Max Polyakov Doubles Grant Funding for Perspective Hardware Startups

“Hard work pays off.” This piece of conventional wisdom has been proven true once again at the Vernadsky Challenge 2016 — an international engineering startup competition. The competition is the brainchild of Noosphere Ventures’ founder Max Polyakov and Google Ukraine’s Director Dmitry Sholomko, who combined their efforts to support creative and talented specialists in turning their engineering ideas into reality.

In April this year, the Vernadsky Challenge was successfully held for the second time. The engineering startup competition organizers did a considerable amount of work to improve it. This is obvious not only by the number of applicants from other countries, but also by the size of the prize grant they competed for.

In the opening speech to the Vernadsky Challenge 2016 finals, Max Polyakov, as a founder and an inspirer, gave an announcement that shocked everyone. Max made the decision to double the competition prize pool.

“The era of social Internet has come to an end — it is impossible to create another Facebook, Linkedin or Snapchat. I would suggest that you create engineering startups, as they are the intellectual capital of the future. We have refocused the Vernadsky Challenge to focus solely on engineering startups and will continue moving in this direction. This year we have emphasised smart houses, medicine, VR, and alternative energy sources. As a result, we have received twice as many applications than in 2015! Compared to IT, engineering inventions are a more resource-intensive industry. Therefore, I believe it is fair to double the competition prize fund up to 2 million UAH”.

Despite the news about the increase of the contest prize fund being a secret until the finale, there was more than enough interest in the competition. The Vernadsky Challenge is an open contest, without any restrictions on their professional background, experience or geographical location. The key criterion is the brilliance of engineering ideas presented. This is why there were 216 startups applicant submissions for Vernadsky Challenge 2016, from a variety of countries, such as Kazakhstan, Belarus, Israel, Albania, India, Armenia and even the US. The majority of applicants were from Ukraine.

From all the projects submitted to the contest, only 12 were shortlisted and made it to the finals, where they were scrutinized by the panel of judges made up of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. This year the projects were evaluated by Alex Nesterenko — COO of ARTKB Design Bureau, Anton Senenko — Ph.D. in Physics and Mathematics, senior research fellow of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and a popular blogger, and Vladimir Hnat — CEO of Science Park “Kyivska Polytechnika”. The panel was lead by competition founder, Max Polyakov.

It was initially planned to allocate the grant funding exclusively to the single startup project that would be considered the most promising. However, because of the number of great ideas, the committee made the decision to split the prize pool among several project so that they could all move forward with their projects.

As a result, the Vernadsky Challenge expert committee announced the winners and allocate the grant as follows:

  • The first place and 40% of the total fund (800 000 UAH) went to the Technovator XE project by Ivan Chuba for a wireless battery charging device that can work with several different types of devices.
  • The second place and 30% of the total fund (600 000 UAH) went to the Hideez Band startup for a project consisting of a bracelet designed to ease the managing and storing of personal passwords.
  • The third place and 20% of the total fund (400 000 UAH) went to the team from Khmelnitsky National University for their “Bioton” project, a medical device that allows technicians to diagnose cardiovascular disease.
Vernadsky Challenge Trophy

In addition to the basic grant, the Hideez Band also won the Audience Choice Award for an extra 10% of the total fund (200 000 UAH) via online voting among the large number of visitors who attended the Vernadsky Challenge final.

In the end, doubling the contest prize grant was a welcome surprise for everyone involved in Vernadsky Challenge 2016, making it possible to kick off several outstanding startups at once. Let’s see if Max Polyakov will have something else up his sleeve for the next event in 2017. By the way, registration for Vernadsky Challenge 2017 is already open.