Global Social Venture Competition to Award Record $55K in Prizes, Celebrate 15 Years

Eighteen entrepreneurial teams from around the world will gather next week at the Haas School to compete for a record $55,000 in prizes at the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) finals.

Held from April 9 to April 11, the GSVC global finals will showcase a broad range of innovative business ideas addressing everything from celebrity-sponsored nonprofit fundraising to salinity sensors for small-plot shrimp farmers—all designed to generate positive social impact.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the competition has awarded more than $500,000 to emerging social ventures since its founding by Berkeley MBA students.

To help celebrate the anniversary, several GSVC alumni will give presentations during a conference that coincides with the April 11 public finals. Keynote speakers will include Kirsten Saenz Tobey, MBA 06, founder and chief impact officer of 2007 GSVC winner Revolution Foods, and Priya Haji, MBA 03, co-founder and CEO of SaveUp and co-founder of GSVC 2005 winner World of Good. Carlos Orellana, MBA/MPH 10, founder and CEO of salaUno is the keynote speaker for a private awards dinner on April 11.

Conference breakout sessions include : GSVC Alumni: Learnings from 15 Years of Global Change; Social Intrapreneurship: Making a Big Impact Inside a Big Company; and Financing Social Ventures, among other topics.

“For the last 15 years, the GSVC has empowered entrepreneurs to launch sustainable ventures that are improving the health of ecosystems and communities from Berkeley to Burkina Faso,” says GSVC Co-chair Ali Kelley, MBA 15. “As students, we are encouraged to apply business skills to effect positive, real-world change. Social impact is ingrained in Haas culture.”

This year’s competition attracted some 500 team entries from 44 different countries.

Teams are drawn from a global network of 14 partner schools and outreach organizations, including two newly added Latin American schools: Universidad de los Andes, Colombia and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. After competing in one of several regional semifinals, the top two teams from each region advance to the global finals held each spring at UC Berkeley.

This year, 22 teams, including 12 Haas-affiliated teams, participated in the U.S. western regional semifinals held March 21 at Haas. The two regional winners that will move on to the global finals are LegWorks and earthenable.

LegWorks, which includes Emily Lutyens, MBA 13, has developed an artificial knee joint that it says costs less than one-tenth that of existing products and enables users to walk more efficiently, safely, and comfortably. The group hopes its device will help lower-limb amputees in developed as well as under-resourced countries, where disabilities often lead to poverty.

“Our vision is to develop and supply all components of a complete prosthetic leg solution for amputees no matter where they live or their ability to pay,” Lutyens says.

Earthenable makes earthen floors that provide Rwandans with a healthier alternative to dirt floors. The $30 earthen floors—made of packed, sealed materials such as gravel, sand, clay, and fiber—cost far less than the $300 to $500 for concrete floors.

Next week’s GSVC global final consists of two consecutive rounds. During the private first round on April 10, the 18 finalist teams will present to a panel of judges, which will then choose six to eight teams to compete the following day for cash prizes at the public global final.

In addition to the $25,000 grand prize, $15,000 second prize, and $7,500 third prize, the finalists on the second day can win the $1,500 People’s Choice Award, which is bestowed by audience votes. All remaining finalists from the first day are eligible to win the $1,000 Quick Pitch Award, which is also determined by audience votes.

This year’s competition also features a $5,000 award sponsored by Intel for the best technology solution. All finalist teams will also benefit from an April 9 GSVC boot camp (offered last year as well) that provides workshops and educational training to finalists.

Registration is required for the April 11 GSVC global finals, which runs from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information about the GSVC global finals and conference, visit