Past Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge Winners Offer Advice to 2021 Applicants

Oct 28, 2020 4:00 PM ET

The kickoff for the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2021 was just announced, with our largest prize pool ever and expanded eligibility criteria. The Challenge, now in its fifth year, is an online competition that awards cash prizes to early-stage tech entrepreneurs solving the world’s toughest problems.

Interested in applying to the Challenge? The need to support entrepreneurs using technology for social good has never been greater. That is why we have increased our total prize pool to $1 million USD, added new prize categories, and expanded our eligibility criteria. This past August, we announced the winners of the Cisco Global Problem Solve Challenge 2020, and we interviewed each team. We’ve gathered some considerate advice from last year’s winners:

1. Co-founder of Savanna Circuit Tech, Emmastella Gakuo, winner of the Grand Prize of $100,000 USD:

Co-founder of Savanna Circuit Tech, Emmastella Gakuo

“First of all, the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge is a huge opportunity for any business. Not just for the prize money part of it, but also for the networks and the business development support. Therefore, everyone should put in the work, in terms of making a comprehensive application. I would advise you to complete the application together with your team.”

2. CURE founder, Mohamed Dhaouafi, winner of the First Runner-Up $75,000 USD prize:

“Do not talk about what you are doing – talk about why you are doing it and what impact it will bring to your target community.”

3. Founder and CEO of Gramhal, Vikas Birhma, winner of the Second Runner-Up $25,000 USD prize:

“Cisco provides a lot of resources. One of the main things I liked is the feedback over the video [pitch coaching] session. I learned so much in those three hours. Use every opportunity and resource that Cisco provides you. Second, showcase the work you do in the field.”

4. Respira Labs founder, Maria Artunduaga, M.D., M.P.H., M.T.M., winner of the Second Runner-Up $25,000 USD prize:

Respira Labs founder, Maria Artunduaga, M.D., M.P.H., M.T.M.

“I spent a lot of time reviewing the application and making an excellent business case. You need to think like a CEO, because you’re asking for an investment. And you need to prove that you are going to be sustainable and that you’re going to change lives.”

5. Intelligent Hives founder, Sebastian Górecki, winner of the Third Runner-Up $10,000 USD prize:

“Take advantage of everything the competition has to offer – the mentoring, the feedback, etc. It only makes you and your company better.”

6. Majicom founder, Mike Coto, winner of the Third Runner-Up $10,000 USD prize:

“Start the application process early, delegate tasks (if you are applying as a team), and request feedback from people outside of your project/company, if possible. No one knows as much about your project as you do, so make sure you don’t overcomplicate things when you don’t need to.”

7. Co-founder and CEO of Neurafarm, Febi Agil Ifdillah, winner of the Third Runner-Up $10,000 USD prize:

“Applying for this [prize] was such a beneficial process – it made us rethink our business. You know, breaking everything down into smaller parts. It really helped us think more clearly about what we’re trying to do. It also helped us to connect with others, and that’s really important with a start-up. Just apply.”

8. Founder and CEO of Preemar, Alejandro Valdés Martínez, winner of the Third Runner-Up $10,000 USD prize:

“Applying as first-time entrepreneurs helped us understand where we’re going, how we’re doing it, and what we could do better. It is a big step to see your plans written down and think, “how can I improve that?” If you make it to the finals and get exposure, that will help you as well. And of course, if you are one of the winners, then that experience is motivating. I encourage everyone who’s thinking about applying to apply and take advantage of this process.”

If you have an innovative solution that you think could win the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2021, please visit our website to learn more about the application process. The application deadline is January 29th, 2021, at 5pm PT.