Silicon Valley isn’t the only spot where emerging startups get noticed: Every year, a US tech incubator in Washington DC, 1776, hosts its annual Challenge Cup, a worldwide tournament for promising startups from across the globe. Competitors have the chance to win money, make international connections, and best of all, share their vision on a global stage. The startups are innovating in fields that have a huge impact on the world around them: health, energy, food, transportation, education, and more. Recently, ONE spoke with one of 1776’s founders, Evan Burfield, about Challenge Cup, the competitors from Africa, and why connectivity is so vital:
We’re really excited to see finalists from Uganda and Kenya in this year’s Challenge Cup. Why was it important to you that this competition be a global one?
The startups we want to find, fund, and grow are not just at home, but everywhere. The mission of 1776 is to change the world for the better through enabling innovative startups in industries that matter: education, energy, sustainability, health, transportation, and cities, among others. The vision has always been a global movement.
What moments or competitors from past Challenge Cup competitions are particularly memorable for you?
The first time we went to Nairobi was the most memorable Challenge Cup moment so far — both in terms of meeting last year’s winner and our portfolio company, Twiga, and the eye-opening experience of working with the best energy field we’ve seen anywhere in the world.
What excites you most about the current startup scene in Africa?
The best companies in Africa are solving real problems that directly impact essential human needs, and the scene there highlights the need to understand local context on the deepest level to integrate those innovative solutions successfully.
We support universal internet access—in your opinion, what role does connectivity play in making the world a better place?
You can see the power of the Internet through social collaboration and mobile and how they embolden entrepreneurs to begin looking at every single industry through new eyes. Beyond tackling consumer conveniences, entrepreneurs are asking, “What more can the digital economy do?” In the next wave of the digital economy, entrepreneurship is a key way to help and change the world for the better.