Australian entrepreneurs Amber Blumanis, creator of Stopover app, and Philip Andrews, cofounder of Liquid State, were announced as winners in the international Talent Unleashed Awards last night.
The awards were judged by Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak. The winners will go on a five-day business mentoring workshop at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa during Global Entrepreneurs Week in November 2014.
There were more than 600 entries. Five winners across the APAC region were announced last night, with Blumanis winning the Rising Star Award and Andrews winning the Digital Content Award.
Stopover’s Blumanis, who is only 23 years of age, created a tool that keeps travellers occupied at airports during stopovers. It offers a range of activities such as learning a new language, and users can even go find themselves someone to date via the app or just meet like-minded people.
“Basically you create a profile and then you can log on and can click ‘nearby’ to see who’s nearby at the airport. You send them an invite where they will either accept or decline,” Blumanis said.
“You can see who has similar interests to you and meet up with like-minded people. If somebody has a little heart symbol [on their profile], then that means they are also interested in airport dating, so you can check out their profile and meet up with them.”
Having experienced a 14-hour long wait at an airport is what spurred Blumanis to create an app that would allow travellers to do something more productive with their time while waiting for their next flight. “I was so bored and that’s how I came up with the idea.”
Blumanis, who doesn’t have any IT expertise, worked with Teknowledge Mobile Studio in India that she found through Freelancer.com, and travelled to India to meet the developers in person. Last week, the company set up an office in Australia – Teks Mobile Australia – with Blumanis as chief operating officer.
The app is only available for iOS, but Blumanis plans to make it available in Android soon, as well as add more languages and activities.
Liquid State’s Andrews, along with cofounder Cyril Doussin, developed a cloud-based application that allows print publishers to easily push their content out to multiple platforms including mobiles and tablets in only five clicks. The content automatically adjusts in accordance with the device screen size for optimal viewing, without publishers having to go through a lengthy development and production process.
“My background is in publishing and there’s been huge upheaval there; I’ve seen massive changes in publishing,” Andrews.
“We found that the [mobile publishing] systems that were there didn’t really help small to medium publishers reach the world wide audience.”
Andrews said he is seeing more interest from companies outside of publishing. “It’s also communication departments, big companies that want to build apps for internal communications to get through to their employees, membership groups who want to actually develop a communication channel with members and talk to them and distribute documents.”
Liquid State is in discussions to work with companies such as Sonic Healthcare in Australia, Hachette publisher in France, Condé Nast publisher in the US, and IPC media in the UK.
Andrews said the company was built in Berlin, Germany before it managed to raise funds in Australia through a syndicate of business angels and Commercialisation Australia, a $213 million grants program for startups.
Commercialisation Australia was cut in this year’s Federal Budget, however. “Too many of our companies go overseas, raise money overseas, but we’ve got to keep our talent here and we’ve got to grow those companies here,” Andrews said.
“I travel around the world all the time, and everyone is asking ‘can [a Silicon Valley] happen in other places?’ Of course it can,” Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak said.
“I’m so glad people don’t think there is just one congested place like Silicon Valley where people have great ideas that are going to change the world or are going to be successful and have to be in that one area just to start them.”
Wozniak added that he was impressed to see many of the participants use their own personal experiences as drivers for their innovations.
“People who have personal reasons for wanting to achieve something in life, a stumbling block for them, wanting to get over some problems – that is what true entrepreneurship is about.”
The other Australian global finalists were:
- Filip Eldic, cofounder of BlueDot Innovation, APAC Best Start-Up Award: Blue Dot Innovation is geolocation software that uses the precise location of a person’s smartphone for making payments in retail stores, for example. The technology could allow a customer to enter a store and purchase product via their phone, with the software picking up on the location and details of the seller to process the payment. It uses Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, and mobile towers to get the precise location of the phone.
- James Nathan, founder and CEO of Food Orbit, APAC Community Impact Award: Food Orbit allows farmers to connect with wholesale buyers such as chefs and restaurateurs is an online platform. By cutting out the middleman, Farmers can ensure they get a fair price for their produce.
- Ken Taggart, founder of Chatty Kidz, APAC Digital Content Award: Chatty Kidz is a learning app that helps bring long distant families together by having parents work with their kids on educational content on the iPad, using Skype video chat.
- Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin, founder of Blue Chilli, APAC Inspirational Leadership Award: Blue Chilli is a venture tech company that builds and invests in digital start-ups. It helps launch two new online businesses every month, with the aim to build and invest in 100 new businesses by 2016.