The 2018 Startup World Cup Grand Finale

The 2018 Startup World Cup was a series of startup competitions held worldwide sponsored by Fenox VC.  Over 5000 startups were screened and over 300 companies competed in 28 regional events.  This culminated at the Grand Finale held in San Francisco on May 11, 2018 with 28 regional finalists pitching for the $1 million grand prize.

The finale was not just pitch competition; it included fireside chats and presentations from innovation “A” listers including:

  • Linkedin Founder Reid Hoffman
  • Former Cisco CEO John Chambers
  • Sun Microsystems Co-Founder Vinod Khosla
  • Siri Co-Founder Adam Cheyer
  • Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph
  • Former Tesla CIO Jay Vijayan

I really was overwhelmed by the caliber of the speakers. 

They gave out lots of great advice and insight.  I think my favorite line came from Netflix Co-Founder, Marc Randolph, when he said that his wife thought the idea of Netflix was stupid (it’s a good thing that he didn’t listen to his wife). 

As for the competition, 28 finalists varied vastly from a boating safety device to a personal AI. Each finalist had two minutes to pitch which was strictly enforced by a harsh buzzer when their time was up. The pitch was followed up a minute and half Q&A from an esteemed panel of judges. So, without much further ado, drum roll please….

1st Place

Leuko Labs  was the winner of the 2018 Startup World Grand Finale and $1 Million Prize came from the United States East Coast Regional Event. They improve the quality of life and outcomes for chemotherapy patients and others at risk of severe neutropenia, through the first noninvasive white cell monitor. (I would comment more but I personally didn’t understand their technology and personally boiled it down to: “help cancer patients” – which is always a good thing). 

2nd Place

Flitto is the 2nd Place winner coming from the Sour Korea regional finals. They use a combination of artificial intelligence and crowdsource translators to provide real time translation.

3rd Place (Tied)

Strap Technologies tied for 3rd Place and is the finalist from Mexico. They developed a wearable device for the blind that replaces the traditional white cane.  It’s essentially a harness that has sensors that can detect obstacles and warns the wearer with vibrations. 

3rd Place (Tied)

Wallbox tied for 3rd place and is a finalist from Spain. Wallbox is a next-generation system designed to optimize the loading of electric and hybrid vehicles, reducing the loading time, and the costs of your energy invoice.      


I would like to mention a few of the startups that didn’t place that I found very interesting.

I’d Buy That (If I had the Money)

Seven Dreamers, the finalist from Japan, showcased the Laundroid. The Laundroid is a robot that folds laundry. It’s essentially a cabinet that you put your clothes in the cabinet and it folds your clothes.  Sadly it doesn’t sort socks. Now, when I’m folding the family laundry, I often wonder if I can afford the $16K price tag. Then I realize that I can’t, and continue folding. 

Best Infomercial 

Modius Health is the finalist from Northern Ireland. They created a wearable that is worn over the head that helps weight loss. The user would wear it for a maximum of an hour a day. Their FAQ states that a low level electrical pulse is generated that curbs the appetite. I felt like I was watching an infomercial and I was ready to pull out my credit card to pay for the wearable and its $499 price tag. If their tech proves to be able to help people lose weight, they’ll make a mint.

A Little Scary...

Oben is the finalist from the United Arab Emirates. In their pitch, their CEO described a Personal Artificial Intelligence (PAI) Assistant that uses blockchain. I tried to follow their presentation and didn’t get it until I saw their demo. They created an animated avatar based on the user’s image. Their platform allows the user to train the AI to act in the user’s place. They were not able to articulate the value but I personally found the concept a little horrifying. It actually reminded me of an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror. 

And, well, the Rest

It’s important to mention that all the finalists won the regional startup contest in their country.  With that, I’ll take a little time to list them all:

  • Brazil: TruckPad – is mobile market place for truckers and has increased independent trucker revenue by 50 percent.
  • Germany: Cognigy – is a platform that is used to build self-learning speech control and cognitive abilities into applications and connected devices.
  • South Africa: EmptyTrips – is a Freight Open Exchange that reduces waste of commercial trucks, trains, planes, and container vessels.
  • Indonesia: iGrow – is a platform that connects farmers with capital owners, land owners, and crop buyers.
  • Singapore: BLH Aqua Technology – has developed innovative water efficiency technology focused on Ag Tech.
  • Canada: Automat – has developed a cloud based artificial intelligence conversation marketing platform.
  • Czech Republic: Angee – is automated home protection solution that respects your privacy.
  • Philippines: Storm Technologies – is the leading benefits tech firm in Philippines.
  • Ireland: Swift Comply - focuses on eliminating burden of regulation on food service industry.
  • Taiwan: Bened Biomedical – Developed Pychobiotic PS128 which treats neurological disorders such as autism, depression, and Parkinson’s.
  • Australia: Checkbox – is a platform that enables digital transformation of regulations.
  • Russia: CERA Marketing – had developed an automatic business process control in retail stores that utilizes in store cameras.
  • India: Intello Labs – is AgTech that use a smart phone camera and AI to solve agriculture problems.
  • Norway: MovieMask – is an Augmented Reality device for smartphones.
  • Sweden: Coala Life – has developed a smart data driven medical device that reduces heart fatalities.
  • Luembourg: LargoWind – has developed a safety tool for boats during mooring.
  • Kenya: KWHCoin – is a global renewable energy company that uses blockchain.
  • Mexico: Strap – has developed a wearable harness that allows blind people to move by detecting objects – it’s a high tech substitute for the white cane.
  • United States (West Coast): Nodexus – has developed patented tech that enables a mainframe to PC transition for live cell isolation.
  • Malaysia: RunCloud – has developed a modern web server panel for managing cloud hosting and web deployments.
  • Finland: NAAVA – has developed clean air as a service using a smart & active green wall.
  • China: Equota - enables heavy industry to optimize their power consumption.

If you missed out on this year’s cup, don’t fret, the 2019 competition kicks off in late August and they plan to expand to additional countries.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.