EPOCH wins Hult Prize London Regional Finals, moves on to Global Finals for a chance at $1 million
“Can we build sustainable, scalable, social enterprises that restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022?” Over 2,000 student teams responded to this year’s theme, in competition for the Hult Prize, with 300 teams competing at five regional competitions around the world this past weekend. EPOCH, a team from the University of Waterloo, is one of the five regional winners headed to the Global Finals to pitch for $1 million to implement their idea and make a lasting difference in the world.
EPOCH is an app designed to bring together refugees and community members through the exchange of skills, talents, and services. The three University of Waterloo founders behind the idea are Jade Choy, Lisa Tran, and Keith Choy, with key support from BETS student Ryan Schmied. The team was inspired by a concept called time banking, where time is used as a form of currency. A person gets credited for the amount of time spent helping someone, and they can use that time to request a service from another person. In addition to an exchange of services, the marketplace is also an opportunity to get to know people and learn something new, which can be tough for refugees in a new country.
Since winning the UWaterloo division of the Hult Prize in November, EPOCH has been incubated at the Velocity Garage, where it has been working on market validation and forming local and international partnerships. They have also received support to create partnerships with 12 private and public organizations worldwide that are interested in using their app after it is developed.
The team travelled to London, England this past weekend to compete in one of the five regional competitions. Out of the 62 teams who pitched, EPOCH came out on top! As they walked to the stage, the crowd started to chant “Canada! Canada! Canada!” Regional competitions taking place in Shanghai and Dubai had already chosen their winners and they were also Canadian teams from York University and the University of Calgary. EPOCH has been broadly supported by the UW entrepreneurship ecosystem, receiving strong support from from the School of Accounting and Finance and Nada Basir, Assistant Professor at the Conrad Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Centre.
In July and August, EPOCH will join other finalists to attend the Hult Prize Accelerator, a six-week program at Hult International Business School’s Boston campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The program includes weekly classes, speakers, workshops, pitches, and support from expert coaches and mentors. Upon completion, the five teams will travel to New York City for the Global Finals, where President Clinton and other members of the Clinton Global Initiative will select and award the winning team with the $1 million prize. In the meantime, EPOCH will travel to Germany until the end of March to research the settlement and integration of refugees across the country.