One of the inaugural startups located in the Qualcomm Institute Innovation Space, VirBELA, has been selected to compete June 4 in the 2nd Annual World Cup Tech Challenge. The Silicon Valley contest will culminate in the event at Microsoft in Mountain View, CA, where 25 competing startups from 17 countries will present their companies.
VirBELA is one of only six U.S. startups selected to compete this year, one in each of six categories ranging from mobile digital media to health technology and enterprise software. The winners in each category will be based on points amassed by each startup in three areas: a panel of experts, the audience at the live event on June 4, and online voting that is now underway on the World Cup Tech Challenge 2015 website.
VirBELA is one of four startups in the EdTech educational-technology category, where it faces off against three other startups: Russia’s Labicom, a global web platform of online engineering labs; Brazil’s Livox, a platform for tablets enabling disabled people to communicate and learn; and Corinth of the Czech Republic, which converts standard two-dimensional educational graphics into interactive 3D content.
VirBELA has created multiplayer 3D simulations for graduate management training to challenge and rate individuals’ business acumen and leadership. The virtual-reality-based software was first developed in collaboration with UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, and the partnership with the Clarke Center continues. VirBELA captures the behavior of all users (represented by avatars) in 3D environments that allow participants in different countries to participate in real time on teams (originally prototyped to bring together MBA students from programs in Asia, Europe and the Americas). “Our software allows for a big-data approach to assessment for purposes of selection or development,” says VirBELA CEO Alex Howland. “Don’t tell me how good you are, show me.”
Hundreds of startups from over 50 countries entered the competition, so VirBELA already beat the odds in becoming a finalist for this year’s awards. Currently it is running third out of four startups in the EdTech category, trailing behind the Brazilian and Russian entries in online voting. It’s unclear what percentage the online vote will account for in the final judging, but VirBELA is hoping for a come-from-behind showing in the EdTech category to ensure that a strong performance on June 4 translates into a win in the finals. The startups will be presenting themselves to a panel of investors selected for each category, with a total of some 300 investors in attendance.
At the June 4 event in Mountain View, the keynote address will be given by Pascal Finette, managing director of Singularity University Labs, who also heads up the Startup Program at Singularity. Between investor panels there will be a “fireside chat” in which Blackbox CEO Fadi Bishara will interview Mary Grove, Google’s Director of Global Entrepreneurship Outreach and leader of Google for Entrepreneurs, the company’s programs and partnerships to support startups and entrepreneurs in over 100 countries.
The World Cup Tech Challenge is organized by SVForum, which has fostered innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership in Silicon Valley for the past 30 years. SVForum organizes some 150 events annually. It is a fully independent 502 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Microsoft is the Global Corporate Partner of the World Cup Tech Challenge, and Qualcomm is its Global Innovation Partner. Global partners in the services sector include Bank of the West/BNP Paribas Group (banking), DLA Piper (legal), and TriNet (human resources).
If VirBELA were to win the EdTech award for best education technology startup in the World Cup Tech Challenge 2015, it won’t be the company’s first international prize. Last December, the company was the winner in the MBA & Professional Education category of the global Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014, which featured submissions from 427 universities and enterprises from 43 countries.
Want to vote for VirBELA or another favorite startup? VirBELA’s CEO invited members of the UC San Diego and broader Southern California communities to vote for the company and their picks in other categories in online voting. To vote for VirBELA, go directly to the EdTech category options and click on the VOTE button next to VirBELA.