Hult Prize Waseda 2020: A Journey for social impact

December 13, 2020 5 min read

At the end of a turbulent year, the impossible was finally happening. After several days of preparation across continents, six teams were getting ready to deliver their idea pitches to our judge panel through our online ZOOM link. Instead of light-up halls and humongous stages, this time, we were seeing each other through a 14-inch screen next to a cup of coffee in our own living room.

Author: Quynh Trang Ho Thi - Hult Prize Waseda Campus Director

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

At the end of a turbulent year, the impossible was finally happening. After several days of preparation across continents, six teams were getting ready to deliver their idea pitches to our judge panel through our online ZOOM link. Instead of light-up halls and humongous stages, this time, we were seeing each other through a 14-inch screen next to a cup of coffee in our own living room. It felt much more cozy, yet, the atmosphere started to intensify as the teams started to join the room. 

And it began, a virtual event that was like no other before.

For our opening remark, professor Toru Asahi, Director of Institute for Global Science and Knowledge Fusion and General Secretary of WASEDA-EDGE Global Talent Development Program delivered a short keynote speech about the progress Hult Prize at Waseda had accomplished in the last couple of years. As a Campus Director, I was honored to take on the responsibility to make this event happen, therefore, it was an emotional moment to recognize the support and encouragement from our own school. Additionally, we were also incredibly grateful for having many established judges joining our panel this year. On our board, we had Mr. Shozo Takata - Professor Emeritus at the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, School of Creative Science and Engineering, and chairperson of the executive committee of WASEDA-EDGE. He would be delivering the announcement of the winner at the end of our conference. Next, we had Mr. Masato Iino - Founder & Partner at Learning Entrepreneur's Lab, who has been supporting Hult Prize Waseda with his expertise in Business Model Hypothesis testing, and Mr. Hiromi Karahashi - Founder and CEO of JPort by SPeak corporation, whose contribution to Hult Prize Japan’s partnership is very much appreciated. We also had Mr. David Christian, who was the Founder and CEO of Evo & Co., and head of Natural Resource, Energy, Mineral & Environment in Indonesian Young Entrepreneur Association (HIPMI). Last but not least, we had Mr. Satoshi Okuda - Founder & CEO of Primestyle Co., Ltd, Ms. Rio Abe - a member of SAP Co., Ltd Japan and Mr. Kaname Kikusato, officer and Waseda University, all who shared a common interest in supporting young entrepreneurs to kickstart their business.

Though the pitch time limit was only 6 minutes, all teams were able to deliver a great range of information and impressive enthusiasm. They were able to successfully identify key problems that their ideas can solve, and demonstrate a convincing outlook for their future business development with comprehensive market-based research. Our judges have had to spend a significant amount of time to deliberately discuss and debate on choosing the winner, using not only the key metrics provided on the scorecard, but also their holistic assessments on the cohesiveness and growing potential of the teams.

While our judges were carrying out the assessment, CEO of Jackie Mays Grills - Mr. Kevin Cochran and CEO/Co-Founder of Moku Foods - Mr. Matt Feldman, who was recently listed as a Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur, have taken their precious time to join our event as guest speakers. With the extensive experiences working in food start up, especially in the plant-based meat market, the two shared important insights of their journey, including challenges and opportunities that they took, as well as giving valuable advice to the teams. The follow-up Q&A section was surprisingly active with lots of specific and practical questions from the audience. Thomas Bentley, the project leader of team Rakuda Foods, along with other participants, made a remark that he was able to learn a lot from the panel discussion. Joining us in the section we also had Ms. Rosalyn Bejrsuwana, who was the Vice Director of Hult Prize Thailand, sharing her engagement with social entrepreneurship. Despite young age, she proved that it is never too early to start taking part in making an impact.

For the organizing committee members, although there were many challenges in shifting from in person to an online competition such as lack of engagement or electrical outage, it was important for us to take all of the risk aspects into consideration to ensure a smooth and meaningful experience for all participants.

 In order to best prepare for the D-Day, we spent three months prior to come up with different activities to build our network of impact, such as organizing webinars in collaboration with other universities across Japan and around the world, connecting mentors to teams and engaging in online conference with established companies like McKinsey & Co. Managing every aspect of the event in one place is no easy task, especially due to the fact that teammates and participants could not meet in person. However, the flexibility of being online did give us a wide range of open possibilities and resourceful opportunities, such as holding online interactive games in between our break. Additionally, thanks to the support of our university, we were able to use the best available hosting facility with ease. 

To get ready for the D-Day, Hult Prize Waseda created many channels for teams to prepare for their best.

Though there could be more to be done to make the event even more mesmerizing, our outcome was praised and well perceived. In our feedback survey, a surprising 93.3% of the corresponding participants answered they were satisfied with the event, while 86.7% said they were satisfied with the organization and the logistics. Moreover, participants said that they had fun joining the event, and many have expressed their interests in joining the event next year. Planning, scheduling, as well as delivering clear and consistent communication to all participants were some of the key factors that help contribute to the success of the contest, but more importantly, the atmosphere and the interactions that we were able to raise also play a role in achieving that impact. 

When the ending song’s melody was played, I could imagine we were under a huge stage dome, scholarly announcing the victory and enthusiastically handing the certificates to the winners, and may we have a traditional exchange of Meishi cards or that teams could have more time talking to each other and the judges. Despite that we were not meeting in person, new memory was to be made, and I was very happy that I was playing a part in this special moment with all the talented, purpose-driven individuals who were there on the screen. 

At the end, we were able to learn and reflect on what went well, what could have been improved, and we were very looking forward to bringing the best experiences for teams and judges who believe in the Hult Prize mission and movement. So when the ZOOM room is closed, I could not avoid having a deep sense of gratitude and fulfillment. Sitting back to my seat, I wondered what it would be like for the next challenge - the upcoming Impact Summit.

To learn more about Hult Prize Waseda, visit our website:  HULT PRIZE ON CAMPUS @ WASEDA UNIVERSITY or follow us on Instagram and Facebook. To learn more about the opportunity to become a Campus Director or participate in Hult Prize movement, visit

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