Back in 2010, Google announced plans to build out a fiber-optic network for an entire city in the U.S., promising connection speeds of 1GB/sec, 100 times that of the norm. Naturally, over 1,000 cities applied. But only one could claim the prize, and that one was Kansas City.
At the time, Google said that it planned to begin service in the first quarter of 2012, with coverage rolling out all over Kansas City thereafter, with pricing competitive to that of other ISPs. It’s not clear whether Google will be able to meet its deadlines, but in the meantime, Kansas City is getting rolling.
Ahead of Google Fiber’s roll out, Think Big Partners, an early-stage startup accelerator and mentorship-based collaborative network, created a business plan competition called Gigabit Challenge, with cash prizes, promised investments, and more for the winners. The Challenge focused on innovative tech ideas that would use the Google Fiber network as a launchpad, bringing sustainable business ventures to the Kansas City ecosystem.
Today, sixteen finalists, 19 judges and 300 attendees gathered to give and listen to their startup pitches, culminating with three winners.
Winning the People’s Choice Award (and $100K in services) was Paruzia Technologies, which works with small businesses who are frustrated with their current IT support, helping bring small businesses in Kansas City to the cloud by providing an all-inclusive, fully managed and supported IT infrastructure that requires no upfront capital investment, along with on-demand or dedicated hosting and desktops.
But what really makes Paruzia different is that it gives 5 percent of revenues or 20 percent of profit (whichever is greater) to ending modern-day slavery and sexual exploitation of women and children by partnering with a Kansas City-based anti-trafficking organization called Exodus Cry.
The winner of the “Born Global Award” and $250,000 was Kuazu, a Chicago-based company that seeks to bring disruption to the $170 billion U.S. employment industry, which mainly consists of staffing agencies, online job boards and other smaller related services by providing a dynamic, digital online environment with unique tools to create timely connections. Think eHarmony.com meets eBay.
The Grand Prize winner was SEIN Analytics & Asset Management, a web-based cash-flow analytics platform built on Adobe Flash Builder 4 in combination with a cloud database server that seeks to bridge the existing gap between available loan level data and cash-flow analytics. The startup’s goal is to address the major concerns of investors in the space, while becoming the first fully-functioning cloud computing ABS software that is both mobile and tablet friendly.
All three companies have been invited to be a part of Think Big Partners’ new accelerator, with a planned trip to Silicon Valley and a chance to meet with investors.
Interestingly, the event also included some more web-relevant news, as Senator Jerry Moran (Republican Senator from Kansas), announced at the Gigabit Challenge that he will be joining others in fighting SOPA, the proposed bill that has been getting so much attention of late, especially today as Wikipedia and Reddit closed access to their sites to unite in opposition of the bill. Senator Moran announced the creation of a petition to stop SOPA and PIPA, which can be found here. His efforts will join that of Google, which today gathered more than 4.5 million anti-SOPA signatures.
The event culminated with an address from one of the “fathers of the Internet” and Google VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Vint Cerf, which you can check out below: