Nerd Culture

Startups Compete During the First Round of the Challenge Cup November 14 at The Newton in Phoenix

The world's next big thing could be from Arizona — and you have a chance to watch the first round this weekend.

For three years, Washington D.C.-based, a global incubator and venture fund, 1776, has hosted the Challenge Cup. An international startup competition, the Challenge Cup crowns one winner out of thousands of possible ventures, offering an opportunity for problem-solvers to take their solutions to a world-wide scale.

This year, 1776 is hosting a local competition in the Valley. Organized by CO+HOOTS and Seed Spot, the three-hour long pitch event will be held at The Newton, off Third Avenue and Camelback Road, and the public is invited to watch.

Saturday's contest features 20 yet-to-be-announced startups. Each will pitch their concept and goal in two minutes during this rapid-fire event. One winner will be selected to represent the state in the regional competition, held next February. 

The yearly Challenge Cup competition spans the globe, with competitions held locally in 50 cities. The 135 winners from each small-scale round then move on to one of nine regional contests. From there, 45 winners face-off in the finals (and compete with 45 other judge-selected wildcards), to be held in Washington D.C. during 1776's "Challenge Festival," a weeklong festival that takes place next June. The annual process whittles down more than a thousand promising start-ups and concepts to one grand prize winner.

The winner of Challenge Cup 2016 will receive $1 million in cash prizes, media training, connections with potential investors, and more. It's a giant springboard toward a larger dream.

Past grand prize winners, like Twiga Foods, start locally but think globally, taking their startup to a massive scale. Twiga presented a move from Africa's casual, street market-based consumption to retail with an online component, allowing households to save money on essential groceries and goods while effectively cutting out the middlemen that drive consumer prices up. Twiga Fruits, the startup's Kenya-based offshoot, is already the country's leading exporter of bananas and other fruits. For the challenge, Twiga proposed "total distribution-chain disruption" for fast-moving consumer goods. A lofty goal, and one that the judges rewarded.

Other finalists spanned a variety of fields: Cognotion, a self-proclaimed revolution for the workplace training market, a change in the approach to entry-level education through "simulation, animation, story-line and narrative scenarios" that had already taken hold in the Middle East, Europe, and Brazil; EverCharge, an electric vehicle charger provider for multi-unit housing that came Tesla-recommended; and BaseTrace, which created a way to track leakage in individual tanks, fluid systems, and, most impressive of all, power plants — allowing users to address the issue of industrial leakage and its impact on the environment by tracing it to the source. 

That's not to say that your idea can't start in your own backyard.

In a news release distributed by CO+HOOTS, 1776 co-founder Donna Harris says she's excited to see what Arizona has to offer.

"We're thrilled to join with CO+HOOTS to bring the Challenge Cup to Arizona, home to an inspiring community of entrepreneurs who are focused on solving the complex, intractable problems that affect millions," she says. "More than just a competition, the Challenge Cup is a global movement to help identify the most promising startups and give them an opportunity to share their vision on a global stage."

Applications to compete in the Challenge Cup were still open and being accepted as of this writing.

The challenge commences at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, at The Newton, 300 West Camelback Road. The pitching and selection process is expected to take three hours, running until around 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance and include a drink ticket or $10 at the door. Visit the Eventbrite page to purchase tickets.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Janessa is a native Phoenician. She joined New Times as a contributor in 2013. You can connect with her on social media at @janessahilliard, and she promises you'll find no pictures of cats on her Instagram — but plenty of cocktails.
Contact: Janessa Hilliard