The world's smartest startups will be hawking their ideas this week at IBM's SmartCamp 2012 in San Francisco.
IBM has major investments in funds sponsored by mainstream venture capitalists, and acquires up to 20 companies per year, but it does not directly invest in startups. Instead, it sponsors a yearly SmartCamp, where budding entrepreneurs describe their farsighted new ideas in hopes of being crowned one of the smartest startups on the planet.
IBM's SmartCamp gathers applicants from around the world to compete in the world finals.
Now in its third year, IBM's SmartCamp specializes in uncovering companies that have smarter ideas about instilling intelligence into everyday items like clothing, household appliances, office buildings, farms, waterways, power grids, automobiles and more.
As a result, "we discovered how infectious the passion of entrepreneurs is--how exciting it is to be surrounded by individuals who believe they can change the world," Martin Kelly, a partner in IBM's Venture Capital Group, said in a recent blog posting. "We were amazed at how some of the best and most experienced investors and mentors were willing to give up their time to be part of this for nothing material in return."
Since its inception, the IBM SmartCamp has attracted partners and what it calls "mentors" in cities around the world, including Austin, Texas; Boston; Barcelona; Bangalore; Istanbul; London; New York; Rio; Silicon Valley; Stockholm; Shanghai and Tel Aviv.
In San Francisco, the IBM SmartCamp will be holding its second annual "world finals," where a select group of leading startups will be pitching their smart new ideas, to be judged by an international panel of experts. The winner will be picked Thursday.
No cash awards will be granted, but the recognition given to these startups is sure to increase their ability to secure venture capital funding. For instance, the winners at last year's SmartCamp have received more than $40 million in independent funding, and one, Streetline, has now become a global IBM partner for its smart automobile system that alerts drivers on their smartphones as to where parking spots are available in busy urban areas. Streetline, and most of the startups chosen at IBM's SmartCamp, combine networked sensors with cloud analytics to enable smarter solutions to global problems.
Speakers at SmartCamp 2012 will include California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome and an array of venture capitalists, including Bill Reichert, Promod Haque and John China, as well as futurist Guy Kawasaki and IBM Watson Solutions General Manager Manoj Saxena, and Gerry Mooney, general manager of IBM Smart Cities