Goodbye To The Startup Challenge


Many of you have asked us when we’ll be holding the Startup Challenge this year. We covered it a bit in a podcast we posted some 3 weeks ago, but here it is again:

The ZOL Startup Challenge has been discontinued. We will not hold it this year and we will not hold it next year or the year after that etc… There are a couple of reasons why:

  • There was no strong business case for the key sponsor, ZOL, so they decided not to sponsor it this year
  • The Startup Challenge format had some issues. Some years, what we thought was the deserving winner got the prize – other years, like last year, jokers and startup competition gamers won, which was extremely disappointing. We discussed this a bit after last year’s challenge and there was no solution in sight that improves this aspect of the challenge. Or put another way, no one had the strength to find another way.

Contrary to what many believe, Techzim actually never made any money hosting the challenge. If anything, we spent money both in hard cash as well as in time. Initially we didn’t mind as the gains for the ecosystem and us in the long term were clear. Eventually it started to worry us that this was very unsustainable. And it just got worse given the gamers above.


As a startup ourselves though we’ve been forced to do a lot of thinking about where our energy is best spent and what we will be proud to have built and been part of some 20 years from now. It is not startup competitions. It is something else inside that we have to focus our full attention on. To build a successful startup ecosystem, we have to be successful ourselves and that will help us help others better, otherwise we are just the jokers we hate.

To be clear, we think startup competitions are a good thing for a tech ecosystem. They provide an easy way to meet fellow hackers and entrepreneurs, they provide great pressure to build and ship something quickly- such constraints are a great thing. They help people to learn to question their idea assumptions, they help people stop assuming ideas are companies, and most of all they help those genuinely seeking a boost on something they have been working hard at. We think so at least.

We thank ZOL, the other sponsors, partners and the judges of the challenge for the support they gave through the years. There are some moderate “success stories” of the challenge that make us proud today and we thank them too. We thank the volunteers who gave their time selflessly for the challenge to succeed each year.

That said, we will continue to support startups we believe in, via the Techzim platform, by sharing some of the resources we have been fortunate enough to get, and via sharing our experiences – the blunders we’ve made and what’s worked well for us.

If you have any questions, we’ll answer what we can in the comments.

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