Prague this week for the first time hosted the European leg of the Startup World Cup & Summit, an annual event drawing hundreds of hopefuls and thousands of prospective investors. A Czech startup took the regional prize but lost out to a Swedish one for the continental prize – and $500,000 in seed money.
Around 350 start-ups from more than 50 countries took part in the event. A dozen startups, including three local contenders, were in the running for the European prize awarded on Wednesday at Prague’s Congress Hall.
Mimbly, a Swedish start-up focusing on economical household water use, won the European final – and a cash prize of $500,000. Founder Isabella Palmgren explained the scope of the problem that her innovation tries to address.
“Everyone in here uses laundry machines to wash their clothes. These obviously use water. But what you may not know is that they actually account for 25 percent of the average water use in a household. All of this warm water is released into the sewer full of micro-plastics.
“This is an add-on water-recycling system for washing machines. It works with any type of brand or system. It recycles up to 90 percent of the water. We capture all of these micro-plastics, and we save over 30 percent of the energy.”
Mimbly edged out Czech start-up Motionlab, a low-cost platform for creating thousands of personalized videos and ads, to win the European final. Both will compete in the Grande Finale round of the Startup World Cup & Summit in San Francisco on May 17 – where the prize is $1 million in seed money.
The European leg of the contest was co-organised by UP21, a Prague-based group that mentors innovators and entrepreneurs, and provides them seed money. UP21 partner Vítek Šubert says the “green” aspect of Mimbly, tipped the scales in favour of the Swedes.
“It was a very difficult decision – very difficult. We had two favourites. In the end, we chose Mimbly because it had that ecological aspect. Its innovation not only saves and recycles the water that households use in washing machines and filters microplastics but also saves drinking water. In the end, that decided it.”
Microplastics are unhealthy for animals to ingest, causing physical and metabolic damage to all manner of sea creature, from tiny plankton to up to giant whales.
Apart from the Czech startup Motionlab, which was founded in Brno and has already started its US expansion, among the finalists were Amadix, a personalized diagnostic tool for managing cancer developed in Spain; My Buddy, a voice training programme from Russia.