Verónica Orvalho wins the Women Startup Challenge VR and AI in New York

Interdisciplinary research,
education and capacity building

22 Mar 2017

Professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP) is an international example of innovation with the startup “My Didimo”.


Verónica Orvalho won the first place in the 4th edition of the competition “Women Startup Challenge VR and AI”, after presenting My Didimo, a technology-based startup born at the University of Porto that allows anyone to create an avatar that speaks and moves in a virtual world.

My Didimo let’s you create virtual 3D characters (avatars) from a single photo taken with a mobile phone. In just 2 minutes you have a lifelike avatar that can speak, move and represent you in a 3D world. The technology can be used in movies, video games, but also in medicine, in sports or in retail. In 2015, the technology had already been honored with an iUP25k award at the “Business Ideas Competition” of the University of Porto.

The idea to create My Didimo emerged in mid-2010, when the team sought to develop a technology that would automatically create “virtual avatars”. It was with the “FaceDecode” project that they applied, in 2015, to iUP25k and realized the highly scalable dimensions of the project. After winning the iUP25k program, the goal was to put the product on the market, start a business and market the technology.

The final of the international competition took place in New York and it was sponsored by the US organization "Woman Who Tech", with the partnership of Craig Newmark, founder of Craiglist (online communities network that offers classifieds and local forums for jobs, sales, relations, services). The “Women Startup Competition” aims to showcase the most disruptive and value-added projects developed by female entrepreneurs in the areas of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The event also aims to support the development and expansion on stage by facilitating contact with investment agents.

In the competition, the ten finalists – chosen from more than 200 candidates – had the challenge of presenting their respective projects to an international panel of investors such as Kate Shillo (Investor at Galvanize Ventures), Kai Bond (Investor at Comcast Ventures and Catalyst Fund) and Lisa Stone (co-founder of BlogHer and Entrepreneur). Each startup had 4 minutes to pitch their venture and 4 minutes of Q&A with the judges.

The awards ceremony took place on February 15 at Google’s New York facility and My Didimo, the only Portuguese finalist in the competition, won a prize of $ 50 000 (about 47 thousand euros).

With this award, Verónica Orvalho will continue to develop a pioneering technology in the world. Investing in marketing strategy and in product development for the end user are now the two priorities of the Portuguese Researcher.

To know more about My Didimo:


About Verónica Orvalho

Born in Argentina, Verónica Orvalho holds a degree in Software Engineering from the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires. She holds a master in Video Game Development at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, and has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Catalonia. Professor of the Department of Computer Science at the Faculty of Sciences of U. Porto since 2008, she has extensive experience in the computer graphics industry. She focused her research work on “Facial Ridding”, a system that aims to make the facial expression, in animation cinema, more realistic.