On Wednesday afternoon I stepped out in the gloomy, rainy weather to meet up and interview the diverse and vibrant organising team of the first-ever Hult Prize in Hungary, which is also awesomely being held at the University of Pécs for the first time too. I spoke to Mr Ali Sider, studying his masters in Enterprise Development and Entrepreneurship, the campus director of the Hult Prize at the university to get the answers to the questions I thought the university citizens want to know.
What is the Hult Prize in 30 seconds?
The Hult Prize is the world’s largest movement, operating in more than 121 countries, in nearly 2000 universities and colleges across five continents and is in partnership with the United Nations and supported by the Hult International Business school. It is a call for students to build their own impact-driven social enterprise with the opportunity of winning 1 million USD prize as start-up capital.
Why the focus on Food this year?
Well, the Hult Prize is a United Nations partner, and the annual themes are announced by the United Nations itself based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
This year, United States former President Bill Clinton selected the theme challenge ‘Food for Good’, looking at how you can create jobs through food, or how you can reimagine the food supply chain, more important how you can open space for the poor through food so that food becomes an opportunity and not a necessity.
What sort of ideas are you looking for? Is there anything in particular?
The most important thing we are looking for is people who want to inspire others, our slogan at the Hult Prize is ‘Leading a Generation to Change the World’. So, it doesn’t matter if they have the best idea, what we’re looking for is passion and motivation to want to change the world. This is the special thing about Hult Prize, we aren’t interested in them just subsisting ideas, we want the passion and motivation.
What is the deadline for at the University of Pécs applications?
Uhm, we should have at least 10 teams available to be able to run the competition at the university, so until we get those 10 teams we will be extending the deadline, at the moment we have 7 teams and 7 people who applied individually who we will be helping form teams as well.
Roughly the deadline will probably be on the 15th of October, but it could be extended.
What do you want for the teams to know? Any advice on how to get them through?
That the most important thing about the Hult Prize is not the one million dollars, it is the opportunity for networking. This is very important because the Hult Prize has the largest network for social impact in the world.
What does the timeline for applicants look like?
It’s a year, the OnCampus program is from the start of September to the 15 of December, regionals are between March and April of 2021, the Accelerator is between June and July of 2021 and the finals are in September of 2021. The university is currently running the OnCampus program, this is the local stage, the winner from the university will go on to compete regionally, and there are almost 16 destinations that the team can pick to compete in depending on where they want to go.
After the regionals, they are invited to the Accelerator in London to stay for 8 weeks.
They’ll be provided with mentorship, business coaching and everything needed to take the idea and make it into a living product or business. The fourth stage is the Award Ceremony & Gala held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York where the top six teams from around the world will compete and the winning team will be announced by Bill Clinton himself and they win the 1 million US dollars.
What does the next step look like locally?
Locally, after the applications close, we will be doing at least two intensive training sessions for the teams, the training focuses on how they can create a business model and how they can make a successful pitch, the training is also dependent on what the teams need. If they need anything, in particular, we will try and arrange more training for them.
After this, we’re going to have our final event during late November or early December.
Here they will be giving a short 6-minute pitch to our panel of at least three judges.
Are there any special judges you’re looking at bringing in?
We’re still brainstorming the judges in cooperation with the university, but basically, we’re looking for very successful local entrepreneurs, people in the food industry and investors who might invest in the teams on the spot. These are people who will network with the teams, consider investing in their ideas or hire them, this happens a lot in the Hult Prize.
Do you know how teams will be judged?
Yes. There is a criterion from Hult Prize, I haven’t received it yet because it is still being updated and fine-tuned to better suit this year’s challenge.
If you want one of the main things, the idea has to impact 10 million people by 2030, because the sustainable development goals run from 2015 to 2030.
The whole point of the Hult Prize is the impact, so when the teams are judged, we want impact to be included.
What are the challenges you’ve come across or that you see coming up?
Spreading info about Hult Prize with the pandemic is hard because arranging tables and having on-campus information sessions is not possible, also the number of students going into the university has decreased which is another challenge. Being students is challenging as well because we have to manoeuvre around our own time tables and make time to organize the project while having to make time for school and other things we might to do.
We have been getting support from the university though, various meetings have resulted in the possibility of easing our use the university’s communication channels and made financial help in certain areas of the program possible.
Is there likely to be anything that will change due to the ongoing pandemic?
One of the most important things that the pandemic could affect is doing our final event physically, so usually we would invite judges and guests but this year we don’t know if this is possible.
However, the Hult Prize is currently building a platform that will let the teams pitch their ideas online with judges and guests having access to this platform if it is not possible to do the final challenge physically.
Do you have anything that you’d like to add?
I would just like to add that I have an amazing and solid team and that without them none of this would even be possible.
Do you want to register a team for the Hult Prize? Use the link to sign up!
Also keep up with us on the Hult Prize University of Pécs Facebook page.
As the Hult Prize progresses with the OnCampus phase I’ll be following along with the organizing team to get an inside look at each step. Stay tuned.
Written by Neo Sithole
Photos by Proksza Manó Xavér