Today over a boxed lunch, close to 1000 techies and entrepreneurs watched the semi-final round of the second annual RootsTech Innovator Showdown while 12 international contestants, chosen from a field of 50 applicants, strutted their stuff before an audience of peers and a panel of impressive genealogy, tech, and business gurus in their vie for $100,000 in cash and prizes.
This is also my second annual pilgrimage to the Innovator Summit/Showdown. This year there were fewer contestants, but more semi-finalists, which gave judges a broader spectrum of family history related innovators to select from.
Host Craig Bott of Grow Utah introduced the contestants and judges and then the 12 semi-finalists came up one at a time to do their 2 minute presentation. Despite some trouble with the slide remote, a few false starts, the presentations left me so very glad I was not one of the judges.
Here are the 12 semi-finalists in alphabetical order:
After each 2 minute presentation, the judges had 2 minutes to ask questions. There were questions about the current status of the product, the reception of users, how it is being marketed, how it is different from existing applications, how it is monetized, plans for expansion, and many more.
I kept thinking about how I personally would benefit from the various products and services, some popped out to me, but upon further reflection I’d benefit from all of them!
I have ancestors from Eastern Europe, I have photo albums that need to be digitized, I have family using social media to document their lives, I would love to see my family tree in a visual timeline, I need training, I have artifacts that need to be in a time capsule, I have journals that need to be transcribed, my family should have ancestral and current medical information – there is nothing that these semi-finalist offer that is not going to benefit me.
By the time it was all over, my head was swimming. Several times my eyes were wet, my throat was tight, and I found myself longing for the success of these products being developed and available to the world for the amazing difference they are all destined to make to the family history industry, and to individual families. The contestants are real people who have gotten to this point because of the passion they have for solving their own personal family history problem.
I don’t envy the judges – later tonight they will announce the six finalists. This year, the five judges from various backgrounds are:
- Dixie Hanson Expert Genealogist with Hubbard Broadcasting
- Gary Romsaas Expert Genealogist and Technical Specialist
- John Richards with Startup Ignition
- Robb Kunz with Boom Startup
- Warde Allan with Durham Jones Pinegar
We await the announcement, later this evening of the six finalists who will move on to the final round on Friday to compete for three judges’ choice winners and one people’s choice award. All will have a chance to court collaboration, funding and other services that started immediately after the event concluded – the energy and excitement in the room was palpable.