Back in november 2013 I read about the Hult Prize Challenge 2014. It’s a social entrepreneurship competition where University students from around the world can submit a 500 word statement of purpose, explaining your idea to solving a particular problem.
The Hult Prize Foundation is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from the world’s universities. Named as one of the top five ideas changing the world by President Bill Clinton and TIME Magazine, the annual competition for the the Hult Prize aims to identify and launch the most compelling social business ideas—start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people. Winners receive USD 1 million in seed capital, as well as mentorship and advice from the international business community.www.hultprize.org
So this particular year the challenge posed was to improve chronic disease care in slums, affecting 25 million people by 2019. I started thinking about ways to solve this, and I came up with a basic concept. To compete you had to assemble a team of four university students, and submit resumé’s for each team member, and the aforementioned statement of purpose.
I first began studying at Aarhus University in september 2013, so my network wasn’t as large as I’d want it to be to put a proper team together. However, through courses and calculus classes I had gotten an idea about which people I worked well with and were smarter than me when it comes to programming and webdevelopment. I contacted a couple of people, told them I’d need nothing from them but their resumé’s, and in return they had a chance to participate in this awesome competition. Luckily, they all agreed and I went ahead and submitted the statement of purpose.
The kit will contain the equipment for screening people for the most common chronic diseases and indications of general health. To begin with, the kit would include apparatuses such as an ECG, sphygmomanometer and a spirometer. These apparatuses are the most important, as they give an indication about health in regards to two of the most common chronic diseases; CVD (an estimated 46 % of chronic diseases) and CRD (an estimated 11 % of chronic diseases).
The idea is to include a few cheap and fast tests that can indicate whether or not the person tested has reason to worry about his/her health in regards to the diseases they are tested for. The kit is not limited to the tests mentioned above. As new research emerges, such as Jack Andraka’s cheap testing for cancer via the use of carbon nanotubes, new test methods can be included as a part of the kit.
The software’s purpose is to act as a database. Locals will pay an amount, such as 2$, to be screened, and have a profile created with a fingerprint scan and picture, to ID the person. The software works offline as well, but will require occasional internet access to sync with our database. Any doctor’s office will be able to acquire a fingerprint scanner, and then immediately and accurately have access to some accurate test results and medical journal of a visiting patient.
Our software will not be able to tell customer with certainty if they are sick or not. The kit is able to give an indication of the customer’s health, and a recommendation to go see a doctor. A kit operator can fill in the test results in our software with multiple choice questions, effectively eliminating the need for any skill specifications for a kit operator. What the kit operator must do, is read the test results, check the corresponding test-result in the program. The software can then store the data, and give a warning if a specific test result, or combination of test results, show indications of diseases. This allows screening stations to employ regular locals as kit operators. One could argue that customers should not be charged 2$ to be created in the system, but charging a fee creates the potential for economic growth and creation of jobs in the local community. The charged fee would not go to us, but those who lease the kit.
Our product allows slum dwellers a cheap way to get an idea of their general health, while establishing a medical journal database. Using biometrics eliminates the need for establishing a comprehensive system such as social security numbers, to accurately ID an individual. Allowing screening stations to charge 2$ per screening, creates the potential for local employment and economic growth.
A few weeks went by, and suddenly we got an email saying we’re invited to the London Regional Finals in march! The Challenge works this way; Teams can apply to one of five regions
- San Fransisco
8 teams (i think) are then selected for each region, to come and present your concept to a panel of 8 judges. From these 8 regional finalists, 1 team is chosen as a winner of the regional final. The regional winner will then compete against the regional winner from the four other regions for a total of USD 1 million in seed capital.
So we got super excited, we were going to London to present our idea! We started refining it in cooperation and building further functionality onto it. Furthermore we sought funding at Aarhus University and IT-Vest, who ended up sponsoring our hotel and flights.
March 7th came and it was time to head out to London. We flew out from Billund and made sure to book an early flight so we could make it to our hotel, drop off our stuff, and make it to the Friday evening reception.
So upon arriving we walked around town for a bit. I’ve been to London before, and I really like the city. We made sure to visit an english pub for a quick beer, and then head on to our hotel to drop off bags and jackets etc..
In the evening there was a quick reception with some practical info and a few tips. The next morning we had time to work on our presentations until going up in front of the judges!
A lovely breakfast was served at the Hult Business School, and we had a room dedicated for us to work in (business casual dresscode was required).
The presentation went smooth. It consisted of ~10 minutes presenting and then a few minutes of questioning from the judges. Sadly, however, our team did not win.
So no USD 1 mil. for us! The experience was, however, invaluable. Constantly surround by smart and experienced people giving tips input. It really did open our eyes to a lot of important questions. We were told that our idea was solid, definitely scaleable and likely to be implementable. We failed to make an impact on the judges when it comes to branding though, so that’s an important lesson to have learned.
+ we got a sweet participation certificate!