UC Berkeley team competes for million-dollar Hult Prize

Agung Nugroho/Courtesy

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A team of four UC Berkeley students will compete this Saturday for a $1 million prize in an international social entrepreneurship contest.

The regional final in San Francisco is one of five competitions happening around the globe as part of the Hult Prize, a business competition that awards its winning team $1 million to fund a business plan addressing social issues. The UC Berkeley team was named a regional semifinalist last month.

“In the semifinals, it’ll be tough to come out of San Francisco and the Pacific Rim because there are so many cool and creative teams … but we like our chances,” said Kris Cuaresma-Primm, team captain and an MBA student at the Haas School of Business.

Each year, the competition focuses on a different social problem. This year’s theme, chosen by former president Bill Clinton, centers on global food security.

The UC Berkeley team’s business plan focuses on using technology to alleviate hunger in urban slums. According to Cuaresma-Primm, the team will reveal the details of its enterprise on Saturday and plans to implement its project in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“A large number of people who live in urban slums live in Indonesia, and Indonesia is actually really huge but has been neglected,” said Leanne Fan, a team member and senior statistics and interdisciplinary field studies major.

Operating on a “Lean LaunchPad” business framework, the team consists of four students from across a range of disciplines that each add a unique skill set to the team.

“We’re people from so many different backgrounds coming together with high-tech and low-tech solutions to give affordable, delicious, nutritious and ready-to-eat foods in urban slums,” Cuaresma-Primm said.

A.J. Renold, a graduate student in the School of Information, previously worked in microfinance and believes in a business mantra of “doing well and doing good.”

“(I) approach social business space with the mindset of how I will do well with the people I touch with my business,” Renold said.

The team also includes Agung Nugroho, a Haas MBA student from Indonesia who brings with him a networking base in Jakarta.

Cuaresma-Primm said that the UC Berkeley community and the Haas Center for Responsible Business played an important role in helping develop the team’s business idea.

The team that wins at the regional final will advance to the Hult Prize global final and pitch its idea at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York this September.

Fan said that even if the team does not win the prize, it will continue to seek alternative funding methods to build its business.

“The beauty of the core idea is that it pivots very well, bringing together technology that can be used anywhere in the field of social good,” Fan said.

Contact Christine Tyler at [email protected].