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Team Meliora back in running for $1M Hult Prize

May 25, 2017
four students and professor pose for a photo on the quadFrom left, Ibrahim Mohammad '17, Omar Soufan '17, team coach Michael Wohl, Carlos (Yuki) Gonzalez '17, and Edgar Alaniz '17. (University photo / Steve Dow)

Four international students at the University are back in the running for the Hult Prize, the largest social entrepreneurship competition in the world, with a reward of $1 million seed money. They were eliminated in the regional finals in San Francisco in March but recently were selected as one of three wildcard entrants by Hult officials.

Team Meliora, whose mission is to efficiently build homes for refugees from recycled plastics, will participate in an accelerator program in Boston from late June to mid-August, where they will be mentored by business professors from Harvard and MIT and compete against teams from Harvard and the University of Southern California.

Before that, the four students plan an assessment trip to Jordan.

The wildcard winner will join regional champions from Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai at the September 16 Hult Prize finals in New York City, with former president Bill Clinton announcing the winner.

The students who make up Team Meliora all graduated May 21. They are Edgar Alaniz (biochemistry and clinical psychology) from Mexico; Carlos (Yuki) Gonzalez (financial economics) from Paraguay; Ibrahim Mohammad (mechanical engineering) from Lebanon; and Omar Soufan (biomedical engineering) from Syria.

“Not winning regionals was really tough on the team because we were really close to making a difference back home,” Soufan says. “Getting back in gave us a second chance, and we don’t plan on wasting it.”

The Hult Prize, a partnership between Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative, was established in 2010 and encourages teams of entrepreneurs to solve the planet’s biggest challenges with innovative ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises.

The 2017 Hult Prize “President’s Challenge” is “Refugees—Reawakening Human Potential.” Its aim is to help restore the rights and dignity of people and societies forced into motion due to political, economic, or environmental factors.

The students in Team Meliora took Urban Impact and Entrepreneurship, a course taught at Simon Business School by Michael Wohl, the University’s associate director for social entrepreneurship. Wohl has served as Team Meliora’s coach.

“This is the first time any Rochester team has come this close,” Wohl says. “Out of 50,000 applicants from 150 countries, they were top eight in the world. It’s history for the school.”

For more information on Team Meliora’s social entrepreneurship project, visit https://www.gofundme.com/meliorahomes


Tie in Ain Competition

Team Meliora and Proteus Medical, a University student group, tied for first place at the 11th annual Mark Ain Business Model Competition, with each team receiving $7,500 and a space in the UR Student Incubator at High Tech Rochester.

Proteus Medical has developed a novel endoscopic device that allows veterinarians to retrieve foreign objects in a dog’s stomach in a non-invasive, cost-effective manner. The team includes Connor McBride ’17 (engineering), Edward Ruppell ’17 (biomedical engineering), and Chandler Woo ’17 (biomedical engineering).

WATCH: A Better Fix for Fido’s Tummy Troubles

Third place and a $1,000 cash prize went to Chalaza Technologies, which offers the Corona Flow, a novel device that provides a solution to meeting governmental diesel emission standards. The team includes Sean Humesky, Lei Liao, Kristopher Page, and Brianna Rockwell. All are graduate students in the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program, jointly conferred by the Hajim School of Engineering and Simon Business School.

The competition was made possible by support from Simon Business School alumnus Mark S. Ain ’67S (MBA) and was supported by the Simon Entrepreneurs Association and the University’s Ain Center for Entrepreneurship.

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