In March, three teams from Syracuse University advanced to the regionals of the 2019 Hult Prize Competition, a prestigious competition that challenges its participants to solve pressing social issues.
Each year, fifteen regional events are held worldwide before the final global event, which is located at the Hult Castle accelerator in the United Kingdom. At the regional events, teams pitched their innovative business ideas to judges. Regional winners go on to compete for the chance to win an eight-week summer residency in which teams gain access to mentors, corporate partners and investors who support their development. Students also receive coaching, participate in workshops and engage in team building in an effort to prepare them to pitch to the United Nations and possibly win a grand prize of $1 million.
This year’s teams included students from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management (Whitman), S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (Newhouse), School of Information Studies (iSchool), Maxwell School (Maxwell) and David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics (Falk). The majority are also members of the Blackstone LaunchPad Syracuse, a hub that connects the campus innovation ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The team to compete at the Boston Regionals was comprised of Kelsey Davis ’19 (Newhouse), Lucia Baez ’19 (Newhouse) and Ryan Williams ’19, who pitched their business CLLCTVE, a creative marketing agency which targets Generation Z creators and consumers.
At the Toronto regionals, Audrey Miller ’20 (Maxwell), David Fox ’19 (iSchool), Emma Rothman ’21 (Falk) and Nick Barba ’20 (Whitman) pitched Strive, an online platform that helps with job matching for youth and nonprofit organizations seeking fresh talent and skills such as writing, design, videography and more.
Team Forum Foods, which pitched at the San Francisco regionals, included Morgan Eaton (Maxwell) ’22, Lainie Duckworth ’22 (Maxwell), Jaime Ciesinski’ 22 (Whitman) and Jack Ramza ’22 (Whitman and Newhouse).
Travel for the teams was provided by the Whitman School, Newhouse, SA and SU Libraries. Past Syracuse University teams to compete in the Hult regional competitions included Thrive Projects, Farm to Flame and Drop Top.
Team Drop Top was comprised of Jason Kuperberg ’18, who graduated as a biotechnology major from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and an entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises (EEE) minor at Whitman, Serena DeSeta ’18, who graduated as a dual major in EEE and advertising from the Newhouse the Whitman School, and Matthew Goodman ’19, who is a design major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Drop Top’s concept was to conserve water and enhance drip irrigation using REVLAR, a waterproof and tear-proof paper-thin material specifically designed to withstand and remain durable in high/low temperature fluctuations. Their model also helps local farmers become entrepreneurs through education and empowerment, which will allow the technology to be implemented on a large scale. Like several of the team members that went to regionals this year, Kuperberg was inspired to create Drop Top’s business when he participated in an imagination, entrepreneurship and creative problem-solving course at the Whitman School.
“I actually got pulled onto the team at the very beginning, Jason, who came up with the first idea/iteration, and I were in a class together called imagination, entrepreneurship and creative problem-solving,” explained DeSeta. “Jason’s idea came out of one of our projects where we were tasked with creating the ‘greatest social impact given only $5 dollars,’ he realized his idea from the class could really be made into a scalable project that would help small scale farmers.”