No win, but Hult Prize competition ‘a great experience’

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The UIC team that competed for the international Hult Prize event included (L-R) Drew Nannini, Rahul Patel, Evana Robbani and Shefali Batra. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Facing a challenge personally selected by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, a UIC social entrepreneurship team made a bid to advance last month in the regional finals of the fifth annual Hult Prize competition.

The international event, co-sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Hult Prize Foundation, brought UIC and 50 other teams together in a battle for one of six spots in the finals, where $1 million in start-up funds awaits the eventual winner this fall.

Although the UIC team was not among the four finalists, “it was a great experience,” said Shefali Batra, team captain and 2013 graduate in biological sciences.

“Our goal was to go in there with a really great pitch and idea. We definitely accomplished that.”

Other team members were Drew Nannini, graduate student in epidemiology, Rahul Patel, Honors College senior majoring in biological sciences, and Evana Robbani, doctoral student in pharmacy,

They traveled to San Francisco to deliver their social business concept to address chronic illnesses and noncommunicable diseases affecting 250 million people living in urban slums around the world.

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was named regional champion.

“Everyone there wanted to implement change,” Batra said. “To be surrounded by those types of people, that is just an experience in itself. You are meeting people from all walks of life from around the world, varying careers and academic backgrounds.”

The regional final was the culmination of four months of planning and preparation. Since forming their unit last fall, the team spent countless hours formalizing a business plan and project prototype.

Batra said the group takes pride in being the first Hult Prize participants from UIC.

“We hope we paved the way for other UIC teams to compete in the future and actively participate in start-up competitions encouraging change in the world,” she said.

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