International competition reaches the hilltop

By Yijing Shen, Contributing Writer

West Liberty University is partaking in the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student competition for social good, for the first time ever this fall.

The information session was held in the Boyle Room on Nov. 1 by the Hult Prize’s campus director Abdel Halim Zaibi and his organizing team, WLU Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Rickard Briggs, also known as the Hult Prize team mentor, and the WLU Campus Activities Coordinator Kate Billings, the Hult Prize marketing coordinator.

The Hult Prize foundation was established in 2010 by Bertil Hult and is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs emerging from universities around the world. The annual competition aims to build and launch the most compelling social business ideas; start-up enterprises that tackle grave issues faced by billions of people every day.

The Hult Prize has been established as the largest and most impactful student initiative in the world. “Each year, there are thousands of universities from more than 150 countries that come to participate in the annual competition, such as Harvard University and Stanford University,” said Zaibi, “The winning team will receive one million dollars (USD) in seed capital, as well as mentorship and advice from the international business community.”

The Hult Prize competition this year will follow the annual cycle process, starting with on-campus events this fall, regional finals in March of 2018, the accelerator in summer of 2018, and the global finals in September of 2018.

“The regional finals will take place in 16 regions, such as Shanghai, Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, and London, the campus winning team can choose any of these to compete at other universities,” said Zaibi, “then after winning the regional finals, 50 finalist teams are invited to an intensive eight week incubation program, which is the accelerator.”

Campus organizers are excited about WLU being one of the competitors this year. Briggs, who was a judge at regional final stage in 2016 in Mexico, has an in-depth understanding on this competition. “I am a strong advocate on any organization that encourages individuals to be better. I believe the Hult Prize’s fundamental design is to create a sustainable and exciting new idea within a specific vertical to help society,” said Briggs.

As a team mentor to help WLU participants this year, Briggs showed his confidence and expectations. “It’s tremendous effort and the campus director should get tremendous credit. He put us into the same category as Harvard University, Princeton University, and other global basis universities all around the world who participate– why shouldn’t West Liberty?” said Briggs, “I expect that over the course of the next decade, West Liberty University will become the Hult Prize center within the northern panhandle campus in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Perhaps in the next few years, we will have teams participating from multiple universities from this region.”

Zaibi was the initiator behind the idea of bringing Hult Prize to WLU. He appreciates WLU giving him this chance to achieve the goal of organizing this event in the US. “Me and my team went through the semi-finals of Hult Prize in 2016, representing our university, Avicenne Private Business School. From that time, I decided to be a campus director next year in the US,” said Zaibi.

The competition is open to the whole campus, regardless of a student’s major. Students have to have three to four members to make up a team. After registering the team online, they will be required to come up with a business idea to solve the challenge for the remaining days in the competition.

If you are interested in competing in Hult Prize, register your team here. Also follow on Facebook to stay updated.