The Kuyper Challenge


The winner of the Kuyper Challenge is known!
On Thursday June 10, during the Déjà VU on the roof festival, Rector Vinod Subramaniam announced the winner of the Kuyper Challenge. 

The nominees
Mr. Mind Reality   
Insan Firdaus and Finde Xumara have combined their expertise in biological psychology and software development to develop Myndful, a virtual reality app for people with addiction problems. Myndful creates a virtual environment where people are trained to control their impulses and build resilience. The process can be monitored remotely by professionals. “As a therapist and a former addict, I know that seeking help is not as easy as people think,” Insan explains. “Our goal is to make treatment as easy as pushing a button.”
Insan Firdaus is a cognitive therapist and PhD candidate at the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences.
Finde Xumara obtained his Master’s in AI in 2016 and works as a 3D developer.

Sonoptic offers visually impaired people opportunities for greater social and professional integration. The device consists of a pair of glasses fitted with a 3D camera and a wristband that picks up information about objects in the surrounding space when the wearer points at them. The Sonoptic also translates written texts into Braille and enhances the user’s spatial awareness. “One in three Europeans has a visual impairment,” says Cristian Dragomir. “It is our civic duty to give them better tools to find their way in society.”
Cristian Dragomir is a Master’s student in Computer Science at VU Amsterdam

Team Huskki   
Husski is a monitoring system and activity tracker designed to aid fall prevention in the elderly. Every day in the Netherlands, at least thirty elderly people die or suffer serious physical injury as the result of a fall. Husski is suitable for use in nursing homes and care institutions. Not only does the application promote fitness among the elderly, but it also identifies risks and provides applied feedback on a daily basis. Through Husski, Harshil Paliwal and Saurabh Jain want to invest in a community where the elderly can live happy, active and independent lives.

Saurabh Jain is a Master’s student in Artificial Intelligence at VU Amsterdam, specializing in Cognitive Science and Machine Learning.
Harshil Paliwal is a Master’s student in Business Informatics at Utrecht University.

And the winner is... 
Mr. Mind reality!
Vinod Subramaniam: 'The winner is an ambitious project driven by two enthusiastic entrepreneurs who have a very good knowledge of the core technical competencies behind the product they want to develop. Should their method prove to be as efficient as expected from theory, they will have a real opportunity to demonstrate how academic entrepreneurship can give a positive impact to our society.'

Kuyper challenge? What was that all about?
At VU Amsterdam it is bubbling with innovative ideas, ideas that can grow into successful businesses. In this festive year - in which VU celebrates its 140th anniversary - we are encouraging our enterprising students, alumni and (ex-)PhD students more than ever. With the Kuyper Challenge we take a new step in the direction of VU Amsterdam as an incubator for startups and we make true what has been in our DNA for 140 years. Because enterprising founder Abraham Kuyper did not only start a university, but also a newspaper, a new religious denomination and the first Dutch political party.

•    At least one third of the start-up must be owned by VU students, alumni and/or former or current PhD candidates. 
•    Participating alumni and former PhD candidates must have graduated or obtained a PhD from VU Amsterdam no more than five years ago. 
•    The prize money will be paid out to a legal entity registered with the Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of realizing the winning start-up. 

What could you win? 
The top three ideas were officially nominated for the award and each earn 4,000 euros of seed capital, while the winner of the Kuyper Award is set to take home another 5,000 euros. In addition, all three nominated start-ups are invited to participate in a tailor-made coaching programme. 
An independent five-member jury presides over the nomination process, and the nominees were announced at the VU New Year’s Gala on 28 January. The winner is revealed in June 10, as part of the Abraham Kuyper Lecture. 

The jury
•    Ben Tiggelaar: behavioural scientist, international guest speaker and author of bestselling books on management
•    Davide Iannuzzi: professor of Experimental Physics and designer and director of the Demonstrator Lab
•    Marry de Gaay Fortman: lawyer, partner at Houthoff and former chairperson of Topvrouwen
•    Melvin Tjoe Nij: founder of The Other Network and board member at VNO-NCW Metropool Amsterdam
•    Piek Vossen: professor Computational Lexicology & Terminology Lab (CLTL), Winner of the Spinoza Price and member of the KNAW and the Network Instituut 

Get inspired! 
Do you also have an entrepreneurial spirit? VU Amsterdam has always been a breeding groung for special startups: from a high-speed search engine that uses artificial intelligence to find technological solutions to companies’ problems  to a homework tutoring service for low-income secondary school students. Get inspired by the stories of Findest and Stichting Leren voor de Toekomst.  

‘Entrepreneurs should feel the freedom to do things differently and to ask questions’, says management guru Ben Tiggelaar. Ben obtained his PhD from VU Amsterdam on behavioural change in organizations. Listen to the advice of this bestselling author of books on management for useful tips.

Kuyper Year

The Kuyper Challenge is part of VU Amsterdam’s festive Kuyper Year, in which we celebrate our 140th anniversary with various activities, and by highlighting themes that are as important to us today as they were to our founder: democracy, diversity and social entrepreneurship. You are warmly invited to participate in the anniversary activities scheduled for the 2020-2021 academic year, which you can find at