ECU students compete for Hult Prize in Colombia
Three new ECU graduates recently returned from Bogota, Colombia, where they participated in the Hult Prize Challenge for college entrepreneurs.
Team leader Grace Rains and fellow students Andrew Griffin and Shainah Andrews — along with Wake Technical Community College student Josh Elliott — competed against 49 other teams in the regional event that will eventually award the winner a $1 million prize.
Griffin, who graduated May 4 with a degree in information and computer technology, said the goal of the competition is to develop a business that would employ 10,000 “disconnected youth” in 10 years. The Hult Prize lists disconnected youth as those ages 15 to 35 who have no formal education or training.
The team’s concept is called Luuup, a marketing app for businesses. Griffin said Luuup’s employees, who would be called Luuupers, would make sales to businesses and then use the app to promote those businesses online, freeing up the business owners to do other tasks.
“They make money and learn hard and soft skills, and self-determination,” Griffin said of the employees.
Griffin said the team interviewed about 70 businesses in the Greenville area, and all seemed interested in the concept. He said about 30 people so far have committed to be employed as Luuupers.
Griffin said the goal is to pivot the business toward South Africa, which he said statistics show has the highest number of “disconnected youth” in the world.
During the competition, the team had a six-minute presentation in front of an esteemed group of judges, followed by a four-minute question-and-answer session.
“It was nerve-racking,” Griffin said.
Griffin said the team didn’t advance out of the regional round but learned a lot.
“We got awesome feedback,” he said. “It was an eye-opening and amazing experience.”
The competition, which was April 25-30, came at a difficult time for the team members.
“We were preparing for commencement, we had to take our finals early, and we were all working. It was crazy,” Griffin said.
Beyond the competition, team members had the chance to experience the culture of Colombia, including tours of a technical college and various museums.
“We got to explore everything. It was awesome,” Griffin said. “We got to try so much food. The food was outstanding. It was so good.”
Griffin said the team came together through ECU’s Miller School of Entrepreneurship, which sent the team to Colombia. Rains was a student of the Miller School, while Andrews graduated with an English degree. Elliott works as a chef and is a computer programming student.
“We’re very diverse with very different skillsets,” Griffin said. “That makes for great assets for a team.”
Griffin said the competition wasn’t the end for Luuup. The team is applying for the Hult Prize Academy, which is a 10-day session in England, and continues its efforts to get the business off the ground. A lawyer is currently working on a trademark for Luuup.
“We’ve just begun,” he said.
ECU had its own social entrepreneurship competition called That Big Idea Challenge, started by the Department of Student Involvement and Leadership (SIL) with Dr. Erik Kneubuehl, associate vice chancellor for SIL, and Adeea Rogers, SIL marketing coordinator. The program was tied to the Clinton Global Initiative.
That Big Idea Challenge aligned with the Hult Prize Challenge starting in the 2016-17 school year. Students from all majors can participate in the challenge. Applications open on Oct. 1, with a pitch presentation scheduled for November.
For more information, go online to www.hultprize.org/challenge/.
On campus, contact Hank Bowen, Student Involvement and Leadership, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by phone at 252-737-2271.
-By Ken Buday, University Communications