Imagine presenting an idea to an audience of business leaders who stare down your soul as fellow competitors wait for you to choke. You nervously clutch the microphone and stare into the eyes of a business tycoon who could make or break your whole career.
For the last 10 years, a social impacts competition called the Hult Prize Competition, run by the Hult International Business School in Cambridge, M.A. and partnered with the United Nations, has been a benchmark program that social entrepreneurs have participated in. This year, a Brandeis team made it farther in the competition than any Brandeis teams have in the past.
Each year is centered around a theme related to social issues. This year’s theme is based on youth employment, with youth ranging from ages 16 to 35. The competition consists of three initial rounds and teams who move on advance to the regional competition.
After the regional competition, the winning team will live in a castle outside of London over the summer and undergo a business accelerator, which is a program in which start-ups or developing companies have access to many resources, allowing them to build their ideas and become self-sufficient to enhance their projects. After the summer, the winning team will work with the United Nations to further develop their ideas.
At the 2019 Hult Prize Competition, Max Brodsky ’20 (GRAD), Abigail Montine ’19 (GRAD), IBS scholar Liza Korotkova ’19 and R. Matthews ’19, collectively called Team Talk, pitched the idea of an app called Talk. Their idea centers around the growing number of youth in the United States that are multilingual, which proves to be useful in many situations.
The app Talk will allow multilingual young adults to act as translators and interpreters through video remote communication, which would benefit businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations. Team Talk previously won $5000 through the SPARKTank competition at Brandeis, the Hult Prize Foundation Challenge and then continued on to compete in the Hult Prize regional competition.
Max Brodsky is currently an MBA student at the Heller School for Social Policy with a concentration in children and families. Prior to attending the Heller School, he worked at a healthcare nonprofit helping children in neighborhoods. Abigail Montine previously worked at the Peace Corps and aided in youth development. Brodsky and Montine heard about the Hult Prize Competition during their orientation at the Heller School.
Brodsky came up with the idea for the Talk app in August of 2018 and over time the group of Korotkova, Montine and Matthews worked together to develop this idea further. In the Hult Prize Competition, Team Talk made it farther than any Brandeis team has in the past by placing in the final six at regionals out of fifty teams.
Furthermore, Brodsky describes the stressful atmosphere in which a team’s name is called and they must immediately pitch their idea to everyone in the auditorium, which includes fellow competitors, spectators and most importantly business leaders such as the former assistant dean of the Harvard Business School.
Team Talk is currently taking a break from working on their idea and focusing on finishing their degrees. They hope to finish developing the business plan. In the future, they plan to compete in competitions such as the Mass challenge, which is the largest accelerator challenge in New England. In addition, they hope to find contacts to talk to such as venture capitalists who could provide them with resources.
Team Talk had a multitude of support from individuals at the Brandeis International Business School, the Heller School, the Waltham Partnership for Youth and from individuals such as Bozhanka Vitanova, Rebecca Menapace, Fern Shamis from the provost office and Kaytie Dowcett. The team owes their success to all of these people and more who have supported them throughout the process. Overall, to Brodsky, participating in the Hult Prize Competition was an “incredibly exciting opportunity.” The team performed extremely well and beat teams from schools such as Harvard and MIT. Brodsky explains how it doesn’t matter that they didn’t win the regional competition; they believe in their product and are confident that they will succeed in the end.