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Startup accelerator Hult Prize comes to U of T

Encouraging social entrepreneurs to solve world's most pressing problems

Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative sponsors the competition together with the Hult International Business School (photo by Tim Hamilton via Flickr)

Last year, six University of Toronto teams made it to the regional finals of the Hult Prize – an annual competition where teams of university students develop innovative ideas to solve the world’s biggest social problems, such as non-communicable diseases and malnutrition.

Those regional finals took place in London, Dubai, Boston, Sao Paolo, San Francisco and Shanghai.

This year, U of T students won’t have to travel so far to compete in the world’s largest student competition.The Hult Prize is coming to campus.

Teams of three to five students – from any faculty or school and any year – are eligible to register for the contest, and submit a proposal for a viable start-up company focussing on early childhood education, says MBA student Jason Visscher, who is organizing the Hult Prize at University of Toronto event.

More than 10,000 applicants from 150 countries entered the competition in 2013, tempted by a chance to win a prize of US$1 million as well as networking, mentorship and coaching opportunities and a meeting with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose Clinton Global Initiative cosponsors the competition together with the Hult International Business School.

photo of MBA student Visscher”The Hult Prize is a start-up accelerator for social entrepreneurship which brings together the brightest college and university students from around the globe to solve the world’s most pressing issues,” says Visscher (pictured at right). “It’s the world’s largest crowdsourcing platform for social good and one of the planet’s leading forces for good.”

U of T teams have to register before the end of October at www.hultprizeat.com/toronto in order to compete. The top 20 entries will have to make a pitch before a panel of judges at the Rotman School of Management on December 6, Visscher says.The winner of the U of T competition will be automatically entered in the regional semifinals.

“Not only will the top team secure a spot in the Hult Prize Regional Finals next March, they will also receive rounds of guidance from professors. This is our chance to show the world that Canada's top university and an international leader in educational research is dedicated to impact,” he says.

Visscher, who was a teacher in Japan, New Zealand, Italy and Thailand before enrolling in the MBA program, says he’s become involved in the competition because he believes businesses need to take on more responsibility for sustainability and social well-being.

“One of the biggest market failures of our lifetime is environmental degradation, and you still see a need to more directly address these market shortcomings in business schools such as Rotman – with the millennial generation, however, we are seeing a new cohort of social entrepreneurs who want to take on such challenges themselves.”

Visscher urges interested U of T students to register at www.hultprizeat.com/toronto.

To find out more information about the Hult Prize go to http://www.hultprize.org/.