By Carolyn Gray Anderson
The Hult Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit organization and accelerator dedicated to launching the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs. In partnership with President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, Hult supports teams competing to solve the planet’s biggest challenges with innovative ideas for sustainable startup enterprises. Annual Hult Prize winners are awarded $1 million in seed capital to transform their bright ideas into reality. In 2016, UCLA Anderson is represented by two teams at the regional final competition in San Francisco, March 11–12.
The 2016 Hult Prize asks entrepreneurs to create sustainable businesses that double the income of 10 million people living in crowded urban spaces. Ahmad Ashkar, CEO and Founder of the Hult Prize, attributes the success of the competition to the shift in the global economy and the millennial generation’s refusal to live in a world with inequality. “We are giving entrepreneurs from around the world a platform to innovate and revolutionize the way we think about servicing the poor,” said Ashkar.
Brian Wasige (’17) leads a team proposing to tackle the problem of energy access for consumers at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP). “We want to eliminate the poverty penalty in mobile phone ownership for BoP customers,” he said. Wasige and teammates Yu Chen (’17), David Leipziger (’17), Matteo Bastreghi (’17) and UCLA undergraduate Shiven Vikram (B.A. ’18), advised by Professor Emeritus Lee Cooper, said they “would like to address that issue using an ecosystem of solar micro-businesses.”
They chose the SunStream compact solar panel to provide energy access in places it’s needed most, like Africa and Southeast Asia. Highly compatible and manufactured using sustainable components, the product is made by Colorado-based World Panel, whose founder, coincidentally named John Anderson, met with the team to talk about the panel’s application.
Wasige explained, “If you are on the grid — that is, if your home has electricity — it costs about $0.50 to charge your phone every day for a year. If you are off the grid, it is in the region of $100. We propose to double the income of more than 10 million people, eliminate — conservatively — over 150,000 metric tons of CO2 and drive significant GDP growth using this approach.”
Posing friendly competition for the prestigious prize is Anderson team Mándalo, led by Michael Dodds (’17). Mándalo, which means “send it” in Spanish, is a startup focused on improving the distribution process of non-perishable goods to small grocery stores in Latin America. Dodds and teammates Anjana Rimal (’17), Paolo Somaglia (’17) and Anish Patel (’17) determined that those stores represent roughly 60 percent of grocery purchases by end consumers, “but their supply chain is very fragmented and expensive,” said Dodds. “We want to deploy an e-commerce platform using growing mobile data penetration to transform the way consumers buy their goods. By eliminating inefficient salespeople, we can bring down the cost of goods sold.”
Following the regional finals, one winning team from each of five host cities will move into the Hult Prize Accelerator, where participants will receive mentorship and advisory and strategic planning as they create prototypes to launch their new social business. A final round of competition will be hosted in September by the Clinton Global Initiative at its annual meeting, where CGI delegates will select a winning team to be awarded the $1 million prize by President Bill Clinton. The President said, “The Hult Prize is a wonderful example of the creative cooperation needed to build a world with shared opportunity, shared responsibility and shared prosperity, and each year I look forward to seeing the many outstanding ideas the competition produces.”
Both Anderson teams are seizing the opportunity to learn from the experience and contribute ideas that will benefit people and planet — though they must compete against each other for the final payoff. Dodds chose his team’s name for its practical translation as well as for personal motivation. “Mándalo has a special meaning for me. My brother and I used to push each other to test our limits by challenging the other one to ‘send it.’” To which Wasige responded good naturedly, “Looking forward to the competition, Michael. It will be fun!”
The Anderson teams were chosen among some 25,000 applications received from more than 500 colleges and universities in over 150 countries.