German Business Founder is Runner-up in EO’s 2023 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

Out of 1,100 competitors worldwide, new RWTH Aachen University student Gernot Sümmermann takes second-highest honors in prestigious student entrepreneur awards

23 June 2023, Cape Town, South Africa / Alexandria, VA: Following a year-long nomination, application and pitch process, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) has revealed the Global Champion and runner-up in its annual Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) for 2023. Announced during the finale of a four-part YouTube series that posted on 23 June, the second-place winner is Gernot Sümmermann, founder of RefresherBoxx, a new eco-friendly product that enables textiles washing without the use of water or chemicals. Sümmermann learned of his victory during the final episode of ‘Start it Up’, which was produced with funding support from EO.

Sümmermann is enrolled at RWTH Aachen University and majoring in mechanical engineering, with an expectant graduation date in 2025. During his time at university, he founded RefresherBoxx, a new washing system for clothing and other textiles that works by using a combination of innovative sanitation methods such varying wavelengths of light and air pressure to clean textiles with minimal environmental footprint. He is also the driving force behind two other startups: Cynteract, a digital rehabilitation solution, and Autak, a groundbreaking stair-climbing wheelchair, demonstrating his dedication to improving people’s lives. Sümmermann’s achievement in this highly competitive global contest has earned him a cash prize of US$25,000. from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.


Gernot Sümmermann, 2023 Runner Up, at the GSEA finals


The GSEA finals were held in Cape Town, South Africa, in May, where the mini-series was recorded. Finalists presented their businesses to two rounds of judges. The final round of judges included last year’s GSEA Global Champion from Ireland Nick Cotter, co-founder of Cotter Agritech, along with established business owner and eight-year EO Jordan member Abeer Qumsieh, the founder of management consulting firm Better Business; plus YouTube influencer and best-selling author Amy Landino.

GSEA is EO’s premier global competition for students who own and operate a business while attending college or university, and 2023 marks the 17th year that EO has hosted the awards. To qualify, candidates nominate their businesses through an open application process and compete against their peers worldwide in a series of local and national competitions. For the 2022-2023 competition, 1,100 applications were received from students across 94 local EO chapters in 39 countries. Just 59 students made it to Global Quarter Finals, and 18 advanced to the competition’s semi-finals and were featured in the four-part Start it Up series on YouTube. From those 18 young entrepreneurs, six moved on to become global finalists.

The 2023 Global Champion is recent medical school graduate David Hodgson, 30, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, founder of Hollo Medical, a medical device company that was launched to reduce the burden of chronic respiratory diseases. He was awarded US$50,000. The second runner-up is Laura Perez, 23, from Colombia, founder of Koji Co, a food design and fermentation lab, which designs, prototypes and scales new food products using kōji-based fermentation. She was awarded US$15,000. The three other finalists were:

  • Selen Señal, Turkey – 28, founder of ALGBIO, which treats industrial wastewater and flue gas with algae to produce carbon negative biofuels and bioplastics.
  • Sofia Taday, Ecuador – 29, founder of Allikay Food Tech, a company working on the sustainable use of industrial and domestic organic waste.
  • Adolfo Martin Vidal Ruiz, Mexico – 22, founder of Celal-mex, a startup using agricultural by-products to sustainably produce cellulose, starch and other materials.

A unique aspect of the judging process in these student awards is the weighting of scores: 70 percent of a judge’s score is based on each entrepreneur’s vision, grit and values, ahead of their actual businesses, while 30 percent is based on the business concept and strength.

“In scoring each competitor’s awards entry, we are looking to see whether these young entrepreneurs have what it takes to endure the ups and downs of entrepreneurship,” said Tamarin Morrell, Programme Director for EO’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. “As any business owner can attest, businesses come and go. Experimentation and failure are cornerstone experiences of any entrepreneur’s story. In the end, it is the individual more than the business itself that determines their success, longevity and impact.”  

Sümmermann said: “This recognition in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards is a testament to the power of innovation and sustainability. I am grateful for the opportunity to help solve pressing challenges and grateful to the Entrepreneurs' Organization for providing a platform that nurtures young entrepreneurs like me."

The GSEA programme supports student entrepreneurs who require much-needed mentorship, recognition, and connections to take their businesses to the next level of success. Information about the 2023-2024 applications has been announced on GSEA’s website.



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About EO

Founded in 1987, EO is non-profit membership network of 18,000+ diverse business owners in 75+ countries that helps entrepreneurs unlock their full potential and move the world forward through life-enhancing connections, shared experiences, and experiential learning in a global peer community. For more information, visit:

About GSEA

Over the past 17 years, the Entrepreneur Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) has become the premier global competition for university students to gain mentorship, connection and visibility. GSEA was founded at the John Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University in 1998, and EO took on stewardship of the Awards in 2006. For more information visit:

GSEA 2023 by the numbers:

Nearly 1,100 total student applications were received from the following regions:

  • Asia Pacific (APAC) region: 61
  • North and South Asia: 389
  • Canada: 4
  • Europe: 110
  • Latin America: 145
  • Middle East, Pakistan and Africa (MEPA): 149
  • United States: 182

Other applications without a competition in their area: 59