On April 17th I attended the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Washington DC and participated in adjudicating the final round; I was blown away by this experience! This event is the American Idol for entrepreneurs and its a HUGE deal for these students, many of which have never been out of their home Country.
To qualify for this event the applicants needed to be operating their own business while also attending University. Once they are accepted they compete at their regional level, there are a number of competitions before they can qualify for the semi final and final round. There were 2000 students that competed throughout the year, 42 that made it to the semi final round, and 6 that advanced to the final round. There were 38 countries represented by the 42 students this year.
The 6 finalists:
Derek Rucki – Mount Royal University Canada– Tlink GPS Golf Watch – Invented a new GPS watch and is establishing distribution channels now.
Scott Munguia – ITESM Campus Monterrey Mexico – BoFase Sustainable Plastic – Discovered how to use Avocado seeds to make bioplastic and built a business around it. (this one went WAY over my head!)
Gilang Hardian – Tazkia University Indonesia – Anajidan Helmut – Founded and operates a helmet modification company that refurbishes or customizes helmets.
Alex MacLean – Acadia University Canada – East Coast Lifestyle – Founded and operates a clothing line with massive sales.
Kevin Ng – Singapore Management University – Hyron Infotech – Founded and operates a technology company specializing in industrial workflow. (this one went WAY over my head!)
Steinar Henskes – University of Amsterdam – Bird Control Group – Founded and operates a laser technology that manages bird traffic around industrial activities.
The Finalists and key EO members
The 3 winners:
1st place – Steinar Henskes
2nd place – Alex MacLean (GO CANADA!)
3rd place – Scott Munguia
The Canadians: Me (Chad), Derek and Alex.
The level of intellect and maturity of these students is unbelievable. They are empowered, resourceful, and driven with ideas that they aren’t afraid to put into action. It was interesting to observe them building their network and creating relationships with other entrepreneurs during the 3 day event. In speaking with some of the past contestants I learned of the positive impact the program has had and the partnerships some had developed as a result. One individual from Russia ended up moving to New York to start a tech company in partnership with one of his competing peers from his competition year, and another contestant from 7 years ago was on his 3rd business which had just received a valuation of $200M. Its a life changing stepping stone for many of these students. At the final reception Gilang Hardian from Indonesia, who had never been to North America, had tears of joy streaming down his face because of what this experience meant for him, his family, and community.
Coming away from the event I am left reflecting on the importance of following your passion, stretching yourself, building the right team, and executing. Each day is an opportunity to achieve something greater than the day before, to master a challenge that wasn’t solvable the day before, to develop a new relationship, or to have a lasting positive impact on someone that you cross paths with.
I am humbled and feel it was a tremendous gift to have been part of the GSEA event this year. As a parting thought I want to leave you with this quote that one of the GSEA Charimans shared by the famous TS Eliot, “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.
Please join me as we see how far WE can go.