Global Social Venture Competition Reaches Record 50 Nations

Building sustainably engineered houses in Bangladesh. Fighting malnutrition in Burkina Faso with local collection and distribution of high-protein caterpillars—a staple of the local diet. Lowering diabetes among pregnant women in Mexico through monitoring tools, text messaging, and peer-to-peer education.

Those are a sampling of homegrown ideas from some of the world’s brightest and most passionate business students competing in the final round of the 2012 Global Social Venture Competition, to be held at UC Berkeley on April 20.

The competition, which was started by Berkeley MBA students in 1999 and expands to new parts of the globe each year, attracted more than 600 entries from a record 50 countries. Entries this year proposed social ventures to combat hunger, environmental degradation, disease, and resource scarcity.

As part of the competition leadership team, Tarek Hosny, MBA 12, built new partnerships with business schools in Kenya, South Africa, and Turkey, adding to a growing list of partners in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He said the goal is to add a partner in Latin America next year.

“Since I began working on this in 2010, interest in social entrepreneurship has been growing and growing,” says Hosny, who stepped down from his leadership role this year to enter the competition with a plan for rooftop micro-farms in Egypt.

“This competition has become a truly global network,” adds Adjunct Professor Jennifer Walske, director of social entrepreneurship at the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and faculty director for the competition.

Walske said entries showed a wide range of creative ideas from both the developing world and developed world. “People are finding there are a variety of ways to address social problems, and one of the ways is to build businesses that address the bottom of the pyramid.”

Two Haas-connected teams are among the 15 finalists competing for the top $50,000 prize at the April 20 global finals and conference. The GSVC Ideas to Impact Conference and finals will include a keynote speech by social entrepreneurship author Rupert Scofield, CEO of FINCA International, and presentations from all eight finalist teams. The event will culminate with an awards dinner and keynote address by Ira Magaziner, former Clinton administration adviser and CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Among Haas teams, 2Vidas, the company with a multi-pronged approach to help Mexican woman control glucose levels, consists of Rachel Sherman and Jenny Chang, MBA 12; Emily Ewell MBA/MPH 12; and Tara English MBA 13. Watsi, a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that enables donors to fund medical treatments for individuals in developing countries, includes Katie Dewitt MBA 13.

Teams will be judged on financial sustainability, likelihood of implementation, and social impact, and will win exposure and mentorship opportunities in addition to cash awards. Nearly one-quarter of past entrants have become viable businesses, including Revolution Foods, World of Good, Kiva, and IndieGogo.

For more information and to register for the April 20 conference and awards dinner, visit