Hult Prize 2018 Regionals see Waterloo teams compete to win and change the lives of 10 million people

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Hult Prize is the largest start-up program in the world for early-stage social ventures, and once again, Waterloo student teams are advancing to regional competitions. Their challenge: build a scalable, sustainable social enterprise that harnesses the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025. According to the 2018 Hult Prize Challenge document

Many people still lack access to basic energy services. More than 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity. An estimated 2.7 billion people live without adequate cooking facilities.

Motivated by the desire to overcome this challenge, our four student teams, will be traveling to Hult Prize regional competitions in Melbourne, Australia, Quito, Ecuador, and Toronto, Canada.

Meet the UWaterloo Hult Prize Teams

Two of this year’s teams are made up entirely of Master of Business Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) students. The undergrad BET 420 Entrepreneurship for Social Impact course, which has incorporated the Hult Prize into its curriculum, has students on the other two teams.

After competing at the Hult Prize @ UWaterloo Finals, Team CataLight advanced to the regional finals. Teams Agora Water, Circadian Energy and Prava, are competing in Hult Prize regional finals after being selected from tens of thousands of applications from teams across the globe.

Hear more from this year’s teams about their ventures, motivation, preparation, and their hopes, in their own words.

Team CataLight

Team Members: Kevin Dang, Ashley Keefner, and Vishal Vinod — all MBET students.

CataLight Logo

Description of Venture: We believe that everyone shares in the same basic human right to a standard for health and well-being and that without access to clean drinking water, there is no health and well-being. At CataLight, our goal is to provide people in developing communities with affordable, safe drinking water. To achieve this goal, CataLight has developed an affordable and reusable point-of-use water treatment unit.

Motivation: What brought the three of us together was the desire to do something that we felt was important.  In 2015, the World Health Organization reported that 2.1 billion people globally still did not have access to basic drinking water services. Developing a solution that can improve access to safe drinking water for millions of people and protect them from contracting deadly water-borne diseases is what motivates us.

Team CataLight Members Kevin Dang, Ashley Keefner, and Vishal Vinod

This year’s challenge for the Hult Prize is to “harness the power of energy to impact the lives of 10 million people by 2025.” The combination of our diverse backgrounds put us in the perfect position to make CataLight a success.  We decided to apply to the first round of the Hult competition and our mission to harness the power of the sun to impact the lives of millions of people was underway positively!

Preparation: Since winning the Waterloo round of the Hult Prize competition, it’s been an exciting rush of development! We immediately reached out to a number of different advisors and sought advice and guidance from mentors at the Conrad Centre, across campus, and off campus. In January, we joined the Velocity Science program, and have been making use of the valuable resources that the Velocity community provides. 

Our next big adventure will be traveling to Haiti!  As three students living in Canada, we know that that we cannot personally identify with our users who are facing incredible challenges. Developing deep empathy for our users is why we have partnered with Live Different a registered Canadian charity, to travel to Haiti.  In just a few days, we will be on the ground in Haiti, visiting a community and speaking to locals to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face surrounding access to safe drinking water. This amazing opportunity will allow us to build a product that suits the needs of our users. We can’t wait!

Hopes for the Competition: We are so excited to be participating in the Hult Prize Regional competition in Melbourne! We are grateful for the opportunity to compete against 49 other top teams from around the world - all working to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. We look forward to building a global network with these inspiring entrepreneurs and carrying it forward to build a collaborative ecosystem.

Regional Competition Location: Melbourne, Australia 

Team Agora Water

Team Members: Shane Kilpatrick, Gagan Dhuga, Kevin Simon, and Joshua Braggiato — all MBET students.

Agora Water Logo

Description of Venture: Agora Water implements modern water purification systems to improve access to clean drinking water in low and medium-income communities, in a way that improves health, lowers carbon emissions, and increases economic development through inspiring local entrepreneurs.

Motivation: The possibility to participate in a venture that will not only solve a critical problem but also help in improving the lives of people. A big factor for us was not just to find a solution to purify water, but we also understood that if we did not improve their economic standing, the solution would not have a long-lasting success (which is where some of the current solutions in the market fail).

Team Agora Water Members Shane Kilpatrick, Gagan Dhuga, Kevin Simon, and Joshua Braggiato

Preparation: We have established relationships with grassroots NGOs both in India and Ecuador were preliminary proposals have been sent out for purification systems to serve these communities. The communities we are targeting in these two countries vary in size from 500 to 1300 people per community. Furthermore, we have expanded our network of advisers to in the sectors of social entrepreneurship, water purification, and GHG reduction.

Hopes for the Competition: We hope to win the regionals which would allow us to continue our growth as a company, our ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible attain access to clean drinking water; a basic human right. 

Regional Competition Location: Quito, Ecuador 

Team Circadian Energy

Team Members: Shiran Qu, Malcolm Williams (BET420), Benjamin Hudson, and Ioan Curticapean

Circadian Energy Logo

Description of Venture: Circadian Energy develops a smart-grid system to provide robust and affordable electricity to remote and under-serviced regions of the world. Sustainable and reliable energy access is a cornerstone of economic growth and quality of life. Despite this, over 1 billion people have been in the dark due to a lack of suitable technology. Our solution is low-cost home-to-home distribution units that enable communities to pool generation and storage. This solution will put reliable energy distribution within reach of urban slums, rural communities, and refugee camps.

Motivation: The shocking reality that over 1 billion people do not have access to something we so often take for granted in our lives motivates us. We believe our abilities are very well aligned to solve the problems facing sustainable energy access and feel we must use these to find a solution that can address this need. We believe the future of energy access lies in connecting communities and empowering energy independence. Solving this challenge will ultimately open people to countless opportunities not yet possible.

Team Circadian Energy Members Shiran Qu, Malcolm Williams , Benjamin Hudson, and Ioan Curticapean

Preparation: In the past few months we have been very busy; not only designing, building and validating our solution but reaching out to mentors, partners and performing market research.

We have developed a network of mentors including industry veterans, professors, and individuals from WISE and the Conrad Centre. We have also connected with local government officials and contacts to understand better the problems faced by people in developing regions. This preparation and development have resulted in laying the groundwork for a pilot program to electrify a rural community of 300 people in Tanzania.

Hopes for the Competition: We are excited at the opportunity to connect with other similarly driven teams and mentors as we all work toward a common goal. This event is a wonderful way to focus a global effort on one of the greatest problems facing humanity today: energy access and how it can be used to improve quality of life. Our team is dedicated to this mission and hope this event will enable us to do our part better.

Regional Competition Location: Toronto, Canada

Team Prava​

Team Members: Jingwen Cui, Shruti Appiah, Spurrya Jaggi, Sebastian Meissner – all BET 420 students.

Description of Venture: Prava (formerly Power to People) is a peer-to-peer renewable energy marketplace designed to bring affordable, clean, and reliable energy access to urban slums in India.

Motivation: What drives Prava is the goal of bringing upward mobility to around the globe. We want to achieve this by revolutionizing the way that energy is generated and shared among communities that lack adequate access to electricity.

Team Prava Members Jingwen Cui, Shruti Appiah, Spurrya Jaggi, and Sebastian Meissner

Preparation: Our team has spent the last six months researching the feasibility of our solution and understanding how it can be applied to help under-served communities. We have been working alongside mentors from multiple organizations within the University of Waterloo, in addition to in-field advisors. We’ve built partnerships with two companies in India – a technology partner who will jointly manufacture the product, and a channel partner who will distribute our products to our customers. We also established advisory relationships with academics in ETH Zurich to build transactive energy sharing ecosystems.

We’re currently building high-fidelity prototypes of our product. Later this year, we are launching a pilot in Bangalore, India where our customers can get their hands on the product.

Hopes for the Competition: Our goal is to create self-sustaining energy economies in urban slums across the world. In the short term, we’re looking forward to the international Hult Prize Competition in Quito, Ecuador. Our initial launch in urban India aims to decrease the deaths caused due to indoor pollution caused by kerosene stoves.

In the long term, we want to enable people living in energy-lacking communities to participate in the modern economy. We’re doing so by giving them access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy, and by creating opportunities for them to establish a secondary source of income.

Regional Competition Location: Quito, Ecuador