No Excuses! Hult Prize 2014

No Excuses! Hult Prize 2014Editor’s Note: Last year, I attended the 2013 Hult Prize presentations and award in New York at the annual forum of the Clinton Global Initiative. I was immersed in the room with my camera, eyes and ears fully engaged. A year later, I live-streamed the event from my home, where I simultaneously followed live Twitter and chat streams. Through audio ear buds, and real time viewing, I felt as much ‘there’ as I did the year before. In fact, it could be argued that I witnessed the event more fully, via my virtual reality. What a great world we live in, when technology brings us together for witnessing  – and in my case reporting on– cause, purpose, and a global common good.

Hult Prize – Where Social Enterprise is Disrupting the World

11,000 entrants from more than 300 universities participated in the 2014 Hult Prize, a global challenge to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. After a rigorous screening, 170 teams were chosen to compete in the regional finals that run simultaneously in six cities: London, Dubai, São Paulo, Boston, Shanghai and San Francisco. Healthcare leaders, public policy experts and global business leaders further narrowed down the field to six teams, one from each host campus. The final six then move ahead to compete for $1 million in seed capital, to launch their winning idea.

The 2014 Challenge

HEALTH CARE: Solving Non-Communicable Disease in the Urban Slum

There are no excuses not to do great things. Just ask someone observing the Hult Prize or the Clinton Global Initiative. Where do I start? Let me share some great moments and amazing outcomes from passionate formidable young minds, and their brilliant mentors.

Culturally, as an American, brilliant is not a word I use lightly (although I smile brightly when British speakers use it handily to express exceptional e.g., ‘brilliant pasta’…Italians take note). Americans tend to infer a brilliant mind versus being exceptional. All this is to say that the Hult Prize, the Clinton Global Initiative and Hult International Business School have together achieved something brilliant and exceptional.

I think that all of us in the audience probably agree that the amount of passion, interest and professionalism is pretty stunning. You really can’t beat their enthusiasm and commitment. The overall process is incredibly rewarding, and we all learned a lot.

– 2014 Hult Prize Judge, Kathleen Rogers, Earth Day Network

Of course, all of this comes from unrelenting hours, personal investment, and dedicated energy of those who possess the dream to succeed and the courage to fail (alone and in front of others). We’ve all been there and the pay-off is always worth celebrating. The payoff this night, and everything that preceded and follows, goes beyond the million dollar check. The million dollar prize money is a long-term commitment to impactful social enterprise, and collaborative ideas designed to overcome the greatest odds.

If you want to truly assess the condition of the world, you have to take the headlines seriously but you must also look at the trend lines. The trend lines are here – with the finalists in this competition and with the idea of creative cooperation.

– President Bill Clinton

And hear what Mohammed Ashour said, speaking directly to the student/social entrepreneurs. Ashour is a 2013 Hult Prize recipient whose team is Aspire Food Group. Like every Hult Prize participant before and after him, Mohammed Ashour represents the voice and face of global change and creative collaboration.

You have a mission that is so noble and so attractive  – to so many organizations and individuals – that it is quite frankly contagious. Imagine combining the vision of social enterprise, with the engine of a major corporation, and the brains of academia. That is an unstoppable collaborative.

– Mohammed Ashour, CEO Aspire, 2013 Hult Prize winner

The Seeds of Success

Team REACH from York University

The story of the Hult Prize is retold each year without losing an ounce of stirring, compelling momentum.  Ahmad Ashkar graduated from the Hult International Business School where he was taught and mentored by many, including Dr. Hitendra Patel, Professor of Growth and Innovation at Hult International Business School. After graduating, Ashkar went to work with Patel who is Managing Director at IXL Center. As teacher and mentor, Patel helped Ashkar sow the seeds of the Hult Prize. Ashkar, smart and hyper-focused on his mission, adroitly engaged Stephen Hodges, President of Hult International Business School, the Hult family, and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) through President Bill Clinton.

Each of these remarkable partners pave the way for greater collaboration and success — on a global stage where social entrepreneurship and social impact rightly belong.

That is the story in a nutshell: The Hult Prize, CGI and the world’s most international business school together created the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs.

In CEO & Founder Ahmad Ashkar’s own words:

My belief that there are not enough disruptive businesses and companies serving the world’s poorest. We are challenging students from around the world to come up with disruptive and innovation that will inspire and create new social entrepreneurs.

The world’s social problems are not getting better. Social enterprise is definitely a response to the world putting humanity up against the wall. So how do we as human beings respond? I imagine a world where there’s no differentiation between ‘social’ and ‘business’ —  where doing good and doing well are what we just do because it is the right thing.

We created the Hult Prize with one simple mission:

How do we make the creation of startups – which have  a business purpose and a social purpose – the hottest thing among the youngest entrepreneurs in the world?  How do we create sustainable enterprises?

The Hult Prize starts and ends at CGI every year. These students then have just one year to figure out a way…to develop a business that can reach 25 million people living in urban and pari urban societies.

Why are the urban communities so important? Because 1 of 5 people in the world currently live in an urban or pari urban area. And, that number is set to double in the next 15 years.

– Ahmad Ashkar, CEO and Founder of the Hult Prize

The Hult Prize Judges – #hp14

Dr. Hitendra Patel moderates a candid discussion, as a segue between the final presentations and President Clinton’s announcement of the 2014 Winner of the Hult Prize.

(L to R) Dr. Hitendra Patel, Innovation Professor and Managing Director at IXL Center; Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent and Neurosurgeon; Fadi Ghandour, Founder & Vice Chairman, Aramex; Ashish Thakkar, Founder and Managing Director, Mara Group; Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate; and Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network.

The 2014 Hult Prize Winner: NanoHealth from the Indian School of Business

Using innovative technology to create micro-insurance health networks for slum dwellers

(L to R) Aditi Vaish, Pranav Kumar Maranganty, and Dr Ashish Bondia. Manish Ranjan, and Ramanathan Lakshmanan not seen.

The NanoHealth team from the Indian School of Business (ISB) receives the 2014  Hult Prize

In one year’s time they have designed a social enterprise called NanoHealth, which uses innovative technology to create local health networks for urban slum dwellers. Their innovation, “Dox in a Box”, brings cost-effective health care to the doorstep. The outcome will reduce the burden of chronic diseases in the areas of under-diagnosis, non-standardized treatment and poor prescription adherence.

NanoHealth Team winners are: primary care physician Dr. Ashish Bondia, business process re-engineering consultant Manish Ranjan, financial services and risk management specialist Ramanathan Lakshmanan, marketing and communications specialist Aditi Vaish and Pranav Kumar Maranganty, a technology design expert.

Truth be told, there is one winner yet no losers. Each of the six finalist teams have remarkable ideas unfolding, and all are positioned to succeed.

The 2014 Hult Prize regional winning teams:

  • MIT (San Francisco Regional Final)
  • ISB/Indian School of Business (São Paulo Regional Final)
  • ESADE Business School (Dubai Regional Final)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Boston Regional Final)
  • York University (Shanghai Regional Final)
  • HEC Paris (London Regional Final)

“Each of the six finalist teams propose disrupting healthcare access in the urban slum.”

  • WiCare, from MIT, which has created a low-cost medical device that would use negative pressure wound therapy to help diabetics heal from injury faster.
  • NanoHealth, from the Indian School of Business, would create a network of community health workers, called Saathis, and equip them with on the spot diagnosis device for disease like diabetes and hypertension.
  • Harambee, from Barcelona’s ESADE Business School, which would train slum dwellers to manufacture eyeglass frames and conduct basic eye exams for members of their communities.
  • Sweet Bites, from the University of Pennsylvania, whose project would see them distributing 100% xylitol chewing gum to fight tooth decay.
  • Reach, from Toronto’s York University, which would distribute glucose urinalysis strips in developing areas to identify diabetics and help them monitor their glucose levels.
  • Bee Healthy, from HEC Paris (école des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris), which uses the olfactory powers of bees to detect diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and tuberculosis on a person’s breath.

Each year, the six regional teams are invited to a six-week accelerator designed and led by the IXL Center in Boston. The fast-paced program addresses head-on the many challenges that startups face, with a focus on refining business concepts, research, team-building, and presentation skills. The Accelerator program prepares the teams for their final presentations at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.

See the real-time VIDEO of this event from

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Mari Anixter is the Managing Editor for Innovation Excellence. Based in Boston, she serves as digital editor, director of community, and content manager for the global Innovation Excellence community. Please follow @mari_IX and @IXchat

Mari Anixter




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