Above: Judges, from left, Stephan De Roche – CEO Webgold Designs, Fabian Taylor – Founder Push Ventures, James Thomas – TSTT Manager, IBM’s Jason Nestor and Dr. Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University. Photos courtesy bmobile.
Team SNS, a trio of young tech entrepreneurs, took home the title of bmobile Code Challenge Winner and the coveted $100,000 prize on Day 2 of the bmobile Connect Conference at the Hyatt Regency.
In addition to the cash injection, the Code Challenge winners will receive training and mentorship as they enrol in bmobile’s new, 6-month business accelerator programme designed to develop their idea and bring it to market.
“All six of the competition finalists were of a very high standard,” said Rakesh Goswami, TSTT Executive. “The judges were especially impressed by Team SNS’ innovative use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to harness pre-existing technology and create a solution for local and regional businesses seeking to become more agile and responsive to their customers’ needs.”
Members of Code Challenge winner Team SNS, Nicholas Mendez, Shiva Ramoudith and Shellyann Sooklal, pitched to the judges their Virtual Assistant as a Service idea.
The tech service features a chatbot that relies on artificial intelligence and data collected through machine learning to answer customer queries; it offers each customer tailored guidance, suggestions and feedback to meet their individual needs.
The Virtual Assistant as a service uses Google DialogFlow and extends that pre-existing technology’s capabilities “by using recommender systems and machine learning to give additional value to existing services,” Ramoudith said.
Team SNS’ members, who all have skills in software and business development, machine learning and data science, range in age from 24 to 30. They nonetheless learned from working on their idea with technology experts at TSTT and specialists from IBM, Launch Rockit and Push Ventures; organizations that have partnered with bmobile to host the Code Challenge.
“They exposed us to all of the available service options and different technologies for implementing our solution,” Mendez said.
Winning the prize means they now have seed funding to meet the costs of infrastructural development for their new tech product. The 6-month business accelerator programme will also help the technology innovators to integrate their product into bmobile’s infrastructure and environment, with a view of partnering with bmobile in offering their service to businesses regionally and locally, said Sooklal.
The experience of the bmobile Code Challenge was really encouraging, “because we saw the interest in the local skills set and on building that skills set,” Mendez said. “It gives us a means to evaluate attitudes to locally built solutions.”