Entrepreneurs are pioneers. They pave their way through uncharted territory relentlessly searching for treasure—for new ways to create value and new ways to address unmet needs. Their disruptive ideas cater to the appetite of a consumer market perpetually hungry for the next big thing. Traditionally, however, the business models of these entrepreneurs have had one bottom line, financial profit, thus confining the breadth of their brainpower to demographic regions satiated with purchasing power.
Yet, a new breed of innovators is emerging. Social entrepreneurs are officiating the unlikely marriage of business and society, using conventional entrepreneurial weapons in an unconventional manner as they fight some of the major social issues plaguing those who are normally left outside the target range of mainstream enterprise. They have invented a new metric by which to measure a company’s success, a double bottom line blending financial and social profit into one. Every year, the Hult Prize Competition challenges young pioneers to stretch the startup community beyond its current frontiers, awarding the world at large with a new generation of social entrepreneurs who have the grit, the intellect, and the vision to confront global crises head-on.
In 2009, Ahmad Ashkar, an enterprise student at the Hult International Business School, recognized that the traditional methods of solving the global education crisis were insufficient. An age-old problem needed a radically new solution, one that could more effectively and more extensively address the basic education needs of millions of children at the same time. Limited in scope and in resources, philanthropic donations and non-governmental organizations simply could not “change the world.” An enterprise with the heart of a charity and the brain of a business, however, might be able to do just that.
Ahmad decided to partner with One Laptop per Child to organize a competition challenging undergraduate, graduate, and MBA students across four international cities to design innovative solutions to the global education crisis. Each competing team developed a business model for a sustainable startup, and the winners subsequently collaborated with OLPC to transform their vision into a tangible product that could be disseminated throughout the slums and villages of developing countries.
This brilliant system of crowdsourcing hundreds of freshly educated minds laid the ground for the establishment of an annual Hult Prize Competition, which has since become the largest student competition in the world. Through its partnership with President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, as well as the Hult International Business School, the Hult Prize provides the annual winners with the funding and resources to bring their crisis-fighting products to fruition. But the power of the competition extends far beyond the implementation of the winning enterprise. For those thousands of millenials who do not make it to the final round, the process alone is a launching point for a growing consortium of entrepreneurs who will harness the power of what Bill Gates calls creative capitalism in order to “change the world” one social enterprise at a time.
The process begins at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, where President Clinton challenges millennials across the globe to develop a sustainable and scalable solution to an acute societal issue. Only a fraction of the thousands of applicants are selected to pitch their social enterprises at the regional competitions held in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo. Some campuses, including Yale, host a local competition, which awards a selected team with automatic qualification to the regional round. There, the selected teams of 3-5 students present their ideas to a distinguished judge panel, and the winning team is then invited to attend the Hult Prize Accelerator Program. These regional finalists spend the following summer working with experts to develop both their business models and their entrepreneurial prowess, and ultimately the six teams pitch their final products to President Clinton and the rest of the attendees at CGI’s annual meeting the following September. This conglomeration of leaders from all over the world selects the Hult Prize Global Champion, and grants the winning team the opportunity to turn its vision into a reality through one million dollars in seed funding as well as mentorship and advice from business leaders stationed around the world.