at this year’s event were accelerated innovation within the Health, Wearable & Wellbeing and Future of Work categories, which can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, there was a significant focus on applied artificial intelligence within this year’s presented ideas.
For a complete list of the 2021 finalists, including alternates, and the Pitch event judges, visit SXSW website.
Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. This year the event moved to an all-digital format.
SXSW Online offered conference sessions, music showcases, film screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking and professional development opportunities. And as always, was a key information destination for global professionals.
Byroots.com – Branching Lebanese Roots to the World
E-Commerce for an Impact
When a country suffers from its worst ever economic crisis, initiatives pour in to bring it out of the brinks of total collapse. Financial assistance, humanitarian aid, and increasing solidarity within the community are typical avenues to alleviate the significant sequels of the crisis. As Lebanon has been going through its darkest years, with an ever-deteriorating situation that hasn’t occurred even during the civil war, a project was born. A bridge has been created to connect the invisible roots of the agonizing country to its worldly diaspora. Byroots.com has been conceived as a platform that brings small businesses out of the shadows allowing them to present their products to consumers worldwide. When darkness is around, Byroots constitute a glimmer of hope for hundreds of families who are given a second chance to survive and flourish.
An E-Commerce Platform with A Purpose
A small group of friends have refused to drop the towel, vowing to employ their vast expertise in creatingA small group of friends has refused to drop the towel, vowing to employ their vast expertise in creating a project that will help their fellow Lebanese citizens ride through the crisis with minimal damage. A platform was designed in no time. The management team and a devoted group of developers have taken www.byroots.com to live in a record time. The backbone of the solidarity platform has therefore been created, waiting to be completed with the various products of local suppliers.
Byroots hides a unique operating model behind the fancy website. The e-commerce platform only offers authentic and non-commercial local products to external markets. These products should not be commercially sold in malls and other shopping places. Furthermore, the different products listed on the website cannot be purchased through the website within the country of origin, which is Lebanon in this case.
This weird decision hides beneath it a wise philosophy. The people behind the initiative firmly believe that as they list the different suppliers on the website, individuals within the country can directly visit or contact the local suppliers without needing a third party. The developed platform will only serve to connect external consumers to the local suppliers. The experience will undoubtedly demonstrate its success within the coming months so that the same operating model will be applied to other countries and suppliers.
A Diversity of Products and Payment Methods
In comparison to other e-commerce platforms, Byroots offers a wide variety of local products including food and “Mouneh”, art and crafts, beauty and personal care, and clothes, among others. The quality of the offerings is meticulously inspected by a dedicated group who contacts the suppliers, visits their workplace, looks closely at their products and finalizes the Compared to other e-commerce platforms, Byroots offers a wide variety of local products, including food and “mouneh,” art and crafts, beauty and personal care, clothes, and others.
The quality of the offerings is meticulously inspected by a dedicated group who contacts the suppliers, visits their workplace, looks closely at their products, and finalizes the agreements. The products are treated differently according to their type and value. Small items are generally placed on consignment while listed on the e-commerce website. Short-lived products and other expensive products are handled with care, with the Byroots team organizing the products’ handling, pick-up, and delivery.
In addition to the product diversity, the website supports most international payment methods, including PayPal. Moreover, multiple currencies are supported, saving the buyer currency exchange fees.
The Sky is the Limit
The noble cause triggered byroots.com is also continuously evolving. The team is currently helping local suppliers and producers gain exposure, leading them with branding, marketing, commercialization, packaging, and shipping.
The mission of the team does not end there. Byroots.com has recently supported the children’s cancer center in Lebanon (CCCL), channeling part of the revenues to the center. The e-commerce platform is also partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The Lebanese model will also extend to other countries worldwide, spreading the message that started in the small Mediterranean countries to other places as well.
Byroots.com is just starting, and the initiative’s prospects look very promising. The country desperately needs the dose of freshness and hope provided by the small group who selected the center of the capital Beirut as a launching platform for the world. The Byroots team has a vision “to create a better future for home societies, connect diasporas to their roots, and preserve the savoir-faire of local traditions through becoming the platform of choice for selling local products globally.” The launch of byroots.com has been massively successful, with hundreds of local suppliers committed to the new initiative. The hardworking team will foster the platform’s development and success, which will “bring the home market to their global customer.”
New Microsoft Initiative to Support 10,000 African Start-Ups
International tech powerhouse Microsoft announced Wednesday new initiatives to speed up the development of 10,000 African startups and quick-track investment in Africa’s startup environment during the next five years.
According to the tech giant’s announcement, the new initiatives will be responsible for its recently established Africa Transformation Office (ATO). As such, the Founders Hub also includes opportunities for startups to sell to Microsoft’s corporate and enterprise customers.
While it also helps with some of the initial challenges startups face when finding customers, Microsoft will provide startups with geo-expansion activities to scale up by selling in new countries.
“The Founders Hub allows Microsoft to engage with accelerators, incubators, and tech hubs across the continent, “says Gerald Maithya, Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.
In parallel, the tech giant is establishing new partnerships with incubators and accelerators across the continent, including Greenhouse, FlapMax, Grindstone, and Seedstars, providing industry-based startups with access to technical skills, markets, and funding opportunities.
The above partnerships will give African startups access to markets and skilling programs, including prospects to co-sell with Microsoft, and access to technology, with support from Microsoft’s engineering and product teams for co-innovation options.
To enable startups to scale using investment funding rapidly, Microsoft is establishing industry alliances and partnerships with venture capital investors to facilitate access to $500 million in potential funding for African startups.
In addition, this funding will come from a group of venture capital investors, who will devote a part of their financial support to startups in the Microsoft network.
Some of the Founders Hub characteristics include opportunities for startups to sell to Microsoft’s enterprise and corporate customers.
Microsoft will also support startups in geo-expansion activities, which can scale up by selling in new countries or regions.
“The Founders Hub allows Microsoft to engage with accelerators, incubators, and tech hubs across the continent. Our partnerships with key African accelerators provide crucial support to accelerate growth-stage startups with their business development and market expansion plans,” says Gerald Maithya, Startups Lead, Microsoft Africa Transformation Office.
It is worth mentioning that Microsoft will partner with Business to Business (B2B) focused startups, scaleups, “unicorns, as in the businesses that can become unicorns.
“Each startup is unique and exists beyond the limitations of a one-size-fits-all partnership model. This is why Microsoft will tailor each partnership to the needs of individual startups, providing support and access – whether to technology, markets, and co-sell opportunities, funding, or digital skills – to enable them to grow and contribute to the wider economic growth of Africa,” says Maithya.
Africa’s Tech Startups Could Secure $90 Bln Funding, Report Finds
In a report released by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Africa could be taking the lead in securing whopping funding exceeding $90 billion by 2030 for tech startups, once policymakers drive growth by trailing essential reforms.
The British institute estimated in its report a business-as-usual scenario compared to an enhanced policy-environment scenario by utilizing data extended from the past six years.
The report estimates that by 2030, African startup funding will accumulate to $93.9 billion, driven by the presupposition that will secure prospects from the previous years to accelerate the financing.
For this goal to be fulfilled, governments will have to shift their focus towards supporting higher and more extensive tech funding, making use of the business environment, and empowering networks, according to the former UK prime minister’s institute.
The adjusted policy environment strategy will be established on the annual growth rate of venture-capital funding to the continent between 2015 and 2020.
“Recognizing the importance of these ecosystems for jobs and growth, governments are putting in place bold measures to support tech entrepreneurs. With the creation of the AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Area], the possibility of a continent-wide single digital market is now real,” the report stated.
“If current positive trends are sustained, and the transformative potential of technology is unlocked, Africa could secure tech-startup funding of more than $90 billion by 2030,” it added.
On the other hand, in reference to Africa’s underlying positive year-on-year (YoY) growth of almost 32 percent ranging from 2015 and 2020, the business-as-usual scenario includes a financing projection of $62 billion by 2030.
The scenario will be strictly based on the assumption that limited governments and stakeholder intervention will be embracing a much more expanded tech ecosystem – a business framework that will maintain a secure startup development in the continent – with no notable intentions of appealing towards additional investments and underdeveloped networks.
African-based tech startups have witnessed remarkable growth in the past years, hitting a new rate, six times more accelerated than that of the global average.
In 2021 alone, tech startups raised $4.9 billion, growing by more than triple in a matter of one year. While the funding maintained its rise, ponderous regulations, the digital-skills gap, limited financing, and fragmented markets indicate that the continent currently represents only 0.2 percent of the global startup valuation.
In parallel, the report also indicated that Africa’s tech sector currently stands at an “extremely hopeful moment,” setting ten suggestions for “supercharging” the African tech startup framework, including the formation of a public data-sharing platform on such startups, creating innovation funds, and fund of funds, developing a pan-African startup network and supporting the right policy environment.
The report elaborated on the matter, revealing that “governments should provide a platform on which investors can access reliable information about tech startups to reduce information asymmetries (imbalance of knowledge between parties). The near absence of credible public databases on African startups increases the costs of transactions and due diligence while reducing investor confidence and diminishing financing inflows to tech innovators.”
Adding, “to connect tech stakeholders from across the ecosystem, and offer a forum for sharing best practice and problem solving, we propose the launch of a ‘Pan-African Startup.’ The network would aggregate and magnify the views of startups and their stakeholders to directly influence policy as well as establish pan-African targets for the tech ecosystem.”