Congratulations to 2020 Falling Walls Lab Israel winner Yonatan Fialkoff and the team at start-up Zzapp for two major wins! Within one month, Zzapp was awarded first place in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Challenge, and the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. This is a huge vote of confidence for Zzapp’s innovative use of AI to enhance planning and implementation of malaria elimination operations. We caught up with Yonatan to chat about Zzapp’s recent successes and plans for the future.

Winning the grand prize of the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Challenge is a huge achievement, how did you celebrate when you found out you’d won?

The finals event was online so we had all gathered in advance, with friends and family, to view the screening. A split second after the 2nd place was announced, everyone started clapping and screaming. Someone burst into the room where our CEO, Arnon, was being filmed, and emptied a bottle of champagne over him.

Shortly after you found out you’d won the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge too. In an e-mail to us you said you were overwhelmed, how are you feeling now?

Still excited but it’s sinking in. It helped that I had to take care of some urgent assignments such as composing and sending out press releases and thank you notes.

Has winning the AI XPRIZE Challenge and the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge had an effect on the goals you’d named in our previous interview in February?

In February, we were at the final preparation stages of the operation in São Tomé and Príncipe. Since then, we have launched the operation, and now, after winning the competitions, we have the resources not only to complete this operation at a high level but also to launch additional operations in other countries.

Since its founding in 2016 Zzapp has gone from strength to strength, not only winning two prestigious competitions in 2021, but also launching its first country-wide elimination operation in São Tomé and Príncipe. Do you have any advice for aspiring change-makers?

Arnon reminded us that exciting as winning the competitions is, this year’s real achievement is launching the operation in São Tomé and Príncipe and that this is where our real success will be measured. Hence my advice for aspiring change-makers: stay focused. Dream big, but find meaning and satisfaction in your day-to-day work.

Thank you to Yonatan for taking the time to talk with us, we look forward to seeing what’s next for Zzapp!

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