A host of MBA students have competed in social enterprise competitions recently. Here are some of the most exciting success stories.
Africa-based healthcare start-up wins $17,000 in seed funding
MBA student Melissa McCoy secured $17,000 in seed funding for her health tech start-up ConnectMed, after coming third in multinational energy company Total’s 'Startupper of the Year' competition.
Melissa is among the first ever winners of the competition which was launched by Total in the autumn of 2015 as part of the company’s commitment to supporting socioeconomic development in the countries in which it operates.
Melissa was inspired to create ConnectMed after meeting Vuyane Mhlomi, a PhD student at Oxford on a development programme, the Oxford Global Leadership (OGL) in 2014. On their way to their first OGL dinner, Vuyane told Melissa about the problem regarding the inaccessibility, scarcity and expense of healthcare in South Africa. Seeking to address these issues, Melissa came up with the business idea for a website which offers affordable online medical consultations, extending healthcare provision to rural and isolated communities across Africa.
Melissa developed ConnectMed’s technology and recruited a team of doctors, finance staff, researchers and developers, went through a week-long training programme in March as part of the Total competition, and pitched to funders, before scooping third place.
Melissa commented, ‘The prize money will allow ConnectMed to launch our clinics and patient-facing offerings this summer in South Africa and shows the needed proof-of-concept to raise a seed round later this year.’
MBA students win United Nations ITU Telecom World’s Young Innovators Competition
Impressing judges with their innovative, entrepreneurial solution to challenges faced by refugees around the world, four MBA students won the United Nations ITU Telecom World's Young Innovators Competition.
The Oxford team, featuring MBA students Noura Ismail, Karen Ng, Amrinder Singh, Avinash Nanda and Andreas Glinas, were one of two winning teams in the competition, which encourages entrepreneurs to come up with creative ICT solutions to pressing global problems.
Sixty-four teams applied yet only those with the most impressive ideas were invited to attend the 2016 CeBit conference in Hannover, where they were given the opportunity to present their concept on stage and meet German government officials and investors open to collaboration.
The team impressed judges with their idea for app Refugee Connect, which helps refugees integrate into communities by connecting them with local volunteers and organisations, providing local community resources and details of job and educational opportunities.
Noura commented, ‘We came up with Refugee Connect after a period of research and speaking with a range of refugees around the world to understand the issues they were facing upon moving to their host countries and attempting to integrate. Because many countries like Germany have agreed to welcome millions of refugees in just the last 5 years, their resettlement services have been overwhelmed and many important basic needs are left to the refugees themselves to figure out.'
‘They don’t know where to start, and often feel isolated. At the same time, many locals have a desire to help refugees, but there is no organised space for them to do so. Moreover, while there are numerous organisations and resources to help refugees in their resettlement process, they operate in silos, and most refugees do not know about them.’
Oxford MBAs head to Switzerland to take part in sustainability competition
Beating tough competition from 86 business schools across the world, four Oxford MBA students will be taking part in the final of the Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge in June.
Organised by coffee brand Nestlé Nespresso in partnership with the Sustainable Markets Intelligence Centre (CIMS) and Latin America’s leading business school INCAE, the competition opened in February and challenged students to create a shared value strategy for Nespresso, demonstrating ways in which the company can benefit not just shareholders but communities.
The Oxford team, consisting of Neil Yeoh, Sonia Lipski, Safia Tapal and Sean Peters, was one of 15 semi-finalists selected by organisers April. They were later chosen to attend the competition final which will be held on June 13, alongside teams from Nottingham Business School and INSEAD, France.
At the final, which will be held at Nespresso’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, participants will have the opportunity to present their shared value strategy to Nespresso executives, academics and sustainability experts.
Safia Tapal commented, ‘Working on the Nespresso challenge has been a really interesting project in exploring how a big company can aim to be more sustainable while working within realistic constraints. It has allowed us to understand the importance of communication and customer integration in ensuring that ‘sustainability’ is not just a marketing exercise.’
MBA impress judges with ability to tackle social enterprise business challenges
Five Oxford MBA students featured in two of three winning teams in this year’s Oxford Social Impact Case Competition, a social enterprise contest open to undergraduate and graduate students from Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University.
Organised by Saïd Business School’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, the competition gave 18 teams the task of evaluating a business challenge faced by three social enterprise organisations: post-graduate loans provider, Prodigy Finance; India-based housing advisory company, micro Home Solutions; and Audassle, an organisation that creates 3D audio games for the blind and visually impaired.
Judges of the competition, which took place in April, assessed students based on their entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental challenges. After receiving basic background information on the companies, the teams interviewed representatives from the organisations before delivering strategic recommendations to a panel of judges.
Oxford MBAs Teodora Sareva, Noura Ismail and Tarun Varma formed one of the winning teams, impressing judges with their recommendations for micro Home Solutions.
MBAs Andres Baehr and Kinshuk Kocher teamed up with Oxford D.Phil students, Amy Orben and Vira Ameli, and were also one of the winning teams and delivered strong recommendations for Prodigy Finance.
Teodora commented, ‘The Social Impact case competition provided us with a unique opportunity to help social entrepreneurs working in the field advance their mission by analysing their organisations' goals and resource constraints and proposing a feasible business and implementation plan for their venture. Working with Noura and Tarun under the stringent time constraints was fun and exciting. It affirmed in me the importance of having a solid team when faced with a challenging task.’
MBA student gains pitching opportunities and advice in competition for women in tech
Oxford MBA student Talisa Dubois made the final of the 5050 Tech Challenge, a competition that aims to promote women working in tech.
The competition was launched this year by Doteveryone, an organisation founded by Lastminute.com co-founder Martha Fox Lane, which aims to encourage digital innovations and widen the availability of new technologies.
Open to companies that have at least one female founder, the 5050 Tech Challenge strives to encourage gender balance in tech, as a recent study found that women currently occupy only 17% of tech jobs.
Twelve finalists were awarded a full day of mentoring and training with industry experts, which took place in February in London, followed by a Pitch Day & Showcase session, which gave start-ups the opportunity to pitch to more than 30 seed investors and VCs.
Talisa impressed judges with her company, Yardstic. Launched this year, it is an impact management consultancy and online toolkit which simplifies the process of impact measurement, grant reporting, and communication for social initiatives.
Talisa commented, ‘My team and I were given amazing coaching and advice from experienced business mentors, and the opportunity to pitch for seed investment in front of 100 potential investors. The event lead to fantastic connections for us, boosted our confidence in our product, and strengthened our revenue model.
‘We have since worked with the Skoll Centre for Entrepreneurship in the impact measurement space and have a healthy pipeline for future work. We are excited to have started this initiative while at SBS, and while anything is possible, we know that we will keep trying to measure and create impact that really counts.’