A group of extreme sports-loving entrepreneurs is hosting a startup contest, and the finals will be on Richard Branson's private island


maitai tech challenge

John Dill, MaiTai Global

An entrepreneur tries kiteboarding during last year's Xtreme Tech Challenge on Necker Island.

MaiTai Global isn't your typical entrepreneur network.


Combining a passion for innovation with extreme sports, MaiTai hosts a number of meet-ups in exotic locations like the Dominican Republic, Australia, and Necker Island over the course of the year.

The organization was started by venture capitalist Bill Tai and professional kiteboarder Susi Mai.

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MaiTai has announced its second annual "Extreme Tech Challenge," a startup competition hosted in conjunction with Virgin Group billionaire Richard Branson and the Consumer Electronics Show.

"We're looking for a killer founding team that has an edge, with a product that could disrupt or define a big market," Tai told Business Insider. "We add accelerant to a team and product that will be winners anyway, but get them there faster by stepping up their visibility and providing resources that help them scale at low cost."


Applications are being accepted until September 30. The top 10 startups will present to contest judges during CES in January. The final three then get to go on to present at Necker Island, Branson's 74-acre Carribbean retreat.

Judges include Branson, Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro, Google Maps creator Lars Rasmussen, tech blogger Robert Scoble, and venture capitalists Tim Draper and Veronica Serra.

While an investment isn't guaranteed, the contest's organizers say the exposure to influential members of the tech community can be invaluable. This year, the challenge team has partnered with wearable tech-focused accelerator Wearable World to help competing Internet-of-things startups get on a fast track to success.

"What truly sets this competition apart from any other goes beyond on the infrastructure we provide to help companies scale. It's truly about community," executive director Kym McNicholas said. "I love cultivating a community where entrepreneurs feel like they have support every step of the way, well beyond their two minutes on the stage."

They'll have some fun, too. Any event with MaiTai is bound to include kiteboarding and other water sports, and Branson's island was basically designed for a good time.


necker island

Courtesy of John Dill, MaiTai Global

necker island

Courtesy of John Dill, MaiTai Global

Last year's finalists included smartphone breathalyzer company Breathometer, medical app Doctor on Demand, and bus travel search site Wanderu.

Breathometer, a platform that can analyze your health by the scent of your breath, had won a $1.6 million investment on "Shark Tank" prior to its participation in the Extreme Tech Challenge. It also graduated from StartX, the Stanford-affiliated startup incubator, in 2014.

Doctor on Demand was founded by daytime TV personality Dr. Philip McGraw ("Dr. Phil"), his son Jay McGraw, and entrepreneur Adam Jackson. In July, the startup closed a $62.7 million Series B round that included contributions from Branson, 23andMe, Rock Health, Qualcomm Ventures, Dignity Health, and Shasta Ventures, among others.

Wanderu shot to the top of the iTunes Store charts the week of its launch. It has raised $8.1 million in funding to date.


"It was the most incredible experience I've ever had," Wanderu cofounder and CEO Polina Raygorodskaya told Business Insider in February. "We definitely built some important connections."

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