In the business lounge of the Excelsior stadium, people from the corporate world usually gather to watch premier league football, but the competition that took place this Thursday was almost as exciting. The finalists in the Erasmus University Challenge, divided into two categories, each had a minute and a half to convince the expert jury of their idea. While teams in the Ideation category developed their plans during the Challenge, the student entrepreneurs in the Prototyping category only needed one last push to get their product on the market.
That last push was very welcome for the Prototyping team OASYS NOW, which took home the largest amount (6,000 euro). They have spent the past two years working on their alternative to the DNA tests of large companies such as 23andMe, which allow customers to trace their genetic ancestry. Founders Nima Salami and Sara Okhuijsen want to turn this market upside down: “After this kind of test, it’s currently normal for the DNA to be traded to third parties without the consumer’s knowledge. We encrypt the DNA data after the test and give control back to the consumer, who can then decide what happens with it next.”
Their plan is to enter the market in six months with a system that also benefits consumers. Nima explains: “DNA data is worth a lot of money, since universities and pharmaceutical companies would like to have those data for research into new medicines. We give consumers the option to trade their data – in a fully anonymised format. Consumers can earn some money and remain in control, while data users receive an ethical source of data that can be enhanced by surveys among DNA donors. It’s a win-win for everyone.” The prize money will be put to good use: Nima and Sara would like to give away the pricey DNA kits for free to launch their service.
Not the final solution
The other winners can put the money to good use as well. Falke Boskaljon and Guido de Jong of Minus & Co. won the Ideation category (4,000 euro) with their idea to track CO2 emissions for online clothing shops. Guido: “The clothing industry creates a lot of pollution, but webshops still have a hard time measuring and communicating this. We want to use our tools to provide webshops with transparent data on how much CO2 they emit and how they can reduce their emissions more effectively. It’s not the final solution for climate pollution, but it is a necessary step in that direction.”
They never could have predicted that they would win, Falke says. “We’ve only been concretely working on this idea since June, so we were already thrilled to get a spot in the finals. The cash prize obviously isn’t enough to take huge steps, but it will give us the opportunity to invest more time in the further development of our idea. Networking, creating a prototype: we’ve got plenty to do, so we’ll be able to make good use of that time.”