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LONDON, England – Back in January Nokia set a challenge to innovators worldwide to create the “best idea for a new mobile product or solution designed to improve the lives of people in the developing world.” Now, nine months later the question has been answered. Last week the winner of Nokia’s Growth Economy Venture Challenge walked on stage at Nokia World to pick up a cheque for one million dollars of venture capital investment. What’s more, Nokia’s new president and CEO Stephen Elop was there to hand it over.

The Growth Economy Venture Challenge was launched in January by asking for idea that could truly change the way people use Nokia devices, and demonstrate how that idea could dramatically improve the lives of people in growth economies.

The competition closed in late July, and by August the judges had whittled down the 300 entries to just ten finalists from all around the world.

The finalists were:

  • Bionic Power – The Portable Power Solution (Canada) – A device that converts walking energy into power to power mobiles, lamps, laptops etc
  • eVOTZ (United States) – An app and SMS-based trustworthy voting system
  • FloCash Payment Network (United Kingdom) – A virtual bank that allows users without bank accounts to make remittances, make bill payments and pay for product and services across a network of agents.
  • IDIFIED (United States) – An application to identify buried improvised explosive devices (IED) in the developing World and areas of conflict.
  • m-Employment platform using SMS (Pakistan) – Connects job seekers to those looking for employees via SMS messages.
  • mmatcher – your mobile, your marketplace (Slovenia) – Creates mobile markets by matching sellers to potential buyers via their mobile
  • Mobile Distributor Solution (Kenya) – A solution to fix supply-chain problems for micro and small businesses.
  • Mobile JobHunt (China) – set of employment information applications and services covering recruitment, rights and interests, and training
  • Remote Diagnostics Kit (India) – A user-friendly remote medical diagnostic device that allows medical specialists to attend to patients sitting thousands of miles away.
  • Transclick for Globalization of m-commerce (United States) Automatic translation system that translates SMS messages from sellers in one country into the language of the buyers in another country.

The ten finalists where then asked to compete in a “run-off” event where they were asked to present their ideas and business models to a “Dragons Den” style judging panel consisting of Nokia business people, private angel investors, and venture capitalists. After much deliberation by the judges, the winner was announced at the Nokia Developer Summit, and John Waibochi was on hand at Nokia World to pick up the one million dollar prize for the Mobile Distributor Solution from Kenyan start up, Virtual City.

The Mobile Distributor Solution is designed to improve the distribution efficiencies for small and micro enterprises in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods market. The solution aims to boost the profitability of small and micro businesses by increasing the number of transactions as well as improving inventory management, the accuracy of records, and reporting from the field.

This is a great opportunity for the folks from Virtual City and we’re looking forward to watching the service develop over the coming months. Hopefully we’ll be bringing you regular updates, too.

Check out more from the winners in the video below.