If you want to take your app to the next level, you’d join your standard accelerator. But if you’ve got an idea that uses technology to positively impact humanity’s grand challenges, you’d go to Singularity University, an accelerator of sorts with the goal to empower people like yourself to solve the worlds’ biggest challenges with technology.
One of Finland’s alumni, Henrietta Kekäläinen, tells us that she’s always wanted to save the world. The obvious path first seemed like diplomacy, but when realizing that world moved slowly started leaning towards technology with the growing startup scene around AaltoES and helping grow Rails Girls into a worldwide event that teaches women the basics of coding. After hustling to get into Singularity University in 2013 to take her ideas to the next level (more on that soon), she’s now making it easier for Finns to apply to the program through the Global Impact Challenge, a prize worth $29,500 to get into the University and survive in Silicon Valley while working on your product at NASA.
For the Challenge they’re looking for anyone to apply with an idea that will positively impact a million people, either locally or around the world.
You don’t need to be a biomedical engineer or coder to apply, or even be out of the “idea stage” What matters, according to Kekäläinen is that you have a good concept and the right mindset. Thanks to this focus the University draws in a wide group of people – in Kekäläinen’s class there were participants between 21 and 58 years old from all walks of life. The program is quite global as well, then attracting 80 people from 36 countries.
In her class were people trying to figure out what we’re going to eat on Mars, or developing an open-source test for early cancer detection. Other “big” ideas are completely out of this world, such as one fellow alumni working on microgravity 3d printing. “There’s no market, and you have to fight against laws of physics.” Kekäläinen points out. Despite these intimidating sounding ideas, in her class they asked the class in the beginning of the program if anyone felt like an imposter, which showed a big raise of hands, which to which Kekäläinen says you learn not to undermine yourself.
“It really reinforced what my path in life is,” says Kekäläinen.
The application period is open until March 23rd with the winner announced at an event April 8th. Whether you make it into the program or not, you’ll still hone down that idea to change the world, and get in front of Finland’s media. What are you working on for a positive impact?