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Hult Prize: Team ESADE Headshot

Patient Ambition

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by Cesar Del Valle

My eyelids weigh heavy as the plane's wheels peel off of Boston's ground. It has been a long hard summer and I smile with the realization that I'll be home in 6 hours and able to take a step back and digest my summer's start-up lifestyle, if at least for a few days.

The IXL Center in Cambridge has hosted six teams throughout the past two months with the goal of turning all teams into viable and sustainable social enterprises. This has been done as an initiative of the HULT Prize, which is the largest social entrepreneurship competition in the world. Out of an initial 10,000 competing students only six teams remain, myself being part of the ESADE Business School team from Barcelona. Although the goal is to launch six new start-ups into the social sector, the motivating factor the HULT Prize has used is the fact that one lucky team will win $1 million in seed capital at this year's Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York.

For myself, the start-up rollercoaster ride has been one of intense peaks, unforeseen turns, and gut wrenching drops. Throughout the journey I found myself holding back at times, not getting too excited about potential partners or investors or breakthroughs. This is because, as a start-up, you must not be too attached to any one possible opportunity. Instead, we have been mentored to quickly pivot if research or findings demand a change in mindset or business model. This has instilled a tremendous amount of patience. This patience, however, is not the patience of meditation or any other common form of patience. It is instead a high-paced ambitious patience.

Patient ambition means that you do not wait for success to come to you, nor do you expect success to manifest by patiently waiting. It requires ambition to create opportunities, persistence to achieve breakthroughs, and a relentless pursuit of experts and talent. This drive is applicable to any successful entrepreneur, but as a start-up you are confined to fewer resources and greater ambiguity. This is especially true for a social enterprise looking to tackle food insecurity in urban slums. Patience is therefore required to not lose focus when a major opportunity falls apart, or to not lose your drive if an expert is long in responding to a critical query. The path to success for a start-up is long and filled with many sleepless nights; only with patience and dedication will it ever be achieved.

Throughout the summer our team found itself overjoyed at times by the validation of a critical assumption, yet we had to be patient to perform due diligence on the source of the new information and uncover why it was previously contradicted. Aligning the facts, especially when regarding the Indian fresh produce supply chain, was never an easy task. After patient analysis and fact checking, uncertainty still remains.

We now find ourselves a few days away from returning to Mumbai, and going straight to the source in order to prove our business model is viable. We will be replicating our entire restructured supply chain with numerous partners, creating an ethical supply chain from farmers to end consumers. This time around I find myself very impatient to launch our pilot. It is a fine line that needs to be walked between patience and ambition in order to strive towards success. After these summer months however I have learned to have the necessary patience in order to allow for all previous efforts to coalesce.

I have many to thank for these lessons learned, especially my teammates - James Doherty, Jon Myer, Monica Noda, and Greg Perowne, who have been patient with me.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The Hult Prize, an international competition that awards $1 million to a student team of entrepreneurs for social good. The prize will be presented by former-President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York City on September 23. For more information about The Hult Prize, click here.