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2016 Competition & Awards

Columbia Venture Competition SIPA Dean's Policy Challenge


In September 2015, ten semi-finalist teams were chosen in the third competition of the SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge. Semifinalist teams participated in boot camps including Prototyping, Financial Planning, Law and Startups and Effective Pitching. Teams were also provided support through funding and a team of Advisors. In January 2016, five finalist teams were selected to further refine and develop their projects. Winners of the third round of competition were announced in April 2016. 


Students: Nthabiseng Enyonam Mosia, Eric Silverman, Alexandre Tourre

Easy Solar (formerly Azimuth Solar)  is a social venture with the aim of reducing energy poverty in urban and peri-urban areas of West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone. Targeting under-served market segments, Azimuth will provide cheap, clean and reliable solar energy to its customers by making solar lamps and solar home systems affordable via rent-to-own and pay-as-you-go payment plans. Leveraging mobile-money as a convenient, safe and transparent payment option, Azimuth will furthermore generate instant credit scores based on the payment history of its customers. By pursuing its innovative and sustainable business model, Azimuth Solar therefore reduces carbon emissions, improves the health of its customers, and contributes to local economic development.

Students: Aline Sara, Reza Rahnema, Aimee Chen, Niko Efstathiou, Sherif Kamal

NaTakallam, (we speak in Arabic), is a social venture that pairs students learning Arabic with displaced Syrians for conversation-focused sessions over the internet. Through this online platform, Arabic learners have the option of practicing their speaking skills, with full flexibility concerning the timing, length, and format of their sessions. They also engage in a unique cultural experience while providing Syrians with an enriching part-time work opportunity.

Students: Olivier Bennaim, Alexandre Zeitoun

Cigonn is the first pay-per-use tablet sharing system that spares students the unaffordable upfront costs of purchasing an Internet device in developing countries. It works similar to libraries in universities, substituting book with tablets. Students will be able to either use tablets in Cigonn spaces on campus or rent them from off-site use. Leveraging an innovative user interface, Cigonn enables students to access their own Cigonn accounts and retrieve their data and projects for each use. 

Read more about the winners


Concourse Markets is an online platform and a robust data organization system that enables multiple community lenders to lend to a single project. Community lenders provide a full array of financial products to communities redlined by larger banks and where unbanked rates are highest. Yet, capital constraints limit these institutions’ capacity to lend to large profitable projects in their own communities. With syndication as an option put back on the table by Concourse Markets, lenders can better deploy capital and make financial markets more inclusive.

Students: Anuar Juraidini


Nansen will allow refugees to complete simple legal processes and protection needs through a mobile device. By customizing its interface to support different language and applications, Nansen will also have broad applicability in complex emergencies across the world.

Students: Selim C. Sazak, Z. Sila Sonme, Baris C(an) Kayaalp



Civic Innovation Fellows Program (CIF) is launching a collaboration between the Manhattan Borough President's Office, local non-profit BetaNYC, the CUNY Service Corps, and Manhattan's Community Boards to bring local government into the 21st Century. We are developing a curriculum that accomplishes three goals: Training CUNY students the basics of agile development and open data analysis; Bringing digital resources to Community Boards to improve their data-driven decision making; Improving local service delivery and community engagement in New York City. The program will be openly licensed and constructed in a manner to eventually serve all 59 Community Boards in New York City, and will include mapping tools, open data resources, introduction to software development philosophies, and leadership training.

Students: William Colegrove


FoodChief is a mobile application that provides users with a wide selection of healthy, delicious recipes and helps them plan and budget their weekly meals and grocery trips. FoodChief's social mission is to help make a healthy cooking lifestyle more accessible to everyone, especially for those who are budget-conscious.

Students: Lily Zhou, Alejandra Tarazona Zambrano, Luc Bonnafous, Andrew Pfender


Open Force aims to revolutionize workforce development for young adults previously involved in New York City’s criminal justice system by equipping them with in-demand technology skills through a rigorous, yet supportive, computer training program. Our program will provide court-involved 18-25 year-olds with sufficient technical and professional skills for immediate placement in entry-level IT jobs with the prospect of continued growth. In addition, the Open Force app will support our students through active learning modules, professional training, and a planner to keep track of responsibilities and appointments. Open Force aims not only to help court-involved youth simply re-enter society, but also enjoy lifelong career success in New York City's increasingly tech-driven economy.

Students: Vincent Quan, Jourdan Howard Janssen, Lindsay Fuller, Audrey Yu, Sonya D. Rubin, Sarah Lux-Lee


RenJi is a career-networking platform dedicated to facilitate students’ networking and job search with an elegant and systematic solution: Mentorship. Through the proposed mentorship-matching algorithm embedded into our relationship management system, we provide not only an effective career-couching program, but also promising tools to assist users’ network exploration. We believe the proposed platform will allow users to take full advantages of their professional networks and land suitable jobs, and ultimately mitigate the rampant over-skilled and job mismatching issues in today’s world.

Students: Brian (Yi-Ho) Chen, I-Hong Jhuo, Nikhita Kumar, Gabriel Agostini, Lucy (Chia-Jung) Lin


Semper Analytics is an intelligence assessment management platform and analytics package serving the US Intelligence Community.  Semper streamlines intelligence production processes while ensuring assessment integrity from inception to ultimate dissemination to policymakers.  Semper enforces best practices while providing an ultimate system of record for future discovery and outward facing applications that leverage underlying structured data and metadata from assessments.

Students: Jacqueline Burns Koven, PJ Hubbard