By Michelle and Sam Which entrepreneurs are more innovative: those from Boston or those from Switzerland? That was the primary question asked at Global PitchFest 2013, a startup event organized by swissnex Boston, venture lab and MassChallenge The event showcased 30 entrepreneurs from Boston and Switzerland who went head-to-head for the title of Global Pitchfest Champion and a cool $1 million in startup funding. Audience members listened to each entrepreneur give a one-minute (!) pitch, and then voted via text messages for their favorite ideas. A panel of judges took the audience votes into consideration as they decided which idea deserved the seed money. But as the event kicked off, if became clear that the real question emerging from this battle of the global entrepreneurs was, “Which healthcare startup had the coolest idea?” The 30 competitors were arranged in small bracket groups to make it easier for the audience to vote. In each bracket, we noticed a trend: the ideas based on some kind of healthcare gadget or innovative treatment received the most votes. And before you start responding that the Boston audience was a healthcare-skewed one that undoubtedly was rooting for the “home team,” keep in mind that most of the healthcare-themed pitches originated from Switzerland – not Boston. Swiss entrepreneurs presented prototypes of prosthetic limbs, stroke rehabilitation robotics, and even a cure for diabetic neuropathy, a condition that causes permanent nerve damage in diabetics. The audience favorite was a startup called SmartCardia, makers of a wearable cardiovascular disease monitoring system invented by an engineer who lost his father to heart disease. While the Swiss may have been a crowd favorite, the judges were not as convinced. The winning judge-decided startup was Cocoon Biotech, a U.S.-based research company that created a new treatment for osteoarthritis using a bio-molecular lubricant. Friendly competition (and free Lindt chocolate) was in the air as the pitching carried on throughout the afternoon in the building overlooking the harbor. After the winners had been crowned, the proof was in the pudding (see: truffles) of the amazing new startups growing in both Boston and Switzerland. Given that Boston and Switzerland are places known worldwide for high-quality healthcare, it's no surprise that the companies at the top of their startup classes are the ones tackling some of humanity's most taxing health concerns.
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