News Releases

Oct 1, 2015

Young Latin American Entrepreneurs Celebrated for innovative solutions that improve lives in cities

Washington, D.C. – An Argentine entrepreneur who created software that turns smartphones into digital hearing aids won the top prize at an international competition aimed at fostering innovation to accelerate and promote inclusive development throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Patricia Sanchez cofounder of USound in Jujuy, Argentina, won recognition and a $15,000 prize for being the Most Innovative Startup – Best in Show at a Venture Night that was part of a one-day event called Demand Solutions – Ideas for Improving Lives in Cities. The event was organized by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Blum Center for Developing Economies of the University of California at Berkeley.

Usound also won the Best Use of Technology award with a prize of 10,000 euros from Telefónica. Usound is software that allows people to use smartphones as digital hearing aids. Users configure them by entering data on their audiometry – a measure of the range and sensitivity of a person’s sense of hearing, or they can carry out a hearing test with the app itself. The phone captures sound; uSound compensates for specific frequencies and plays back the adjusted sound over headphones in real time.

Fourteen other entrepreneurs from the region were selected from more than 200 applicants to showcase their innovative products and services at the one-day Demand Solutions event, which is designed to connect creative start-ups with investors, mentors and thought leaders.

Sanchez and 14 other young entrepreneurs pitched their innovations to a jury composed of leading start-up specialists Telefónica, Techstars, Red Emprendia and Banco Santander, Instituto Empresa Business School (Madrid), Young American Business Trust of the Organization of American States, Fly Garage, Agora Partnerships, 1776, and venture investors including 500 Startups and Startup Angels.

Other awards include:

The Catalyst Award, given by IE Business School to the startup that positively influences surrounding communities, went to Mariana Costa of Laboratoria (Peru) a tech school for at-risk young women where they are taught software coding and life skills and receive job placement assistance.

Two startups were awarded by YABT of the OAS and the Mashav Program of the Embassy of Israel as the Startups with the Highest Social Impact, Alejandro Pinzon of 1Doc3 (Colombia) a health care education and diagnostics platform, and Bruno Aracaty of Colab.re (Brazil) a citizen-government interface web-based platform. Colab.re also received Red Emprendia’s award for the Startup with Highest Global Reach Potential.

The Best Pitch Award given by Banco Santander went to Kahlil Bryan of Caribbean Transit Solutions (Barbados), a real-time transportation app for citizens needing taxis or buses or for fleet owners to monitor their vehicles.

Agora Partnership and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the IDB awarded the Startup with Highest Growth Potential to Marcelo Wilkorwsky of Oincs (Uruguay), a citizen participation app that engages users in crime prevention, risk mitigation and awareness. Oincs was also awarded as the Most Innovative Concept by the IDB and the Blum Center.

Two additional partners that joined Demand Solutions’ Venture Night were Opinno- MIT en Espanol and NEC of Japan.

A standing-room crowd attended the event where top international experts shared their insights on how disruptive, game-changing ideas can have a big impact on cities, urban development, business, and government services to improve lives. Several hundred people throughout the hemisphere followed the event via web stream.

This was the third year that the IDB has organized Demand Solutions, in partnership with the Blum Center, part of an effort to encourage out-of-the-box thinking to promote equitable economic development and growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is the most important source of development finance and technical assistance for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Bank aims to improve the lives of people in the Region by partnering with its member countries to contribute to the implementation of innovative solutions to development challenges.

About the Blum Center for Developing Economies

The Blum Center for Developing Economies was established in 2006 to serve as UC Berkeley’s interdisciplinary hub for students, researchers and scholars focusing on global poverty and inequality.