Editor's Note: The following is a Best Buy press release.
Today, Best Buy is rewarding $100,000 in cash prizes to the winners of the Best Buy College Innovator Fund - a national search to find, mentor and advance the next big ideas in the areas of technology, sustainability, education or a related field. Launched in July, Best Buy received original submissions ranging from a glove that functions like a wireless keyboard to a jacket that uses body heat to charge mobile devices.
The grand prize winner, SasaAfrica, won based on quality of video, overall presentation, marketability and innovativeness. SasaAfrica is an e-commerce platform for the developing world that connects offline vendors in the craft sector to online consumers using a simple mobile phone. While studying sustainable local material sources for economic development in Kenya, Ella Peinovich discovered that women artisans had the desire and skills to participate in the global marketplace, but lacked the tools and resources to advance to this level of commerce. As the grand prize winner, SasaAfrica will receive a $50,000* cash prize plus a mentorship opportunity with Best Buy Exclusive Brands.
"It was inspiring to view the submissions for the Best Buy College Innovator Fund. It helped us understand what today's entrepreneurs have developed and are developing. All the ideas were truly unique," said Stephen Gillett, President, Best Buy Digital, Global Marketing and Strategy. "Through the Best Buy College Innovator Fund, we hope to spark a continued effort and support for innovative thinking among the next generation and encourage individuals to always strive for the next big idea of our time."
Additional winners, include:
- Spawnd: a rewards and charity system that allows user to accumulate points for playing video games (submitted by: Bellal Labanieh). Spawnd also won the Fan Favorite receiving more than 1,200 votes. Spawnd will receive a total of $30,000 as a runner-up and Fan Favorite.
- Typing Glove - Gauntlet Keyboard: a one-hand glove device that functions as a wireless keyboard (submitted by: Jiake LiuTyp). Gauntlet Keyboard will receive $20,000 as a runner-up.
A panel of judges narrowed the search to 10 finalists from which they selected the grand prize and runner up winners. The judging panel included:
- Stephen Gillett, president, Best Buy Digital, Global Marketing and Strategy
- Tim Westergren, founder and chief strategy officer for Pandora
- Jessica Matthews, co-creator of Soccket
- Julia Silverman, co-creator of Soccket
- Meredith Perry, founder of uBeam
"As a fellow entrepreneur, it was exciting to see the ideas of my generation entered into the Best Buy College Innovator Fund," said Meredith Perry, founder of uBeam. "We often hear about the economic challenges and tough times, so it's motivating to see fresh ideas are still emerging. Programs like Best Buy's College Innovator Fund are important because they provide access to the funds needed to get these ideas off the ground."
*All winners will receive a cash prize plus additional funds to cover taxes.