We acknowledge that we live and work on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.
As the four of us began to navigate our Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) experience last fall, we came together as like-minded individuals with entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for social enterprise. The Hult Prize seemed like the perfect opportunity to channel that passion and expertise.
The Hult Prize challenges thousands of university students around the world to put their skills into action by building a social venture that can change the world, with a $1 million prize up for grabs. This year’s challenge?
Double the income of 10 million people living in crowded urban spaces by 2022.
The making of a social enterprise
Over the past six months, we brainstormed all sorts of ideas — everything from improved mobility solutions to waste management solutions to food-based ventures. It then dawned on us that we are part of an amazing ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs here in Waterloo, and we wanted to replicate that through a new platform solution to help micro-enterprises scale.
From this inspiration, Chrysalis was born: a business development platform for the urban poor, coupled with enabling technologies and capital. We worked tirelessly on the idea and the development of a sustainable business model. We secured technology, local delivery partners, and perfected our pitch.
The road to the regional finals
Among over 25,000 submissions from around the globe, our team qualified in the top 250 and had the chance to present our idea to a panel of esteemed judges in London, England—one of five global pitching locations. This judging panel consisted of successful social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and non-profit leaders.
We arrived in London and had the opportunity to explore the city. It’s a fast-paced, inspiring place for budding social entrepreneurs; plus, the history and architecture is breathtaking. We saw the typical sights—London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace—but it was also great to explore the small hidden gems!
We had a couple of days to practice and perfect the pitch, making last minute adjustments to make sure everything was just right! We felt ready and confident, although that didn’t stop the pitch day jitters.
Pitching on the world stage
On Friday evening we had the chance to network with the other competing teams and be inspired by a speaker from the United Nations. We were told that we would be presenting the following day in the morning in front of four esteemed judges and a peer panel of 25 competing students.
What an experience we had presenting alongside the best of the best from the London School of Economics, Western University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Stockholm, INSEAD, Oxford, and others!
We felt great about our pitch: we were in sync, and it was great to see all our hard work come together in those short six minutes. We also had the opportunity to take part in a peer panel, and it was inspiring to see all the innovative ideas that aimed to change the lives of millions around the world.
Learning from other social entrepreneurs
Unfortunately, we were not selected to advance to the final six, but we did receive some phenomenal feedback from judges and peers regarding our idea and our pitch. The winning London idea came from within our league—the University of Cambridge. The team of four PhD students created a company called Simprints, that aims to improve the lives of the poor within the informal economy by providing accurate biometric data through their technology. They were certainly deserving, after years of research and work on the ground, and we wish them the best of luck in the Hult Incubator in Boston this summer and at the finals in New York in September.
The entire journey was an amazing learning experience. We certainly would not have been able to advance as far as we did without the support of our peers and the faculty and staff at Conrad. Special thanks goes to Nada Basir and Karin Schmidlin for the countless hours of support they provided.
Preston Aitken is a current MBET student. Prior to MBET, he studied International Business at Memorial University and served as Director of Programs for Enactus Canada. His experience with Enactus drove an interest in pursuing a career in consulting, in particular for social enterprises.
Simran Duggal is a current MBET student. Prior to MBET, she studied sociology and economics at the University of Ottawa and held positions in sales, marketing, and business development within the technology and consumer goods industry.