2021 December-January Analysis Featured

GITA’s promising new 100K GEL startup winners

The Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency has financed a total of 116 startup projects in the past four years with 11.4 million GEL. This year’s cohort, the seventh since the launch of the project, saw 20 startups win 100,00 GEL to get off the ground. Apart from the 100,000 GEL startup grants, GITA also provides small grants up to 15,000 GEL and 650,000 GEL matching grants for startups with at least one year of registration and activity.

The seventh and most recent cohort of startups of the co-financing program sponsored by the Georgian Agency for Innovation and Technology saw 20 of 246 contestants take home 100,000 GEL. Investor.ge highlights what we think are the most interesting and innovative four below.

Dayone

Georgia’s gambling problem is no secret, with total turnover in gambling reaching a record 32 billion GEL in 2020. The Georgian government is now moving to limit access to both brick-and-mortar and online gambling for individuals under the age of 25, and for those receiving state aid, civil servants and individuals blacklisted on the request of their families by civil courts.

Georgian startup Dayone is also looking to help solve the problem, and intends to launch a platform which will provide gambling addicts and their family members with an online, anonymous rehabilitation course. Daily assignments and exercises with the involvement of a psychotherapist give users the opportunity to examine and address their addiction, Dayone claims.

Unlike a number of physical rehabilitation centers, Dayone incorporates a resocialization service as well. The platform plans to continue taking care of its users by contributing to their professional development after the rehabilitation course is finished. Dayone founder and head of the Gambling Research and Ludomania Prevention Center Guga Beselia says that built into the platform is a program to help users who have recovered from their addiction get started in self-employed professions such as furniture making or tattoo art.

“If casinos have gone online, why shouldn’t rehab?” Beselia, who has been working on the project since 2018 with a team of 15 people, told Investor.ge.

Beselia thinks that those who are willing to recover should stay in contact with Dayone ‘almost for the rest of their lives.’

The startup aims to enter the online market of countries of the former Soviet Union after it accumulates experience in Georgia. Beselia says gambling addiction affects roughly 13-14% of the adult male population in Georgia, and the numbers are similar in Russia, Ukraine and other countries in the neighborhood.

The platform offers standard and premium packages. The monthly fee for the standard package is nine GEL, while the price of the premium package ranges from 39 GEL to 200 GEL as it includes psychologist’s help with group and individual therapy.

Wrapstocks

Investing in stocks in Georgia has generally been an either complicated or expensive process, but the startup Wrapstocks wants to change this and make equity more accessible to retail investors.

Wrapstocks intends to do this with the help of blockchain technology, by ‘wrapping’ shares in blockchain transactions. Project founder George Mokheve says this will have the effect of making equity more affordable and accessible, since the only asset needed to participate on the platform will be USD stable coin.

“The transparency and reliability of the blockchain is what Wrapstocks is based on. Because blockchain is limitless and available anywhere,” Mokheve says.

The idea behind Wrapstocks was born in Osaka, Japan at the DevCon5 conference in 2019 where the problem of the difficulty of purchasing stocks with crypto assets was put forward.

The team of six has been working on the project for a year and is still in the development phase, and expects to release its first, limited beta product towards the end of 2021 or in the beginning of 2022. Users not admitted immediately to the platform will be able to sign up for the waiting list later to start trading.

The Wrapstocks team, six individuals from the tech field, bootstrapped their project in 2020 and have been developing the platform over the course of two years; they plan to use their 100,000 GEL grant from GITA on marketing.

ThermoNorth

ThermoNorth has developed an eco-friendly engine oil additive for shipping companies to reduce their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The additive does this by reducing friction inside the engine and in the process, saves fuel.

“We found that grinding surfaces inside the engine create higher friction and therefore, a significant amount of fuel is lost to overcome this friction. When we add our product to the engine, an ionic repulsion force is created between surfaces and they repel each other in nanoscale,” co-founder and CEO of ThermoNorth, Elmar Asgarzada, says.

GITA welcomes innovative ideas not only from Georgia but from all over the world. ThermoNorth, a startup from Azerbaijan which has made its home in Georgia, is an example of this.

The main reason why the project was brought to Georgia is the better accessibility to the European market. ThermoNorth says ‘Georgia is the best place to start and enter the EU market.’

ThermoNorth plans to open a small laboratory in Georgia to further test their products. The team consists of six experienced technology and business professionals. Last year they were joined by Colin Donohue as interim CEO. Donohue has a track record of experience in the startup ecosystem and is director of Startup Grind Tbilisi and Startup Connect.

Currently, ThermoNorth is engaged in the Maritime ClimAccelerator program powered by Climate-KiC that invested 20,000 EUR in the startup and provided it with the opportunity to test their product free of charge.

Asgarzada also told Investor.ge that their product is undergoing engine tests in one of the largest oil companies in the world, noting that they ‘are close to having a deal with them.’

Ensofy

Approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression and more than 75% of the population in developing countries do not receive treatment for it, the World Health Organization says.

Medscape reports that people with untreated depression have a nearly 20% higher risk of suicide, while a recent study in The Lancet shows that during the pandemic, cases of minor depressive disorders alone have dramatically increased globally by more than 50 million.

To counter employee attrition and burnout, Ensofy uses artificial intelligence based on voice analysis to detect symptoms of depression. Ensofy is looking to target businesses concerned about their employees, and to help them prevent the outflow of employees due to anxiety and depression.

The startup uses depression screening and monitoring technology voice-AI which identifies depression in a person’s voice and quantifies symptoms in real time while respecting an individual’s confidentiality as Ensofy only uses short audio recording without analysing the content.

Speech processing technology detects traces of depression by identifying pauses, jitters, shimmers and other voice variabilities in the speech.

Co-founders of the project Irakli Lezhava and Iveri Prangishvili have ten years of work experience in the field of digital health and artificial intelligence and they aim to create a product which will identify various health mental problems with higher accuracy compared to already existing diagnostic standards as ‘these approaches are quite outdated and relatively inaccurate,’ Lezhava says.

Ensofy will be targeting companies that do not want to lose qualified staff due to psychological problems. The platform aims ‘to increase workforce productivity by detecting burnout as early as possible.’

The startup was launched a year ago and now a demo release of the product is scheduled in about two months, while in the future they plan to enter the global market, starting with Germany and Switzerland as they have already established business ties with these two countries.

Lezhava says that the bulk of the GITA grant will be spent on the technical development of their product and also on its commercialization in local and international markets.

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