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UT student team wins local round of Hult Prize competition

A student-led team from the University of Tampa hopes to pitch their ideas to President Bill Clinton and a panel of judges for the chance to earn $1 million in startup funding.

Each year, hundreds of teams from universities around the world compete in the Hult Prize competition to solve a pressing issue related to education and poverty.

The 2016 challenge: “Can we build sustainable, scalable and fast-growing social enterprises that double the income of 10 million people residing in crowded urban spaces by better connecting people, goods, services and capital?”

The annual competition awards one million dollars in start-up funding to the team of students that develops the most compelling solution to this question.

Each student team competes in a regional round before moving on to the finals in New York City next fall; but before teams can head to Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, or Shanghai for regionals, they must win the competition at the local level. In December 2015, a student team from UT, led by business management student Bay Downing, took top honors in the local round of competition.

Team OptiMrkt was chosen of the 10 competing teams because they “had the most compelling idea,” explains Hult Prize at UT Campus Director Caio Amaral. “The main argument was that the initiative and team work in OptiMrkt was very optimistic.”

OptiMrkt aims to reinvent the way that trade works for those “on the bottom of the pyramid” with a fresh approach to urban markets.

The team also “had partnerships lined up, and a business model that impressed most of the majority of the judges,” says Amaral, who competed for the prize in 2014 on team BamBoost (read about their story here).

OptiMrkt team members include Downing along with MBA-seeking Chenoy Ceil and entrepreneurship students Luciano Perdomo and Monty Berrow.

“UT is very proud of OptiMrkt and how far they have come,” Amaral says.

OptiMrkt will compete with around 50 teams, including those from Ivy League schools like Harvard and MIT, during a regional competition March 11-12, 2016. If they win the regional phase, team members will have the opportunity to attend the Hult Prize Accelerator program in summer 2016, along with the top five teams from other regions.

There, Amaral says, “They will launch from a simple idea to being feasible in the market.” 

Finally, they will travel to New York City to pitch their solution before world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative’s next annual meeting in late September 2016.

The University of Tampa is no stranger to the Hult Prize competition; multiple teams have made it to regional and final competitions in previous years. Team Tembo, which operates from the UT Innovation and Collaboration building, has transitioned from student project into a full-scale, growing business.

To learn more about Tembo’s efforts to provide education to children and parents in urban slums through mobile phones and an evidence-based curriculum, or to contribute, visit their GoFundMe page

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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    The University of Tampa, a private university situated along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, enrolls students from more than 100 countries around the globe. The university has approximately 6,200 students and offers undergraduate and ...

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