In little over a month, Yale students will have the opportunity to compete for a $1 million dollar prize.
The Hult Prize, an international social entrepreneurship competition, will come to Yale this November. The competition was launched in 2010 by the Hult Prize Foundation, based at the Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass. The Foundation partnered with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative — a nationwide project that convenes global leaders to create innovative solutions to global challenges — to form the world’s largest student competition and crowdsourcing platform for solving pressing world social challenges. While the winning group will receive $1 million in seed capital to fund their business idea, each of the six regional champion teams will be able to spend the summer at the Hult Prize Accelerator, a six-week innovative workshop during the summer for social enterprise.
The Hult Prize edition to be held at Yale this fall will focus on the issue of early childhood education, Hult Prize at Yale campus director Schuyler Arakawa ’15 said.
The competition is divided into four stages — the local and regional competitions, the Hult Prize Accelerator, the Global Finals and Implementation. Local and regional competitions will be held in a number of college campuses this year, Yale being one. The accelerator program will be held in Boston and the Global Final, hosted by President Bill Clinton, will be held in New York.
Associate Dean for Development and External Affairs Martin Klein said student demand for social entrepreneurship is growing dramatically at Yale.
The Hult Prize, Klein said, fuels the growth of the social entrepreneurship movement on college campuses and provides encouragement to young social entrepreneurs.
“I think [social entrepreneurship] on college campuses is still in its formative stage and the relatively few courses on [the topic], and lack of role models on campuses, will need to be addressed,” he said.
But Board Chairman for the Yale Alumni Fund Bo Hopkins SOM ’86, who teaches the only undergraduate social enterprise class at Yale, said there is no difficulty for the pursuit of social entrepreneurial ventures at Yale. The University, he added, offers many opportunities for students to develop a sense of purpose in creating social value.
“Yale is deeply rooted in service and the traditions of serving others. From a ‘values’ perspective I think the University is all-in,” Hopkins said.
Yale Entrepreneurship Society President Brian Lei said that although Yale offers many opportunities for students to get involved in entrepreneurship, one of the biggest obstacles to starting a business is the lack of time.
Entrepreneurial ventures require a lot of time and effort, Lei said. It is challenging, he said, for full-time students to balance their academics, extracurriculars and social lives, all while starting and maintaining a business.
“A business is like a living thing, [like] a baby — it requires constant attention and care,” he said.
Hopkins also noted the challenge of building and growing financially sustainable social enterprises. All business entrepreneurs face challenges, he said. But social entrepreneurs in particular are caught between the desire to achieve a purpose-driven mission and the inevitable needs of maintaining financial stability.
Still, Hopkins said the Hult Prize is a great opportunity for students around the world to both understand the massive social inequities that exist today, and have the confidence to develop potential solutions.
Arakawa said the Hult Prize provides a rare occasion for students to apply their ideas in an impactful way.
“It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to change the world, or to win a million dollars doing it,” she said.
Kyle Jensen, the director of entrepreneurship programs at SOM, said it is a shame that students who work on social ventures do not get as much support in the market as students who are developing for-profit ventures.
Jensen said initiatives like the Hult Prize can help alleviate this disparity because they not only offer substantial aid to the winners of the competition, but they also encourage all participants to pursue social ventures.
Arakawa said she is confident that a team from Yale can arrive to the finals for the competition.
“I believe that Yalies have the creativity, passion and drive to come up with the world-winning idea and to show our ability to change the world,” she said. “Hopefully the Hult Prize is just one step towards keeping the social enterprise movement on campus constantly growing.”
The planned date for the launch of the Hult Prize at Yale website is this Friday, Oct. 3. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to register at http://hultprize.org/yale.