On March 4, three UWaterloo teams will compete in the Hult Prize Regional Finals in London, Shanghai, and Boston, vying for one of five spots in the Hult Prize accelerator and the chance to win $1M in seed funding. The Hult Prize, the world's largest student competition for social good, challenges student teams to build sustainable and scalable social enterprises to address the world's largest social problems. This year's challenge focused on restoring the rights and dignities of refugees.
These three teams were chosen to represent UWaterloo from among over forty teams that participated in the Hult Prize campus qualifier event in November, which was spearheaded by Conrad social entrepreneurship professor Nada Basir and hosted by the Conrad Centre. Since November, the three teams have been absorbed with building and developing their ventures, with the support of Conrad faculty.
Meet UWaterloo's three Hult Prize teams:
Team members: Jade Choy (Accounting and Financial Management), Lisa Tran (Science and Business), Keith Choy (Masters of Accounting alumnus).
Advised by Conrad professor Nada Basir.
Their venture: a mobile application called EPOCH, designed to bring together refugees and community members through the exchange of skills, talents, and services.
The driving force that keeps us motivated is the ongoing issue with refugee integration worldwide, and how long this process takes. As a team, we have seen firsthand the challenges that newcomers face in Canada through working with our partner organizations. Our solution gives access to community support and gives newcomers a way to contribute as well.
Since November, we have been working on market validation and forming both local and international partnerships out of our workspace in the Velocity Garage. We also had a Conrad Bridging Entrepreneurs to Startups (BETS) student working with us for 5 weeks who was directly involved in our discovery phase.
We have also formed an advisory board comprised of individuals associated with the University of Waterloo, UHNCR (the UN Refugee Agency), and the UN. In addition, we have created partnerships with 12 private and public organizations worldwide interested in using EPOCH after implementation.
We are most looking forward to meeting all the other student teams from around the world in London and hearing their ideas. There are countless ways to tackle this year’s issues of restoring the rights and dignities of refugees, and every single solution will make an impact. In addition, we are looking forward to what happens after. Regardless of the outcome, we are excited to continue working on EPOCH to make it a reality.
(Listen to Team Epoch's interview on CBC The Morning Edition).
Team members: Salman Ladha, Swarnkamal Singh Parmar, Jill Sadler, Richard Yim (all Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology students).
Advised by Conrad professor David Rose.
Their venture: an e-commerce platform, Commerce4Cause, that gives refugee artisans an opportunity to showcase their artistic skill to a global market and profit from it.
By developing key partnerships with artisans, a portion of the revenue earned from the sale of their products will go directly back to them and their community. By eliminating the need for a manufacturing facility, refugee artisans can work at their own pace, produce what they wish, and get compensated fairly for their work.
We undertook this challenge for two main reasons. The first is because we wanted an unforgettable MBET experience! Since this is such a short program, we wanted the opportunity to soak up as much of it as we could, and the Hult Prize represented an amazing opportunity for us to apply the skills and concepts we've learned in the classroom to a practical problem.
But we could have chosen to enter any competition, and so the second reason we took on this challenge is because we all care about social entrepreneurship. The opportunity to make a positive social impact resonated strongly with each of us.
We've been having weekly/bi-weekly meetings to discuss our idea, validate our hypothesis, and perfect the idea. We've met with our professors a few times, talked to people well-versed in the refugee crisis, and even managed to speak to some people in the UN.
We're most excited to be at a venue with some of the brightest like-minded people who are dedicated to solving the world's toughest problems. It's going to be an amazing experience hearing other teams pitch, sharing ideas with them, and making global connections.
Team members: Vaishnavy Gupta (Honours Science), Christopher Tran (Biomedical Science), Monica Chung (Biomedical Science), Alfred Dagan (Biology)
Their venture: a simple energy generator used to refrigerate the carts of street vendors.
After losing their homes and daily lives, most people turn to the easiest and fastest source of income in order to run their households. This has made the street vendor industry in many of the developing countries a highly unregulated one. Fruit vendors push heavy carts every day for many miles, only to have half of their produce rot due to the weather conditions. The refrigerated food cart will address this problem, but it is only the first step; the team plans to mass produce this energy generator, and use it in refugee camps and developing nations.
Even though the four of us originate from different strains of science, one thing that we all have in common is our participation in charities. Each of us has worked in depth alongside different organizations in order to bring awareness to issues that matter to us the most.
As a team, we believe that the refugee crisis takes away the fundamental human rights of these individuals, and we should use our resources to change that. We took on this challenge because we see a future where every person is provided with opportunity to live, grow, and thrive in their environment.
Our path to our current project was a long one. We initially entered the campus competition with a different idea than the one we are pursuing right now. The professors here at Waterloo have been the greatest asset to our team, and we’re extremely grateful to have all these amazing resources right at our fingertips. Currently, we’re working on developing the tech aspect of our idea, along with contacting agriculture departments in developing countries.
One of the things we’re most looking forward to are the amazing individuals that will be presenting their innovative projects. This competition is bringing forward the top minds around the world, and we cannot wait to learn from the people we will come across.
Follow along with the competition on Instagram as Team EPOCH takes over the Conrad account!