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Are you an entrepreneur with a great technology idea that’s going to revolutionize the IT community and impact the data center?

Data Center World will be holding its 3rd annual tech startup competition at our annual conference being held in Washington, D.C., April 15-18, 2024. Companies interested in being selected to participate should be developing or selling a technology solution that directly impacts the data center or data center professionals, and will be judged by a panel of experts based on several business models and go-to-market criteria (outlined below).

Winners will be chosen by the panel based on their presentations on stage, and presentations will be judged on a clear technology solution, a concise pitch, and the value of technology to the data center industry.

The submission window has closed. The winner will be announced at Data Center World this April. 

Entry Requirements

  • Qualifications of a Startup for the Program 

  • Revenue: $5 million or less

  • Number of Employees: 50 or fewer 

  • Funding Status: Series A or before 

  • Age of Company: 5 years or less 

Prize Categories

Most Disruptive Technology – The award for the technology that the judges determine to have the best opportunity to create short-term positive market, sales, or customer service disruption among existing data center technologies in its vertical 

Best Chance for Market Success – The award for the technology that judges determine will be the most successful at creating revenue upside and profit for the startup company 

Best Ability to Gain Additional Capital – The award for the startup company that judges determine is sufficiently structured, has the most attractive data center technology, and has the most connected and well-run management team to be able to raise additional capital to grow the company 

Most Influential Founding Team – The startup company that judges determine has assembled the most experienced founding backers, founding management team, and strongest investment profile 

Finalist Benefits

  • Finalists will receive valuable exposure to the Data Center World community through promotions in email and on the event website. 

  • Finalists will be featured in a pre-event press release promoting the competition, listing the finalists, and profiling the judges.  

  • Finalists receive 2 complementary standard conference passes to the event. 

  • The esteemed panel of judges will provide valuable insights about finalists’ go to market plan and team. 

  • Finalists are encouraged to share their status with their networks and through their marketing channels. 

Judging Criteria

The following criteria will be used by our panel of judges (experts from the market research, editorial, and investment communities). Contestants should be prepared to address each of the five main criteria (we’ve included some examples with each category) with a concise and informative presentation that will be judiciously timed to 10 minutes per company. 

Business Model 

  • How does the team plan on making this a successful business? Have they done due diligence on competition? 
  • Is the business model scalable, either globally or regionally? 
  • How will the company acquire customers? 

  • What is the company’s revenue model? 

  • Is there customer validation proof?

Is the company building something that people actually want? 

  • How well does the company understand their customer and their customer’s needs? 
  • Did the company get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers? 
  • What is the company’s capacity to recognize and describe the problem to be solved? 
  • Does the company know the cost of acquiring a customer and their lifetime value? 

Go to Market 

  • What’s the plan for building sales team and a sales ecosystem? 
  • Is there a plan to open source the product? 
  • How do you plan to use partners/analysts/PR? 

Execution & Design 

  • Does the technology or service deliver a compelling and valuable user experience? 
  • How much capacity to disrupt the market? 
  • Is there a sustainable competitive advantage, or can it be copied? 
  • What’s the lead on the competition? 
  • If applicable, are they able to demo a product, and if so, was it functional? 

The Team 

  • Is the founding team multidisciplinary and complementary with the capacity to implement their stated goals? 
  • Are the team’s goals ambitious enough? Or too ambitious? 
  • Is the team capable of selling the “vision”? 

How to Apply

The submission window has closed. The winner will be announced at Data Center World this April. 

After You Apply

  • You’ll be notified by the Data Center World team by March 15, 2024, if you’ve been chosen to participate.
  • If you are selected, you are required to send up to two company representatives to participate in the competition. Each person will receive a complementary standard-access pass to Data Center World and have access to the expo floor.
  • All of the contestants will be featured on the Data Center World website and in the event app. Presentations will be made from the Data Center Live! stage on the expo show floor.
  • Please note travel & accommodation costs will not be included.  

Past Innovation Challenge Winners

2023 Winners

Most Disruptive Technology 

ECL, a data center solution company in the United States that is fully sustainable with zero impact on the environment.

Best Chance for Market Success

ECL, a data center solution company in the United States that is fully sustainable with zero impact on the environment.

Best Ability to Gain Additional Capital

Neu.ro, provides management and automation of the infrastructure and processes for successful ML development at scale.

Most Influential Founding Team 

Ventana Micro Systems, revolutionizes the processor market by offering high-performance, extensible and secure compute chiplets based on RISC-V's open architecture.

We thank all Innovation Challenge participants for their great presentations and effort. Additional finalists included:

  • Net-Zero Edge (NZE), driving innovation in the data center industry by harnessing the power of the ocean to create sustainable, scalable, and secure solutions for a data-driven world.
  • DHK Storage, Inc., dba ChiliRack, precision air cooling for data centers, provides vastly superior server cooling and big cooling cost savings, delivering cold air directly into the rack. 

The finalists presented a ten minute “elevator pitch” on the Data Center Live Stage and answered questions from the judges.

The Data Center Innovation Challenge was judged by a panel of industry thought leaders representing the market research firm Omdia, the investment community, and a former Innovation Challenge winner. The judges included: 

  • Moises Levy, Senior Principal Analyst, Omdia
  • Mark Litke, Chief Commercial Officer with Cumulus Digital Systems,
  • Don Anderson, Senior Managing Director, The Blackstone Group

2022 Winners

Most Disruptive Technology 

GRAID Technology, the world's first NVMe RAID to eliminate the traditional RAID bottleneck and unlock the full potential of enterprise SSD performance.

Best Chance for Market Success 
Alcatraz AI, provides an autonomous access control experience by leveraging the unique power of the human face.

Best Ability to Gain Additional Capital 
GRAID Technology, the world's first NVMe RAID to eliminate the traditional RAID bottleneck and unlock the full potential of enterprise SSD performance.

Most Influential Founding Team 
Cumulus Digital Systems, Inc.,digitalizing mission-critical manual work in maintenance and construction. 

We thank all Innovation Challenge participants for their great presentations and effort. Additional finalists included:

  • Round World Business Group, supports HotSite®, an array of specialized aluminum gantry cranes and beams that can protect IT equipment. 
  • IQS, supports Quick Rack, a patented device that assists with installing hardware within a server/network rack. 

The finalists presented a ten minute “elevator pitch” on the Data Center Live Stage and answered questions from the judges.

The Data Center Innovation Challenge will be judged by a panel of industry thought leaders representing the market research firm Omdia, the investment community, and a former Innovation Challenge winner. The judges include: 

  • Andrea Munoz, Senior Vice President, Operations & Customer Success, CyrusOne
  • Moises Levy, PhD, Principal Analyst, Data Center Physical Infrastructure, Omdia
  • Michael Maniscalco, EVP of Technology, Applied Blockchain Inc.