I am posting this and then walking across Midtown Manhattan to join the Hult Prize teams for their ultimate pitch before a packed room at 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (I am told will there will be 1000 attendees). CGI is hosting the Hult Prize Award diner tonight — an important tribute to the current and future generations of social entrepreneurs.
One of six teams competing — for the million dollar prize money tonight — is the team of MBA students from the San Francisco campus of Hult International Business School. The name of their social enterprise is Pulse. Their idea is to capture and protect household spending that is routinely lost in an inefficient transaction system; and to leverage daily savings into customer purchasing power which, customers say, would be spent on improved nutrition for their families. It may sound a little complicated but in reality, it is a simple elegant solution.
Hult team member, Saul Minkoff explains, “When we first looked at the 2013 Hult Case Challenge, we had many ideas for discussion. What we ended up focusing on was the pervasive lack of financial safety nets among slum dwellers. This is what we wanted to fundamentally address. You see, over a billion people in the world are not only malnourished, they have no buffer: no savings, no bank account or credit card — no safe storage of money. We wanted to address this reality in the simplest way possible, and with the least amount of behavioral change and technology. We kept our business model very focused, and very simple around this challenge.”
The Pulse team discovered that shoppers in urban slums, on a daily basis, are giving up purchasing power in a transaction system that cannot provide a shopper with change (the balance due). Too often, a candy bar might be offered instead, and while that might have some instant appeal, money is being lost. This is money that could be saved for a ‘rainy day’, or spent on more nutritious alternatives.
So while Minkoff and his teammates have been perfecting their business model and pitch, I asked how they were feeling heading into the final round of competition tonight. He didn’t complain about nerves or regrets of any sort. Instead he didn’t hesitate to speak about the breadth of appreciation his team felt for the continuous support they received from classmates and school community. He described to me a spectrum of freely-given resources from a talented and internationally diverse student community; students who offered their technical and graphic talent, or provided help with research and survey data points. He spoke about the ‘energy’ and positive feeling that they’d all shared. And there was more — there was the unexpected and valuable outreach from world class companies like McKinsey & Company, Autodesk, and Saatchi & Saatchi. These companies, with nearby offices, came forward to volunteer time, expertise and feedback. Not to put too poetic of a point on this, one can easily see that one journey became many journeys.
I’m heading out the door to meet up with them. Wishing each of the teams fantastic outcomes for their efforts and energy to solve the most challenging global issues. Stay tuned!
Pulse team profile: Hult International Business School, San Francisco
Karl Oskar Teien: Karl brings innovation, creativity, and a deep understanding of developing countries to the Pulse team. He has worked on several economic development and conservation projects in Argentina, Peru, South Africa, and the Arctic. Karl has an Honors Degree in Development Economics and International Studies from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, with a specialization in famines and food insecurity in Somalia. Driven by a passion for social business and microfinance, Karl co-founded Hult Social Business Club and worked as an intern at Kiva microfunds while completing his Master of Social Entrepreneurship at Hult International Business School in San Francisco.
Mandy Vidalis: Mandy is a native of South Africa with fifteen years of diverse work experience in South Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. She has spent many years working in the financial services industry and prior to that had experience managing small businesses. Mandy brings a keen business insight to Pulse with a broad skill-set in multiple areas including strategic planning, business operations, and project management. In her most recent role, she worked as an operations manager for a private investment firm in Bahrain. While growing up in South Africa, Mandy developed a deep passion for both social development and environmental sustainability. She holds an MBA from Hult International Business School.
Niketa R. Malhotra: Niketa brings a passion for social causes, business acumen, and an understanding of technology to the Pulse Team. Born and raised in India, Niketa is passionate about creating sustainable ecosystems for social businesses in developing countries. Her experience ranges from implementing projects for nonprofits in India, to developing software solutions and managing business development for KPIT Cummins. With this diverse knowledge in social enterprises, business, and technology, Niketa is able to lead and execute projects for Pulse. Niketa holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Information Technology from the University of Pune, India. While completing her Master of Social Entrepreneurship degree at Hult International Business School, Niketa held positions at Net Impact Hult San Francisco and interned with Shanti Microfinance and Kiva Microfunds.
Saul Alexander Minkoff: Saul’s international upbringing gave him a unique world view from a very early age, inspiring a strong interest in geography and world affairs. Along with this strong sense of being connected to the world at large, Saul was born with an entrepreneurial spirit which manifested itself as early as 3rd grade. This has led him to set up and run small businesses ever since, all with surprising success. Prior to completing his MBA, Saul spent three years working throughout Asia in a Business Development and Project Management role. It was during this time that the questionable practices he witnessed while working abroad caused him to question his own direction, and awakened a passion for social and sustainable businesses. Saul brings leadership, and entrepreneurial drive to Pulse.
Charles Ojei: With a unique cross-disciplinary background in international marketing and sales, Charles has created disruptive business models to help drive economic and social impact in emerging markets. Alongside ten years of multi-industry experience with General Electric, Procter & Gamble and DuPont, He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Charles holds a Master of Social Entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School, San Francisco.
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Mari Anixter is Managing Editor for Innovation Excellence. She is a communications professional living in the Boston area.