Women Who Tech: Craig Newmark Announce Winners of the Women Startup Challenge VR and AI

Women Who Tech: Craig Newmark Announce Winners Of The Women Startup Challenge

Women Who Tech, a national nonprofit working in partnership with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark to break down barriers to women in the tech industry, recently announced the winners of the Women Startup Challenge Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence “Shark Tank-style” at Google’s New York campus in Chelsea.

According to the official press release, Didimo of Clayton, California, received the grand prize – a grant of $50,000 from the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, as well as $15,000 in legal services from Paul Hastings LLP.

“We are grateful to Women Who Tech for believing in our mission and helping bring Didimo to the whole world. It was an exciting night, preparing the pitch for the event was enriching, and we were given the opportunity of sharing why we build Didimo with everyone. It has been an honor to share the stage with other amazing companies,” Didimo co-founder Veronica Orvalho said in a statement.

Didimo automatically creates 3D virtual characters from a single photo. In approximately two minutes, Didimo creates lifelike avatars that can speak, move, and represent the user in a 3D world. Platform agnostic and compatible with all 3D environments, their technology can be used in games, social media, film, AR, and VR.

“This is our fourth competition,” Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech told PRNewswire. “We’ve received hundreds of submissions from female entrepreneurs whose product ideas are often brilliant and disruptive, and a few that could even be the ‘next big thing.’ We’re just scratching the surface of the pent-up talent, as you see from the caliber of today’s winners. It’s all about giving women in tech some well-deserved recognition and support.”

The competition’s runners-up included New York-based Spirit AI and Addicaid. Both will receive $10,000 in legal services from Paul Hastings LLP.

Spirit AI is developing tools to craft more expressive characters, stories, and worlds in games and VR where players can communicate naturally with characters, be deeply understood, and have unique conversations. With this technology, they’re also combating online harassment in multiplayer video games.

Addicaid is a digital addiction wellness platform for individuals with substance and process disorders. Addicaid also provides resources for friends and family coping with loved ones in care.

The competition featured 10 finalists from a pool of nearly 200 entries from around the country, representing women-led startups working in the areas of virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

“Supporting women in tech is a big deal,” Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said in a statement. “The tech industry needs more women. We need their perspective and talent. But many aren’t getting a fair shake. Only 10 percent of investor money goes to women-led startups, and yet women-led companies deliver a 35 percent higher return than those led by men. We need to level the playing field.”

The judges panel included investors Kate Shillo, director of Galvanize Ventures; Kai Bond, principal of Comcast Ventures; and Lisa Stone, entrepreneur and co-founder of Blog Her.

Other sponsors included startup investors Fred and Joanne Wilson, and the global law firm Paul Hastings, LLP, which will provide $35,000 in pro bono legal services.

This competition marks the fourth Women Startup Challenge since June, 2015. To date, more than 1,500 women-led startups have participated and nearly $1 million in cash and other prizes have been awarded to winners and finalists.

The Women Startup Challenge Europe will be held on May 3, 2017, on stage at London’s City Hall. The competition will be open to women-led startups based in the U.K. and Europe.

[Featured Image By Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Samsung]

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