Reverse pitch competitions are rapidly growing in popularity within the US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities (SGC) network. These are competitions where a community announces a challenge or challenges it would like to solve, and then asks for participants to submit applications as solutions. There’s prize money involved, and a healthy dose of collaboration between community leaders and application developers.

In the last few months we’ve had several reverse pitch competitions announced among our SGCs, including the GigabitDCx challenge out of Washington, D.C., and the Ag Tech Challenge hosted by Ignite Minnesota.

Washington, D.C. pulled out all the stops at its launch event on October 13 at a local WeWork space. In attendance were the Interim CTO Barney Krucoff (shown below), specialists from the local departments of transportation and energy, and partner experts from George Washington University, Cisco, and Verizon. The city is looking for solutions in the areas of mobility and environmental sustainability. The competition is running in two phases. In the first, teams will submit their proposals, with up to six finalists then selected from the group. In phase two, up to two teams will be awarded $34,000 to advance their proposals to the prototype stage.

From the DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Nina Liggett called the challenge a chance to play “America’s Got Talent.” Teams can form on their own, or anybody with an idea or relevant skills can join the GigabitDCx community to find partners. The program is hosted on the crowdsourcing platform HeroX (the HeroX organization was co-founded by XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis), and the initial submission deadline for phase one is November 12.


Meanwhile across the country, Ignite Minnesota kicked off its Ag Tech Challenge on October 8th during Food/Ag/Ideas Week in the Twin Cities. At the event, Ignite Minnesota Executive Director Neela Mollgaard and US Ignite Executive Director Bill Wallace led a panel of Ag Tech experts from Cargill, Rover Robotics, Aker Technologies, Deepgreen, Syngenta, and Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI). They presented some of the potential challenges to be addressed by innovators as agriculture moves from precision farming to predictive farming, and potential areas of focus for solutions including:

  • The use of sensors on the ground, in the air, and on agricultural equipment supported by artificial intelligence tools to improve crop-level decisions
  • Data aggregation across connected farms to improve the quality of available data
  • Drone/robotics-driven automation needed to keep up with global food demand, expected to increase by over 60% by 2050

Initial applications for the Ag Tech Challenge are due on November 15, with finalists announced on November 19, and the first round of awards made on November 29. Award funds include $20,000 in cash plus in-kind contributions from partners.