Schulich team advances to $1M finals in Hult Prize

A team of four undergraduate business students from York University’s Schulich School of Business has won the Hult Prize Regional Finals in Shanghai, advancing them to the finals for a chance at $1 million to execute their vision.

Team Empower

The Hult Prize, known as “the Nobel Prize for B-schools” according to Bloomberg Businessweek, brings together the brightest minds from around the globe to present solutions to world problems.

Team Empower – Akash Sidhu (BBA ’17), Amal Naufer (BBA ’18), Vasiliki Belegrinis (BBA ’18) and Joseph Truong (BBA ’17) – started work on their project in October 2016, and left to compete in China in late February 2017.

This year, the Hult Prize challenged students to focus on reawakening human potential and restoring the rights and dignity of refugees around the world. Team Empower’s winning pitch focused on how connectivity can become productivity for refugees: by providing stable and affordable Internet access, refugees around the world can be lifted out of poverty by realizing their potential as a global citizen.

“After working with refugees and staff at the York University Centre for Refugee Studies, we were shocked to know that up to 40 per cent of refugees’ disposable income is spent on staying connected, demonstrating a real need for affordable and reliable connectivity,” said Belegrinis. “We like to think that slow WiFi or running low on cellphone battery are major inconveniences in our lives. But for refugees, it can literally be the end of a lifeline.”

“The internet is a portal of countless opportunities and we believe that everyone has the right to connectivity. We are ready to provide them with the link to the outside world and give them the opportunities they deserve,” said Truong.

With thousands of university students competing in the regionals in Shanghai, London, Dubai, Boston and San Francisco, the Hult Prize is the world’s largest student social enterprise competition in the world.

After three presentations and judges feedback calls, Team Empower ultimately won the entire regional finals and have advanced to the global finals in the fall.

As one of the six globally selected teams, they will spend the summer in the United States working in the Hult Prize Accelerator and will begin piloting their project in Africa.

“It’s been such an amazing experience going through the Hult Prize journey. Ever since we won our campus round in November, we’ve evolved our idea into a real business. Now we can’t wait for the summer and the opportunity that awaits us to really change the lives of refugees around the world,” said Naufer.

Team Empower feels that the Hult Prize is a large community hub for like-minded individuals wanting to collaborate and do social good for the world.

“We truly believe in the power of collaboration and how young entrepreneurs like ourselves can make a real difference in the world,” said Sidhu.

To follow Team Empower, visit their Facebook page here goo.gl/4syR96.

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