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Meet the winners of Hult Prize at U of T; next stop, regional rounds

Homes by railroad in Bangladesh (photo by Asian Development Bank via Flickr)

Giving marginalized people the support they need to live a healthy life. 

That’s the goal of Attollo, a social entrepreneurship team composed of Rotman MBA students Aisha Bukhari and Lak Chinta and recent Rotman MBA grad Peter Cinat. They are now one step closer to their goal after winning the Hult Prize at U of T competition on December 6. Attollo beat out 14 other U of T teams, earning a spot in the Hult regional rounds in March 2015. 

In the Hult Prize competition, teams of students from around the world develop ideas for social enterprises to solve global challenges. The 2015 challenge, co-sponsored by Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative, is to develop a business plan to deliver early childhood education for marginalized children. 

More than 10,000 university students participate in the challenge each year with only 300 teams making it to the regional rounds in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai. The winners of the regionals compete for the top prize of US$1 million in start-up funding.

Hult Prize at U of T organizer Jason Visscher says the event was a great success, with more than 100 people coming out on a Saturday during exam season to listen to the pitches. All the entries were impressive, says Visscher, but Attollo stood out with an innovative, comprehensive and exhaustively-researched pitch.

This isn't Attollo’s first taste of business plan success. In 2013 they won the Manulife: Entry into Asia Challenge, where  undergraduate and graduate business school students at Canadian universities create a business plan for a Canadian small or medium-sized enterprise to expand into Asian markets. U of T News reporter Terry Lavender spoke to Attollo’s Peter Cinat (pictured below at left) about the team’s victory and future plans.

Tell us more about Attollo.
Attollo is a Latin verb meaning "to elevate." We chose this as our social enterprise name because our vision is to elevate marginalized people by giving them the support they need to live a healthy life.

We’ve worked together over the last three years. Lak (pictured far right) has a PhD in neuroscience with more than 12 years’ experience in research, engineering, healthcare and entrepreneurship. He brings with him rich experience in non-profit organizations and direct experience from living and working with urban slum communities in India.

Aisha (pictured at centre) has a master's in engineering and has expertise developing innovative solutions in the energy sector. She brings her public-sector experience to the team and is key in stakeholder engagement and developing partnerships. I come from a computer engineering background with over 11 years of experience working on strategic problems in the technology space with global clients. I bring problem-solving and strategic thinking skills to the team.

What was your winning pitch? 
Although the Hult Prize at U of T has just completed, this is just the first round of three for this global competition that will end in September. Therefore, in order for our team to remain competitive with other teams still in this competition, we'd like to withhold our actual pitch details to minimize the information that gets shared publicly.

What do you think made your pitch stand out?
Our pitch stood out because we took a holistic and comprehensive approach to solving this grave challenge. We integrated the strengths of urban slum communities so that our solution can be achieved and scaled to have an impact on 10 million children by 2020. Our solution had many elements to it but each was carefully thought out and worked together as a whole. This gave us a compelling story to tell. In the end, we gave the judges confidence that our pitch was something that can have an impact and can be implemented.

How long did it take to prepare?
The team started working on the pitch in late October. On average, we spent close to 30 hours a week as a team on top of our already busy schedules. What kept us going was the social entrepreneurial cause and a unified team with a strong commitment to one another.

What do you need to work on for the regionals?
We will refine and simplify our business model and we will be looking to establish partnerships to start a proof of concept. In addition, we will be looking into fundraising opportunities so we can start a pilot to iterate, refine and improve our idea before presenting at the regionals.