Stomachs clenched, hands sweating, hearts pounding through our chests. This is the moment we've all been waiting for. The weight of the world feels as if it is resting on our shoulders because we are in the midst of an opportunity of a lifetime. This is not hyperbole.
This evening, six student teams will be competing in the Hult Prize Global Final at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Summit. From a pool of over 2,000 teams hailing from the top universities in the world, these six regional winners have been hustling all year for their 10 short minutes on stage. With a one in six chance at $1 million in startup capital, it's well worth the effort.
Concept meetings, desk research, scaling plans, field pilots, script writing, slide design. These last few months have been a whirlwind journey. Guided by inspirational mentors and guest speakers during a 7-week accelerator program in Boston starting this July, each team has traversed the peaks and valleys of the life of a startup. The long hours, obscene amount of sticky notes, and unfulfilled promises to loved ones all get washed away with the smile of our first paying customer in Nairobi. We're proud of what we've accomplished in such a short amount of time but know there's a long way to go. Our team often jokes that this a marathon run simultaneously on computer screens and in slums.
Thankfully, the final leg of our Hult Prize journey concludes tonight. In front of 1,000 of the world's top entrepreneurs, leaders and development experts, we will be unveiling our concept and having them prod and poke our brainchild in public.
We're nervous. Excited but nervous. We've pitched to everyone from wealthy investors to a TEDx event, from business students to family and friends. Our harshest critics yet? A panel of 10-year-olds (those little guys ask pretty tough questions!) Our concept has iterated and pivoted, our pitch has continually been refined and our certainty of success has steadily increased.
For us, the Hult Prize is so much more than a business case competition. By empowering student teams to start up their own businesses, we are learning by doing, and becoming actively engaged in the world rather than passively learning from a textbook. As a student of international development and humanitarian emergencies at the London School of Economics, I've read the book on famine and poverty. To say that our course material is depressing would be an understatement. But just a few weeks in Kenya showed our team that there is hope, incredible hope for so many people around the world through new technology. We believe that mobile phones are the universal technology that can link supply and demand, bringing fresh produce to the slums, all with the ease of sending a text message.
As our final pitch approaches, many people have asked us: "What happens if you lose?" The answer is that this isn't a binary dilemma. Yes there will be one winning team awarded $1 million. And yes, the five other teams will technically walk home empty-handed and be heartbroken that night. Yet, we believe that the support we have already received, the concept we currently have and the contacts we will make at the CGI Annual Meeting makes us winners already. Our careers have focused, and always will focus, on social impact at scale. No matter what happens tonight, we may have hit the wall but we're just getting our second legs for the rest of the marathon.
It is said that life is about the journey not the destination. Whatever happens tonight, the SokoText team has had one hell of a journey.
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.
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