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An international group of entrepreneurs gathered at Seattle City Hall Friday afternoon to pitch companies they’re building around the world from Cyprus to Slovakia.

The 10 startup founders who presented comprise the 2018 cohort of the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leadership Initiative (YTILI) Fellowship, a program run by the U.S. Department of State. With support from the U.S. German Marshall Fund, YTILI brings European entrepreneurs across the Atlantic and connects them with mentors and leadership training.

The YTILI Seattle cohort and their mentors. (GeekWire Photos / Monica Nickelsburg)

There are 68 entrepreneurs participating in the 2018 YTILI Fellowship, each placed in cities across the U.S. The 10 in Seattle pitched their businesses before their program mentors: David Harris of the City of Seattle, Lowell Rickfels, a mergers and acquisitions advisor, Anne Kennedy, president of Outline Venture Group, and Ryan Biava, Strategic Advisor at Seattle City Light.

Those judges will nominate two of the fellows to present at a closing conference in Washington, D.C., with senior State Department officials expected to attend.

Continue reading to learn more about YTILI’s Seattle fellows.


Hackquarters founder Mehmet Kaan Akin.

Fellow: Mehmet Kaan Akin

Country of origin: Turkey

Pitch: “It is not that easy to find this much opportunity in the world. How we are solving it is we have a lot of community programs, accelerators sponsored by different companies, organizations, even governments, to create and spread innovation all around the world. We have three main programs where we invest in startups, where we work with corporates to create these programs, and also we have a … program for high school and university students for the next generation of innovators.”


Arcadex CTO Luka-Ciganek.

Fellow: Luka Ciganek

Country of origin: Croatia

Pitch: “We help companies monetize for esports. It is getting crowded. We are constantly being spammed by ads. We have Google, Facebook, Snapchat … how do you as a brand get to your consumers in this jungle when their attention span time is so low? With our solution, you can target a specific audience at a specific time, get them engaged playing video games … it is called Arcadex and it is an esports platform for corporate clients giving them the opportunity to host online video game tournaments.”

Ezzing Solar

Ezzing Solar co-founder Victor Sancho Cuerva.

Fellow: Victor Sancho Cuerva

Country of origin: Spain

Pitch: “We make solar energy easy. Following the trends of the world towards 100 percent electrification, solar energy is going to play a very important role in this future. At Ezzing Solar, what we want to do, and what we do, is we make the process of selling and buying solar installations as easy as possible. Our vision is that in the near future, solar installations are as easy as air conditioners to install.”


IXWORX head of business development Martina Drahosova.

Fellow: Martina Drahosova

Country of origin: Slovakia

Pitch: “We provide interactive 3D content tools for virtual reality and augmented reality. Our service is focused on virtual reality for industry. So since we are from Slovakia, we have started with automotive industry because Slovakia is the biggest producer of cars per capita. Our niche is virtual reality training for factories … however, our mission is not to be just a virtual reality training company. Our mission in AR and VR is bigger. We have developed software tools that make it easier for other creators of VR and AR to create VR/AR content … we would like to become the provider of such software tools worldwide.”

VREX Immersive

VREX Immersive CEO Nikoloz Gogochuri.

Fellow: Nikoloz Gogochuri

Country of origin: Georgia

Pitch: “No matter what they say, virtual reality is a great space to be in. A lot of amazing companies are creating awesome hardware and software but the question still remains, how do you actually apply virtual reality to business and how do you actually monetize content in VR? Our answer to that is a unique, interactive virtual reality platform for travel industry where people can experience places rather than see them in videos, where they can make wiser decisions on where to go and book their trips right inside virtual reality.”


Knot CEO Polina Mikhaylova.

Fellow: Polina Mikhaylova

Country of origin: France

Pitch: “Knot is solving the last mile problem in public transportation with a kick scooter sharing network … what they do is all-in-one, custom-made kick scooter sharing solution for cities, businesses, and campuses. We work in B2B.”


Climber founder and CEO Mario Mouraz.

Fellow: Mario Mouraz

Country of origin: Portugal

Pitch: “We have software for hotels to implement intelligent, dynamic pricing into small hotel chains. Every day, hotels need to decide what is the room rate they should be selling the rooms. The majority of hotels, they do not sell to capacity, their full inventory, and they do not sell at the optimal price. What they end up doing is they are losing money because they are not filling up their hotel and this costs the industry upwards of $100 billion Euros per year, just because they don’t know how to sell and the reason they don’t know is it’s a manual process to keep up with so many factors that influence demand … we decided to create an AI-based intelligent pricing system that … recommends the optimal price that hotels should be selling the rooms.”


Hopwave CEO Georgios Pilpilidis.

Fellow: Georgios Pilpilidis

Country of origin: Greece

Pitch: “This is our new product: Kleesto is a tour operators’ and travel agents’ solution which helps them organize all their activities and any kind of activities that they operate. We help them organize all information needed, all the pricing, all the data that they need to sell to their customers.”


CitizenLab CEO Wietse Van Ransbeeck.

Fellow: Wietse Van Ransbeeck

Country of origin: Belgium

Pitch:” We are a digital democracy platform for local governments. We make easy on the one hand, for citizens to have a direct say in their local policymaking, on the other hand for local governments to actually translate all this input from the citizens into actionable insights for policymaking.”

Politica Managing Director Andrea Solomonidou.

Fellow: Andrea Solomonidou

Country of origin: Cyprus

Pitch: “Politica is an innovative, multisegment platform for live reporting political analysis and data actualization aiming to enhance every media outlet’s offering to the citizens of the world.”

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