It was really exciting to be finalist for Intel Challenge Europe. We won second prize and this gave us the chance to compete with the best teams from all over the world, not somewhere but in Berkeley University.

So the journey began! Georgi and Chris were lucky to be able to travel and represent Imagga at IGC. Well, visiting UC Berkeley was really exciting itself. Both Chris and Georgi have graduated Technology Entrepreneurship in Sofia University but the program was actually drafted and sponsored by UC Berkeley. We’ve heard much of that great place, now visiting and taking part in Intel event was awesome.

Staying in a hotel just across the campus was super cool experience. You wake up in the morning really early (different time zone, jet legged) and look down to the street that goes to the campus and see hundreds of students. Almost made me get out of the room and go explore with some of them 😉

The competition took place in Haas School of Business, nice building at the corner of the campus. UC Berkeley is liberal arts school so we were surprised to see so many students dressed up! Kind of in contradiction with the startup culture we’ve been tough and later to see down in the Valley. That explained the official attire for the whole competition. Somebody joked that’s one of the reasons they placed Haas at the corner of the campus. You do not see much casual dressed students in campus 😉

It was exciting to see lots of interesting people that have fought to come to the finals of Intel Global Challenge. It was also challenging to be able to connect and talk to all of the folks as the competition is not strictly IT. Actually most of the project were clean tech and social enterprises.

The competition was well organized but a bit over-managed. People in Europe are not used to be told to go to the restroom before taking 1 hour ride for example. Anyway, this might be the American way of organizing a bunch of aliens with strange names and business ideas 😉

The best part of the competition, to be honest, were mentoring sessions. In a room the size of Cabin Hotel room and temperature of a tropical iceland we got one of the best mentoring sessions ever. He was polite enough to listen to the whole presentation and gave us couple of really good ideas that we’ve implemented in our pitch and we believe that made it really good.

The jury pitching was in closed doors (even journalist that has been deliberately brought overseas for IGC were banned recording and taking pictures!) and we can only speak about our presentation. With no way to compare it with the presentations of the other competing teams, we believe ours was one of the best  😉 The very fact that the honorable jury spent all the time asking questions, even the time left from the presentations (Georgi delivered for 8 min instead of 15) speaks of the interest and the impression our project left in the jury members. It was a pity the person from Intel that was supposed to be part of the jury was missing, but any way, a jury of two is still a jury.

All this positive stuff makes you think we managed to get to the 8 finalist that were supposed to present publicly!? We didn’t, and it was surprising as we still believe our project was worth going through (pretty much sure all the participating teams will say the same about theirs). It wasn’t surprising when on the last day of public presentations they announced they are not giving one of the awards – New Technology for New Users. If you read in the booklet specially created for the competition it says they are giving this award for a project with great opportunity to create a disruptive, scalable business that most impacts Generation C (17-27). Non of the projects selected for the finals tackle that problem and user group. Taking pictures and innovation around that we still believe it’s going to happen through Gen C 😉

Competitions are created to get experience, to practice your pitches, to get to know interesting people, to win sometimes. Well, we are very happy we’ve participated in IGC and learned a lot, networked a lot, spend a lot! Well, we did not win, but as they usually say in competitions like that – all are winners. The very fact we’ve managed to go through the selection process, win in Europe (and that wasn’t an easy win), get our posters at Intel, present proudly and fearlessly network, makes this trip a success for us.

Next – Silicon Valley weekend trip and exciting stay in, but we will post about that separately.