Projects related to sustainable use of materials, transportation, sustainable farming, support for artists, green consumerism, and an online initiative to prevent violence were selected as the best ideas in the AWE programme, which is organised by the University of Iceland in partnership with the American Embassy in Iceland. The programme formally ended on 6 May and the winners were awarded prize money totalling ISK 2.2 million.
The women may use the prize money to get their products or services onto the market or take the first steps in that direction. A total of 114 business plans were submitted to the programme this year, of which 37 were selected to participate. The women have been mentored by Fida Abu Libdeh, CEO and co-founder of GeoSilica; Sandra Mjöll Jónsdóttir Buch, Director of the UI Science Institute; and Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir, founder and CEO of the consultant firm Mergur Ráðgjöf. Guest experts from a diverse range of industries also gave lectures and helped participants with the various issues that need to be considered when developing a business idea, founding a company and marketing your product or service. Participants also completed DreamBuilder, an online training programme organised by Arizona State University.
The graduation and award ceremony took place in the University of Iceland Aula and was attended by Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Minister of Science, Industry and Innovation; Michelle Yerkin, Chargé d'Affaires at the American Embassy in Iceland; and Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland.
Prizes were awarded in individual and team categories, as well as a prize for the best video pitch
First prize in the individual category went to Berglind Baldursdóttir for her project Paladino. She received ISK 500,000 for her winning idea. Paladino is a project centred around developing software to manage background checks for people who want to work with children and vulnerable clients.
First prize in the team category, also ISK 500,000, went to Sara Jónsdóttir and María Kristín Jónsdóttir for their business idea, entitled On to Something. The idea is to set up an international online marketplace and knowledge-based community focused on establishing new value chains for surplus materials. On to Something is an open market for surplus materials, allowing people to find better uses for them, reduce waste and potentially save money and/or profit in the process. On to Something also won the ISK 200,000 prize for the best pitch.
Second prize was ISK 300,000. The runner-up in the individual category was Amber Christina Monroe with her business idea, Ísponica. Ísponica is a vertical vegetable and herb farming facility using aquaponics, a system that harnesses wastewater from fish tanks as fertiliser.
Second prize in the team category went to Svanhildur Jónsdóttir and Katrín Halldórsdóttir for Ferðaflækjan. Their vision is to create an accessible educational platform about transportation, containing facts and tips about sustainable transportation based on expert knowledge.
Third prize in the individual category, ISK 200,000, was awarded to Grace Achieng for Gracelandic, an idea focused on sustainability in the clothing and fashion industry.
Third prize in the team category went to Michelle Bird and Birna Sigurbjörnsdóttir for WAM (Women Art Marketeers). WAM is a platform for female artists, helping creative women learn how to market themselves and sell their work.
Members of the evaluation committee for the individual category were: Helga Valfells, owner of Crowberry Capital and chair of the evaluation committee; Sigríður Bylgja Sigurjónsdóttir, representative of FKA and founder of Tré lífsins; and Lisa Franco, representative of W.O.M.E.N. Members of the evaluation committee for the team category were: Þórður Magnússon, chair of the board for Eyrir Invest and chair of the evaluation committee; Svala Guðmundsdóttir, representative of UI and professor at the UI Faculty of Business Administration; and Jóhanna Jafetsdóttir, representative of FKA and senior manager at Össur. Members of the evaluation committee for the best pitch were: Liv Bergþórsdóttir, chair of the evaluation committee and CEO of ORF Genetics; Þórarinn Hjálmarsson, marketing manager at the UI School of Social Sciences and representative of UI; and Ágústa Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, representative of FKA and managing partner at Navigo.
The University of Iceland congratulates all the women who participated in the programme on their achievement and wishes them all the best as they continue to develop their exciting business ideas. It is more important than ever to promote innovation in the Icelandic economy, as well as increasing the number of female entrepreneurs. The AWE programme is intended as a step in this direction and will take place again next year with a new group of women.
The University of Iceland organises the AWE programme in collaboration with the American Embassy. The United States government runs the initiative in over 50 countries all over the world. The goal is to support women to develop their companies and business ideas and increase female representation within the entrepreneurial and innovation sector. Iceland is the first Nordic country to participate. The Association of Businesswomen in Iceland (FKA) and the Women Of Multicultural Ethnicity Network (W.O.M.E.N.) are also involved in organising the AWE programme.