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This online community has gamified the funding process for innovative startups

This online community has gamified the funding process for innovative startups
[Illustration: Goran Factory]

Daniel Gross was accepted into Y Combinator’s accelerator program at just 18 and sold an AI-powered search engine to Apple for a reported $35 million at 22. Now 27, the tech entrepreneur is helping other founders through Pioneer, an online community that enables anyone in the world to compete for a prize package that includes a $1,000 grant, $6,000 in cryptocurrency, and $100,000 in Google Cloud credit, plus the chance for future investment from Pioneer. In August 2018, Gross debuted the concept as a gamified 30-day challenge: Applicants complete points-driven “quests” (games, puzzles, quizzes, providing feedback to other participants) and vote each other’s concepts up or down a leaderboard. Within the first six months, Pioneer has announced 39 winners from three challenges that drew several thousand contestants. Harshu Musunuri, from the U.S., is working on a way to better diagnose, treat, and prevent sepsis; Caroline Oluka, from Uganda, is creating a Kampala-based bike delivery service that empowers young women. Gross has created a clever tech platform to screen candidates seeking investment. “With a relatively cheap and scalable intervention,” he says, the applicants can become “the next great set of innovators.”

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