Beyonic Wins the IBM Global Entrepreneur Pitch Competition

BY SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Rudy Garza, founder and managing general partner of G-5 talks with the entrepreneurs at IBM Global Entrepreneur Mentor Day, photo by Tarzan Sharif

Rudy Garza, founder and managing general partner of G-5 talks with the entrepreneurs at IBM Global Entrepreneur Mentor Day, photo by Tarzan Sharif

Beyonic, a company whose software connects major global finance sources with payment networks in the developing world to facilitate mobile payments, won the IBM Global Entrepreneur pitch competition Wednesday at the IBM campus on Burnett.
Beyonic founder Luke Kyohere, from Uganda, said 20 percent of the $150 billion paid out in cash in developing nations is lost for various reasons, including having to pay armed guards to transport it. In the countries where Beyonic works and hopes to expand, people lack smart phones and debit cards and though mobile payment systems exist, they are fragmented. So Beyonic created a cloud-based, Software as a Service, known as SaaS, platform to connect with those mobile payment systems, meaning $30 billion in funds now reaching their intended beneficiaries. Currently the company has signed on with the three largest networks in Uganda and Kenya which, Kyohere said, gives the company 75 percent of the market.
Kyohere, who has started three companies and sold one, said Beyonic was looking for $80,000 for platform development, $220,000 for marketing and sales and $200,000 for integration. The company hopes to move into the $70 billion microfinance market, and the $320 billion public and government sector. “We want to be the Twilio for payments,” Kyohere said.
The IBM Global Entrepreneur Mentor Days program admits companies under five years old whose business models fit the theme IBM Smarter Planet. Companies interested in applying must use data capture or integration, integrate data laterally across and end-to-end process, system, organization, industry of value chain and must “yield new insights that drive actions, improving the outcome.” Those outcomes must change the end-user experience or ecosystem with intelligence that’s “real-time, forward-looking, or predictive.”
Participants must become members of the IBM Global Entrepreneur program and receive mentoring from area experts like Mitch Jacobson, who is Co-director and lead adviser to ATI Clean Energy companies, Sancia Matthyssen, business partner transformation leader in IBM’s Business Partner organization and Jerry Sullivan, retired general partner from Adams Capital Management.
Three other finalists competed Wednesday afternoon.
Kin Valley is a closed social network that allows parents to control access to their children, which still allows children to participate. The business started with the idea of connecting families in a protected space but has been adopted by large organizations whose constituents are children, such as the Girl Scouts of America in Houston, Puerto Rico Health and Human Services Department, Navajo Nation Department of Education and Childstart. Kin Valley exceeds federal standards for online child protection. Parents get to choose the level of interaction between their kids and all other participants on an individual basis. Founder Jim Donnelly has had five successful startups and exits.
Picture it Settled is what founder Don Philbin calls “Moneyball” for legal negotiations. Since the majority of cases are settled out of court, Philbin said, negotiations can take a long time, involving anywhere from two moves to 50. Philbin, himself a lawyer, said Picture it Settled uses a model of 13,000 cases involving hundreds of thousands of moves to create a predictive model of what the actual settlement number will be, helping attorneys figure out where to begin negotiations with a visual model of where each of the parties might begin and what the actual number will likely be.
There’s still maneuvering to be done, Philbin said. “The right number at the wrong time is still the wrong number.” But with the software, attorneys can start closer to the mark than they otherwise might have and settle negotiations more quickly.
“People are irrational during lawsuits,” Philbin said, “but they are predictably irrational.”
Philbin’s target market includes corporate counsel, trade associations, people responsible for strategic partnerships.
The fourth finalist was Toopher, an app for IOS and Android that tackles the $114 billion annual problem of ID theft and hacking. Toopher authenticates your password at ATMs, your own computer and other places where you use security, without your phone ever leaving your pocket. With Toopher, just having the password isn’t enough, your phone’s location awareness system has to verify that it’s you. The app even logs users out when they walk away or locks down accounts when someone else has tried to activate them.
There were two keynote speeches at the event as well. Jeff Eisen, IBM Chief Architect for Watson Core Technology spoke about the development of Watson, an artificial intelligence that can break down human language looking for answers. The technology made a debut on the game show Jeopardy in 2011. Currently the IBM team is moving Watson into the medical services field where misdiagnosis and diagnoses that are not evidence based is a critical problem.
Watson can read and understand the lexicon of hundreds of medical journals and articles. So, with a cancer patient for example, Eisen said, a doctor can enter a patient’s medical reports and Watson can recommend additional tests. With the input of the test results, Watson can prescribe various courses of treatment based on copious amounts of data.
IBM also hopes to move Watson into the financial services realm.
Rudy Garza, Austin angel investor and founder of G-51, gave the final keynote speaking on mentorship, calling LinkedIn “the coolest thing ever” for building mentoring networks.
It is difficult, Garza acknowledged, to approach someone for whom you have respect and ask him or her a question that may sound stupid, only because you’re new in the arena and that person is a veteran. But it’s crucial to overcome that anxiety because the newer you are, the more you need to develop mentorship relationships that you can call on when it’s crunch time.
“You can’t wait until you’re at the launch point, with money in the bank,” Garza said. “Once you put the money in the bank it’s like running through a tunnel with a train behind you. You know, or should know exactly how long company will operate before run out of money. You can’t stop and say ‘Oh wait, I need to go hire someone. I don’t know anyone to hire as VP of sales.” If you have a mentor team, however, you can tap those people for ideas about who to hire fast. They’ll often even help you select someone.

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