At Cisco, we have invested significant time, money and resources into igniting innovation around the Internet of Everything (IoE) both inside and outside the company.

Since fostering an innovation ecosystem is so critical to the success of IoE, last year we launched the global Innovation Grand Challenge. The risk-reward ratio was high, but with a lot of hard work – at Cisco and with partners — the Challenge was a resounding success by all accounts: more than 1,000 entries from 171 countries.

The winners were announced at the IoT World Forum in Chicago last October, and they received not only prize money, resources and mentorships – but also valuable publicity. Driven by the success of the initial Challenge, the IoTWF Steering Committee recently decided to launch a second Innovation Grand Challenge, and this year’s winners will be announced in December at the World Forum in Dubai.

Yes, a success by all measures. However, whatever happened to the winners themselves and their innovations? Did the rewards and recognition help to mature their solutions or achieve tangible business outcomes – the ultimate measure of success?

We decided to revisit with the three winners to find out how they were doing some eight months after being in the spotlight.

Grand Challenge Winners Eight Months Later. We sat down with Sundar Krish, CEO of Waygum, a mobile app for the Industrial IoT; Jackson Bond, co-founder of relayr, an IoT platform and start kit for app developers; and, Gauri Nanda, co-founder of Toymail, which enables friends and family to send voice messages from toys.

I was delighted to hear at the outset that all three innovators were extremely happy with their experience in the competition as well as with Cisco as the sponsoring catalyst.

“An amazing cross-pollination experience,” said Sundar, who emphasized that he had not seen “this level of dedication from the judging committee in any other competition anywhere”.

Jackson shared his excitement about the many ways that relayr’s business has thrived: “Outperformed revenue targets for Q1 by 100%…It’s been a wild ride since winning the Challenge. We could not have dreamed of the traction – 1,700 developers on our platform (in five months).”

The winners also said that after the recognition they had experienced unanticipated growth in their customer bases, access to networks of potential partners, boosts in attracting talent and securing funding.

Sundar is especially optimistic about the potential of IoE – the connection of people, processes, data and things — in the industrial sector. Jackson also noted that the competition seemed to expedite and stimulate demand from software developers and companies – large and small – to leverage relayr’s IoT starter kit.

Challenges and Opportunities. Of course, there are always challenges with disruptive technologies and solutions like those of our three winners. Jackson and Gauri emphasized the need for simplicity and communication to speedy adoption. “From a consumer perspective,” Gauri said that the most important issue was “figuring out how to educate customers, since the product ideas are so new”.

When asked what advice they would give to future Innovation Grand Challenge participants, Sundar offered: “Don’t be afraid to explain and present information that you might think is too complex for average audiences. Of course, you have to be crisp in explaining your idea, but feel free to assume that your audiences already have enough expert knowledge.”

After talking with the three winners, I am even more energized about this year’s Innovation Grand Challenge that is launching today and the potential it can unleash to improve business outcomes.

The competition is officially open and we are looking forward to receiving your submissions at the website from now till September 7th. This year’s Challenge will focus on IoT Infrastructure, IoT Middleware, Platform and Frameworks, IoT Applications, IoT Security, and Fog/Edge Computing.

Co-innovation is the heart and soul of IoT and IoE. Judging from the many successes of last year’s event, I am confident that the Innovation Grand Challenge will become an enduring stimulus to improve how we work, live, play and learn through the amazing power of IoE.


Maciej Kranz

Vice President and General Manager

Corporate Strategic Innovation Group