There is a popular phrase in China that says seeing once is better than hearing one hundred times. Similarly, in the U.S., people believe doing is by far better than seeing. During my expereince visiting the US as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), everyone I had a chance to speak with– be it a taxi driver or a bartender, professor, student, or stranger – all said that in the U.S. you can achieve your dream of entrepreneurship.
What we saw during our IVLP tour was a perfect evidence of that. Over the decades, Americans have developed an entrepreneureal mindset in both individual and societal levels. This results in education, legislation, resources, and communities that foster entrepreneurship.
After experiencing this spirit of competition, jumping into a competition ourselves during our visit felt natural. Our IVLP group was split into teams and I came up with a concept where teams must identify a market need and address it in an entrepreneurial way with some tech-based solution. Since we were traveling, we thought it would be most appropriate to look for market needs related to tourism. And so, on the final day of our perfect and inclusive journey through an ecosystem of science and technology in U.S., our four teams had to choose one of their ideas and to pitch it in front of a qualified jury.
Yet before we look at the ideas, I have to say I was surprised about the quality of ideas and involvement of the team members – at the end of the day everyone was so invested into the competition!
The ideasThe teams had a lot of different ideas on how to address needs in tourism – mostly captured from our own experiences during the trip. Some of them reflected the pains the team members had, while some were more like observations.
Here are a few examples: Sound broadcasting to mobile phones in order to solve a difficulty in hearing speeches during meetings; an app to help tourists take better scenic night photos at any hour; AI driven sightseeing to avoid long planning discussions for groups; Virtual Reality or an app to help tourists learn local culture and behavior; an app for touring and ordering services
The final pitches were done in New Orleans for the jury of NOLA business angel network representatives. The finalists were:
A peer-to-peer network, built on the functionality of mobile phones (not carriers) that connects people while they are traveling without the extra fees and frustrations
A convolutional neural network that identifies objects within a video image, providing a count of how many individuals are in a picture
Peer-to-peer network that connects tourists with locals interested in home hospitality to encourage the sharing of food and culture
A food delivery service at airports to improve food choices during your flights
Which team would you select as the winner?
Voldemars Bredikis is the Chairman of the Board at the Commercialization Reactor Fund. He traveled to the U.S. from Latvia as a partcipant of the International Visitor Leadership Porgram focusing on science and technoology entrepreneurship.