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Australian start-up StethoCloud snags $75,000 grant from Microsoft

Thursday, 6 December 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

An Australian start-up that developed a solution to diagnose childhood pneumonia has won a $75,000 grant after being named the runner-up of the Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants program.


Now in its second year, the Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants program is a three-year, $3 million competitive grants program aimed at students.


As part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, it provides students with funding and support to transform their projects into social enterprises or nonprofits that address a specific social issue.


This year, more than 40 teams applied for grants. A judging panel ranked each team based on specific criteria including project impact and viability, and team quality and motivation.


The panel included Jeff Raikes, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Landmark Ventures general partner Zeev Klein, and Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson.


The winners were announced by Microsoft at the Social Innovation Summit, held in Silicon Valley this week.


The second place grant of $75,000 went to an Australian team called StethoCloud, which is a cloud-powered, mobile-hybrid stethoscope for early detection of pneumonia.


By connecting a custom stethoscope to a mobile phone, the user is able to transmit diagnostic information into a cloud service, reproducing the diagnostic capability of a trained doctor.


The StethoCloud team consists of founders Hon Weng Chong and Andrew Lin, lead clinical researcher Karthik Rajah, and Mahsa Salehi, a data mining and machine learning researcher.


Three of the four have studied, or are studying, at the University of Melbourne.


“We started working on this project sometime around March. We just kept working on it until we got into the Australian final in May,” Weng Chong told StartupSmart.


“We won that and kept working… Now we’re staring the clinical research component.


“We’re planning on hiring a research assistant and using the grant money for data corruption for the next six to eight months to bootstrap the database.”


The grand prize of $100,000 went to Graphmasters from Germany, which has developed nunav, a solution that reduces vehicle carbon emissions through an innovative navigation system.


“The Imagine Cup was the catalyst for our team to create nunav,” Graphmasters’ Christian Brüggemann said in a statement.


“Microsoft is giving us the opportunity to expand our project and bring it to market.


“As mobile phone adoption becomes more prevalent around the world, it presents a perfect way for nunav to help fight traffic and carbon emissions.”


There were also grants of $50,000, which went to Vivid from Egypt, Cipher256 from Uganda and QuadSquad from Ukraine.


Vivid has built a mobile app to access medical records using the cloud, while Cipher256 has developed a mobile app and listening device to analyse fetal heart rates.


QuadSquad, meanwhile, has created a solution that transforms sign language into verbal communication.


In addition to the cash awards, the grant packages include software, cloud computing services, solution provider support, and access to local resources such as Microsoft Innovation Centers.


Microsoft will also connect grant recipients with its network of investors, not-for-profits and business partners.


Microsoft isn’t the only tech giant aiming to ramp up its presence in the social enterprise sector.


Google has launched a new program called the Global Impact Awards to support organisations using technology and innovative approaches to tackle social issues.


“From real-time sensors that monitor clean water to DNA barcoding that stops wildlife trafficking, our first round of awards provides $23 million to seven organisations changing the world,” Google’s Jacquelline Fuller wrote in a blog.