Rushed out from a client meeting in NYC to arrive at the Sheraton New York Times Square to attend the 2014 Hult Prize Finals Corporate Reception. Arrived on time or so I thought…only to be told that the doors for the event opened later. The event was held alongside the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting and it was a remarkable evening, despite the late start.
Students from across the globe compete for the Hult Prize each year with the winner awarded a Million Dollars in start-up capital to solve a pressing social challenge. The 2014 challenge selected by President Clinton addressed solving the challenge of non-communicable diseases in urban slums. Some startling statistics highlighted the gravity of the healthcare situation and the direct economic impact on account of the chronic diseases affecting the urban poor.
A distinguished panel of judges (see image below) had to select a winner from six dynamic teams that had made it to the finals.
Each team presented novel and innovative ideas that would help address the challenge, complete with financial projections and a business plan. Diabetes management, treating open wounds with affordable devices, addressing dental hygiene, providing affordable eye care were some of the ideas presented. The crowd-favorite was the incredible concept of using bees to detect diseases. Fascinating, really – have been reading about how the bee population has been reducing at alarming levels and the consequences to global agriculture. The idea presented has potential assuming the science is perfected, as it would also encourage bee farming – with other associated benefits. The evening had its fair share of drama with one of the contestants fainting on stage – perhaps from the pressure of presenting in front of an elite panel of judges and a scholarly audience. The winning team (Indian School of Business) presented a comprehensive idea that incorporated not just a diagnostic tool (dox-in-a-box) but also an ecosystem to ensure service to the needy. President Clinton arrived to a standing ovation and announced the winners after a brief but thoughtful speech.
It was remarkable to see the energy of the participants and one truly felt that all of them were deserved winners as each one of them can potentially disrupt established norms and impact mankind, as never before. Read more about the event, the judges, the participants and their ideas at: http://www.hultprize.org/
Overall, a thought provoking evening coupled with some nice conversations with a Nobel laureate and academics from MIT as well as some new friends, one of whom worked with Digital Equipment Corporation…an iconic organization that changed the computing world – for the better, much like the social entrepreneur’s endeavor!