Innovations in neurotech, mediatech, and circular economy bag top prizes at the AWS Campus Fund Grand Challenge

Student-led startups raised the bar in the second annual edition of AWS Campus Fund Grand Challenge 2021.
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Colleges and educational institutes are often the birthplace of next-generation startups. And the annual Grand Challenge competition organised by Campus Fund and AWS is a unique, pan-India initiative which recognises some of the most innovative student-led startups in the country.

Aligned with government initiatives like Startup India and Make in India, the Grand Challenge seeks to galvanise the startup ecosystem with fresh and innovative ideas and enterprises. The Grand Challenge is also in line with the recently released National Education Policy 2020, which enables and empowers student entrepreneurship to augment the next startup revolution.

A host of student-led startups showcased their ideas at the second edition of Grand Challenge and presented them to the jury.

Building and scaling student-led startups

In a space that often suffers from a lack of funding, experience, or a supportive network for mentorship and feedback, Campus Fund (CF) is creating real change. Campus Fund is Asia’s very first, and only Dorm Room Fund. What sets it apart is that it is truly for the students, by the students. CF offers funding to student-led startups, and is run by full-time students. Campus Fund is backed by the likes of HDFC Bank, Bharat Shah, Chairman HDFC Securities; Phanindra Sama, Founder, redBus; Raghunandan G, Founder, TaxiForSure and Zolve; among others.

The Grand Challenge seeks to fill in the gaps in the student startup ecosystem by providing them with a platform to showcase their innovative solutions, ventures, and products. These startups will also be bolstered by a network of industry leaders, who will provide mentorship, share their expertise, and help them attract funding to take their products to market. As a part of the challenge, winners will gain access to the AWS Activate Program, which offers vital resources, expertise, and promotional credit support to help these young businesses scale and grow quickly.

The first prize includes a $2500 equity free cash prize, while the second runner up will receive $1500, and the third $1000. The top three winners will also pitch to the Investment Committee of Campus Fund for an investment of Rs 50 lakh to help scale their business. Winners will also receive AWS credits.

Grand Challenge 2021: Innovations in mediatech, mobility, and more

Applications for 2021’s Grand Challenge opened on August 20, 2021 and closed on October 15, 2021. It received 634 registrations, out of which 216 were shortlisted and were through to the first round. Of these 216, 70 applicants then progressed to the second round. 30 applicants were then chosen for the mentorship and evaluation round. Seasoned mentors advised these top 30 student entrepreneurs on their businesses, and prepared them for Demo Day.

From the mentorship round, the list was pared down to 12 finalists who presented to the Grand Jury, who announced the winner, the first runner-up and the second runner-up.

The Grand Jury was split into three panels initially. Four startups each, from the final 12, presented to one of the panels. The top two from each panel then presented to the entire jury, from which the winners were chosen. The event concluded with an award ceremony.

Winners and finalists

This year’s 12 finalists pitched incredible solutions, from battery storage to oral healthcare in front of the Grand Jury.

Winner - ‘India’s Best Student-Led Startup, 2021’ - Xeuron, Xfinito

Sector: Life Sciences

This is an intelligent platform for Neuro Technology Applications, with the initial focus on neuropathy and Parkinsons. Founder Siddharth Nair, currently pursuing a PhD from the Indian Institute of Science, began his research on neuro-modulation when his mother was diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy in 2012.

First runner-up - Li-circle

Sector: Circular Economy

This startup was started with the vision to strengthen the global, advanced battery storage raw material supply chain through sustainable and eco-friendly urban mining, thereby enhancing the circular economy. The founder, Santosh Kumar J, has a B E from Dayanand Sagar Institutions.

Second runner-up - Nyus

Sector: Mediatech

The platform leverages memes to show news about recent events, targeting teenagers and making news fun and accessible to them. The founder, Puru Thakkar, is currently pursuing BBA from the Global Centre of Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Jaipur.

Finalists:

Gohaiku

Sector: Mobility

A transport aggregation company providing safe, reliable and hygienic transport for kids, where parents can schedule and monitor rides through a mobile app.

Founder degree: BTech, Vellore Institute of Technology,

Theranautilus

Sector: Life Sciences

A nano-technology startup for oral healthcare, using magnetically driven nanobots to rid the teeth of biofilms, along with other medical procedures.

Founder degree: PhD, Indian Institute of Science

Sortizy

Sector: FoodTech

Sortizy makes food-related content functional, making it easy for users to take actions around the content and generate more money for creators.

Founder degree: BTech, National Institute Of Technology, Warangal

EF Polymer

Sector: Agritech

EF Polymer solves the problem of low water environments by leveraging their product, a controlled mix of micro nutrients specific to crop-soil mix, which can absorb water, and release it slowly once put into the soil.

Founder degree: BTech, College of Technology and Engineering, Udaipur

Ecodrives

Sector: Mobility

A full stack, last-mile delivery/mobility solution provider, offering e-bikes, e-mopeds, etc to BAAS, and servicing and fleet management.

Founder degree: BE, Ramaiah Institute of Technology

FrizzleWeather

Sector: Weather Intelligence

Aims to provide accurate, real-time, and hyper-local weather insights to individuals and businesses to help them make mission-critical decisions without worrying about the weather.

Founder degree: BTech, PES University

Desklamp (KitLab)

Sector: Automation

A feature-rich PDF reader for academics, that facilitates project management, organsiation, easy note making, advanced navigation, and collaboration with teams.

Founder degree: BTech, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

MFP Foods

Sector: Foodtech

Building innovative plant-based dairy alternatives with oat milk in their current product portfolio.

Founder Degree: BTech, National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management, Haryana

Tweeklabs

Sector: Sportstech

Sportswear for full body motion, capture, and posture analysis of athletes.

Founder Degree: BE, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi


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