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Hult Prize at IU organizes networking mixer


Sophomores Alice Aluko and Eliza Dowd speak with a small crowd at the IU Hult Prize networking reception Nov. 7 at Dimension Mill Inc. The Hult Prize is an international competition where college students develop plans to address modern social issues. Joy Burton

Hult Prize at IU teams learned about ideas on business and sustainability at the Hult Prize networking mixer Thursday night.

Team members, staff and faculty advisors were invited to share their experiences and ideas while teams practiced business networking with potential investors.

The Hult Prize is an annual international competition for which students around the world compete to create a start-up that solves a modern social issue. At the competition finals, organized by the United Nations, the winning team is awarded $1 million in seed capital in order to fund their start-up. The $1 million is donated each year by the Hult family. 

The United Nations poses a problem to solve for students each year. For the 2020 competition, former President Bill Clinton, who has been involved with Hult Prize since its inception, announced the theme is Empowering the Earth: Bold Businesses for a Better Planet.

Students are challenged to create a business that not only does not harm the planet but makes the planet better with every dollar it earns, said Malik Hale, Indiana campus director for Hult Prize. 

“The Hult Prize mission is to challenge the next generation of leaders to solve climate change,” Hale said. 

This is the first time IU has entered 10 teams into the competition. Last year, IU ran a test round of the Hult Prize. It was not able to actually enter the competition due to not having enough teams, but students were able to simulate the competition and practice for the future.

Many of the teams this year are made up entirely of freshmen who are competing in a competition designed mostly for graduate students. 

“We want to give students the chance to know what it’s like to create a business in the corporate climate,” Hale said.

Thursday’s mixer also included a panel of students and faculty who are involved in Hult Prize. The panel focused on the concept of sustainable businesses and the importance of this year's challenge.

Some panel members included Courtney Bidwell, Kelley School of Business Institute of Social Impact Director, Eliza Dowd, sophomore and CEO of Climate Strike Bloomington and Rachel Boveja, Director for Global and Public Relations of Hult Prize. All panel members are involved with Hult Prize in some way and have personal experience in business and social enterprise. 

“There’s a huge shift in our world right now in terms of the climate and making the world better and businesses are something that really need to improve, so that’s why I’m glad things like this exist,” Dowd said. 

Until December, when the next round of judging occurs, the 10 IU teams will attend workshops and networking events in order to research, gather practical information from professionals and fundraise while finalizing their pitches.

Some of these events include a sustainable business workshop and a trip to Brown County State Park, where teams can see how climate change affects us in our own backyard, Hale said. 

“This competition is about putting aside our differences and trying to leave this world a lot better than we found it,” said Boveja. 

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