Startup competitions have long been a popular sport in Silicon Valley. Demo has been declaring “DemoGods” for decades; TechCrunch crowns a champion of its Battlefield. Startup battlegames have even been parodied on TV.
But they haven’t been marketed as sport outside the tech community. An organization called Get in the Ring is trying to change that. They say startups need something more than “friends, family and fools.” They also need fans.
To make the startup competition even more recognizable as a sporting event, the organizers have changed the traditional stand-on-stage-and-pitch-to-the-judges format—they’re putting the startups in an actual boxing ring, two at a time.
Competitions are being held this fall in eight regions: North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. The winners of each will meet for the final round in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 21 November, as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
The finalists are diverse, to say the least. There’s Fitbark (fitbit for dogs) and Identified Technology (drone-based sensing systems for hazardous environments) from the U.S., Contratos (an app for creating and signing contracts) from Mexico, EpoChip (a charging gadget for mobile phones that harvests energy from radio waves) from South Africa, and Efishery (a smart fish feeder) from Asia. There are companies competing with fashion apps, and retail apps, and a number of food and cosmetic products. All together, 2000 companies from 50 countries entered.
Organizers are looking to build a home audience. OK, ESPN isn’t devoting a channel to startup competitions just yet. But the Kauffman Foundation is touting the 7 November finals of “Get in the Ring: North American Startup Clash” as an “exciting livestreamed event.”
So if watching startups pitch is as exciting to you as watching a Major League ballplayer pitch, get ready to can kick back with a cold can of Jolt and root for your favorite startup team.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.