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Little Rock Startup Announced as 2017 Talent Unleashed Awards Finalist

Global panel of judges, headlined by Steve Wozniak and Sir Richard Branson, select 2017’s most exciting startups and entrepreneurs

Talent has announced the US finalists for the 2017 Talent Unleashed Awards, with Little Rock, Arkansas-based innovative early-stage startup, Grainster, making the cut. The awards celebrate the most ground-breaking startups, innovators and entrepreneurs across the globe.

The Talent Unleashed Awards, now in their fifth year, identify companies and business leaders using technology to transform the world, creating bold and inventive solutions to business challenges or social issues.

Grainster, named a finalist in the “Best Idea – One to Watch” category, has been selected for its innovative technology enabled grain trading marketplace, created to enhance global food security and small farm strength.

Through freeing growers to offer their production directly to a global buying audience, Grainster’s ecosphere provides a new horizon in agricultural value, service and profitability.

Commenting on their Finalist status, Founder of Grainster, Layne Fortenberry, said “Ecstatic is the way to describe our feeling at Grainster when we found out. It’s not every day your idea gets validation from people like Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak. We are just thrilled to be in the same room with all the other talented finalists and eager to show the world what kind of visionary ideas can come out of Arkansas.”

Grainster’s mission is to revolutionize the way agricultural commodities are traded by expanding trading opportunities to a global landscape for both sellers (farmers) and buyers.

This program is about bold ideas and brave leaders and this year, Talent has seen incredible examples of both.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and Global Talent Unleashed Awards judge commented: “What we are seeing with the Talent Unleashed Awards is part of a broader movement where people are more inclined to confidently stand up and say ‘there’s a better way to do this!’ I certainly relate to this.”

Richard Earl, Chairman and Founder of Talent commented that he was also inspired by the caliber of this year’s entrants.

“Each year we search for the new frontrunners in tech, and each year that search yields more spectacular results. I love having the opportunity to identify and celebrate the people and companies leading the way in innovation and social change across the globe.”

All APAC and US finalists are invited to attend the APAC Awards Grand Final event in Melbourne on 7 December 2017. Steve Wozniak will help host the event, where finalists will receive live feedback and advice from Mr Wozniak and a panel of judges.

The Global Grand Prize Winners will be provided an all-expenses paid trip to Silicon Valley to visit the homes of global technology companies and meet with leaders in the sector.

For more information about Talent Unleashed 2017, please visit

The 2017 Talent Unleashed Awards finalists are as follows:

APAC Best Idea: One to Watch

  • Omar Zuiater & Alaa Habeb, Emudent
  • Michelle Perugini, Life Whisperer
  • Nathan Spataro, SecureVote

USA Best Idea: One to Watch

  • Mengju Wu, Data Center Efficiency Solutions
  • Layne Fortenberry, Grainster
  • Premal Ashar, Nuro Technologies

Best Startup: Tech or Digital Innovation

  • Lee Hardham, Brauz
  • Markus Kahlbetzer, Brickx
  • Florian Simmendinger, Soundbrenner

Best Startup: Social or Community Impact

  • Dr. Nikhil Pooviah, Cancer Aid
  • Kendall Flutey, Banquer
  • David Marten, Power Ledger

Most Disruptive Technology or Digital Leader

  • Clive Dickens, Seven West
  • Nick Whitehouse, MinterEllisonRuddWatts & McCarthyFinch
  • Mark Cohen, Domain Group

Most Progressive Workplace Leader

  • Jessica May, Enabled Employment
  • Annie Parker, Fishburners
  • Amie McKinlay, Lotto NZ

About the Talent Unleashed judging panel

The global Talent Unleashed Awards judging panel was headlined by iconic entrepreneurs Steve Wozniak and Sir Richard Branson, along with Igniting Change and Comic Relief champion Jane Tewson. The global judging panel was supported by judges Yat Siu (Outblaze) Frances Valintine (The Mind Lab), Chris Gilbert (Equitise) Dan Radcliffe (International Volunteer HQ), and Matt Tindale (LinkedIn).

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