Age of AI, Modernization of Education, and the Winners of Startup Awards 2018

FutureNow conference and Startup Awards 2018

At the FutureNow 2018, we learned that:

  • we don’t need to worry about AI killing us,
  • people from around the world are dedicated to change the current educational system,
  • we all are held accountable for our behavior on social networks,
  • CEE has some pretty good nano-scientists.

Oh, and much more.

Bratislava hosted one of the biggest and most awaited innovation events of 2018. The Bootcamp and FutureNow festival across Bratislava led to a grand finale on October 24th, 2018, at the Refinery Gallery with the FutureNow conference and Startup Awards ceremony.

(Want to learn more about the preparations? We have you covered here and here.)

First things first: The winners

At the Startup stage, there were 12 CEE + Austrian startups pitching for the best early-stage company with global potential in front of an international jury. The winner is taking home EUR 20,000 price.

The president of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Andrej Kiska, opened this year’s Startup Awards ceremony with encouraging words to all the young entrepreneurs: “You need to fail and fail several times. Failure is part of success. And success gives you duty towards people who weren’t that successful. Share it. It’s a moral obligation.”

nfibrecare, the winner of Startup Awards 2018
nfibrecare, the winner of Startup Awards 2018

And as we want to keep the president’s words in mind, we share with you the winner of the Startup Awards 2018: [n]fibrecare! Czech company brings beauty skin care to a new level with their unique patented dry sheet nanofibre mask. Liliana Berezkinová (CEO, [n]fibrecare) received the award with tears in her eyes “I’m a bit of a crier, I’d like to thank you very much!”

But this wasn’t the only award of the evening. Slovak American Foundation, one of the Gold partners of the conference, gave their US Connections prize of USD 35,000 to the most promising Slovak startup.

The award went to Specter Hockey, which introduced a revolutionary patented, multi-layered material that allows for better puck control, more accurate shots and also lasts longer than traditional hockey tape.

Education: Its significance and the need for improvement

This was one of the main topics of the whole event. Many of the speakers discussed different educational systems, and how AI can help make education more personalized.

Data about the student as an individual, the strengths, weaknesses, and help for teachers to better evaluate each student individually were topics on the discussion table, too.

“AI should help with education, help teachers to act more as experts or facilitators. Technology helps teachers learn about their students, get more data and insights on their performance,“ agreed Olli Vallo (Co-Founder of Kokoa Agency) in discussion with Jannie Jeppesen (CEO, Swedish EdTech Industry) and Joel Hellermark (CEO, Sana Labs).

Spectre Hockey, the winner of the US Connections proze by Slovak-American Foundation for tSpectre Hockey, the winner of the US Connections prize by Slovak-American Foundation for the best Slovak startuphe best Slovak startup
Spectre Hockey, the winner of the US Connections prize by Slovak-American Foundation for the best Slovak startup

Surprisingly, it’s not AI that needs to be put in the center of the overall change of the education as we know it today. You guessed it right, it’s the teachers. They need to be adequately evaluated, eager to learn new methods and be able to teach crucial skills necessary for the 21st century such as critical thinking.

We don’t need to start from scratch, however. There are already many improvements that have worked in some countries (Finland on the top ranks). We need to find them, get together and implement what can be done.

“AI won’t change schools; human intelligence will,” said Jannie Jeppesen.

“Don’t be so Slovakian!”

“So who’s going to create the new Angry Birds?“ asked Peter Vesterbacka (Founder of Slush & Lightneer, former CMO at Angry Birds) the packed main stage audience at the morning keynote session. A handful of hands went up. „Come on, don’t be so Slovakian! Don’t be afraid, be ambitious,” he continued sharing his thoughts on education and entrepreneurship as well.

As an entrepreneur, he believes that we need to aim big. Not only in our personal projects or at work but also when it comes to education.

Last year, Andrej Kiska visited several schools in Finland and was impressed by the educational system there. He asked the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture for advice on how to implement such fruitful changes in the system in Slovakia.

Peter Vesterbacka, Founder of Slush & Lightneer, former CMO at Angry Birds
Peter Vesterbacka, Founder of Slush & Lightneer, former CMO at Angry Birds

Peter got involved, eventually and started to help boost the Slovak education. “Big projects require working all of us together. Education is too important to be left for politicians behind a closed door only. What we can do is to all work together, learn how things work, share information and learn from each other.”

How to cure technology of tomorrow, today

It’s not only about education. Innovations touch every aspect of our lives. The more we innovate, the more questions we have about the impact of our actions.

Is AI stealing our jobs? Are social media such as Facebook or Twitter promoting fake news and hate speech? Is diversion only a buzzword or do we truly need it?

“Everyone is panicking about AI, but we have more pressing problem to solve right now,” Kriti Sharma (VP AI, Sage) started her keynote speech. As humans, we create stereotypes about our age, gender, race. And it’s also us, the same human beings, who create AI and decide what data we feed it.

Remember the adverts that Youtube plays between (or even during) videos, trying to impress you with whatever it thinks might be of your interest based on your age or location? The same technology can advise on your promotion based on your gender or predict criminal activity based on race.

Such biases are slowly creeping into our digital lives. AI is creating its own biased world thanks to us.

Kriti Sharma, VP AI at Sage
Kriti Sharma, VP AI at Sage

The good news is that we can be now aware of this situation. “We can make sure there are diverse teams building technology and that we solve real problems using technology,” explains Kriti. People have an excellent opportunity to prevent such behavior and help build more inclusive technology for brighter future.

We are all responsible

David Ryan Polgar (Tech Ethicist and Digital Citizenship expert) covered the difficulty of fighting hate speech and misinformation online. “Technology, especially social networks, is in a very dark place in 2018. We were promised that they would spread information, democracy, educate masses, but this is not happening. However, there is a hope on horizon as there is a hunger to solve this problem.”

Nowadays, all users expect easy answers – this is hate speech, that is fake news. They want the big networks to deal with the situation and hold them accountable.

According to David, social media doesn’t want the power to decide about this very new and specific phenomenon. Moreover, why would someone in Silicon Valley be responsible for determining all the cultural nuances around the world?

FutureNow conference and Startup Awards 2018
FutureNow conference and Startup Awards 2018

“Social media needs to be infused with social responsibility. We need to create a system that currently doesn’t exist, “says David. “Don’t blame one person such as Zuckerberg for everything, don’t give the responsibility to one person.”

These were just some of the highlights from the FutureNow Conference where innovators, startups, and tech enthusiasts met to discuss the future of work, education, and data.

1200+ attendees of the conference and more than 2000 people attending the whole FutureNow week are a proof that people from the CEE region are interested in innovations and willing to contribute to our better future.

Interested in learning more?

Stay tuned for our interviews with two speakers from the event! We talked to Péter Halácsy (CEO at Budapest School and Co-Founder at Prezi) about the future of education and schooling and David Bizer (Founder at Talent Fountain) gave us a few tips on how to master the hiring process in your startup.

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