For Us By Us: Global Diaries is an initiative brought in partnership with the Hult Prize Foundation that is bringing to light the incredible behind-the-scenes stories that are occurring across the globe with young entrepreneurs trying to change the world through impact.
On March 1st, 2019, Hult Prize Foundation kicked off the 2019 Regional Summits. I was in Mexico City, the very first of over 25 Regional events that would happen all over the world. I was in the auditorium of the Monterrey Institute of Technology, our first venue for the Mexico City Regional Summits, standing on stage, looking at more than 200 entrepreneurs, at a loss for words.
Let me take you back a few months. Back in September I was assigned to be the Analyst of the Hult Prize On-Campus Program for the Region of Americas. This meant that I would be overseeing, guiding and helping our Campus Directors from over 300 universities in the Americas, all the way from the very north in Canada, to the very south of the continent, Argentina. I personally talked to all the Campus Directors and took them by hand through every step to make a successful On Campus Event. Once they had the On-Campus Winners, they would share their details with me, so that we could assign them to one of our 25+ Regional Summits.
Around January, we made the big announcement of what teams had been selected for our Regional Summits and what city they would be going to. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Communications Team that would now guide our Regional Participants to the big day. This was the first time I talked to the 200+ entrepreneurs that would be joining us in Mexico City on March 1st and 2nd. I heard every struggle they were going through, from visa problems, to finding sponsors, fundraisings and more to make it to Mexico. On a daily basis, I was touched by their strength, drive and determination to travel from more than 15 countries to have the opportunity to have 10 minutes to pitch their idea that would transform the lives of 10,000 youths through their venture.
Every time a team would tell me their visa was cancelled, they didn’t get support from their sponsors or they weren’t able to fundraise enough to make it to Mexico City, my heart would ache. We tried to allocate as many teams as we could to other Regionals and motivated them to continue fighting and not give up. At the same time, every confirmation we would get excited me and pushed me to continue to organize the best event possible to make sure that all the teams hard work was worth it.
I remember opening the 2019 Hult Prize Regional Summits in Mexico City, having the first glance of the faces from all the emails, knowing the story of accomplishment behind each face, unable to find the words to commend them for making it this far. To make the moment even more special, we had some special guests: Taylor Scobbie, Hult Prize Winner of 2015 gave some encouraging words on how every “no” will soon become an encouraging “yes;” Charlemagne Quinitio, better known as CQ, Vice-President of Global Operations and Finance, made a rare appearance on stage, sharing his journey of over 9 years with Hult Prize; and the man himself, Ahmad Ashkar, CEO of Hult Prize, would announce some exciting news with future steps for Hult Prize.
Our Friday event was filled with uplifting messages, encouraging words, excitement, and the living representation of mi casa es tu casa, some Mexican cuisine and music to make everyone feel at home.
Saturday came with an early start. Teams were anxious to start—7:30am on the dot—and teams were ready to register their presentations. With the help of some delicious chilaquiles, teams started getting ready for what would be a long day. Teams chattered in the library, where they were practicing their pitches waiting for their turn, teams hugged and pumped each other up before entering their pitching rooms, and danced as a celebration of having a successful presentation. All these emotions were about to spark up as we transitioned into our Finals Round.
I had visited the Interactive Museum of Economics previously, walked through it with our vendors, envisioning what it would look like the day of the event. As I walked into the venue, minutes before all the teams arrived, I had to take a minute to sink in just how beautiful everything looked. It was the perfect mix of colonial Mexican architecture, with the vibrant Hult Prize pink, the screens sharing images of the Ashridge Estate where the winning team will be living for the Accelerator Program.
As teams came in, I could feel the tension in the room. They were all eager to found out who the Top 6 were, and pitch in front of everyone. As the judges presented each team, I could hear in their voices how passionate they were about the ideas. A team was called, they would celebrate, but just enough for them not to forget their pitch. They would go up, give their all for those 10 minutes and go back to their seats to wait for all 6 teams to present.
It took judges almost an hour to choose the winning team. It felt like forever! Luckily, we were in Mexico and Mexicans know how to celebrate, and teams were ready to celebrate for making it this far. As judges deliberated diligently, teams were dancing and singing, and enjoying their time. In between all the dancing, it came as a surprise when the judges arrived, ready to make their announcement.
With all the judges on stage, the moment that we had all been waiting for, the moment that teams travel from all over the world for, the moment that my team and I had worked on so hard for, had finally arrived. Better Bail for America, from the University of Waterloo was announced as the winner! They ran on stage, I handed them their trophy and, in that moment, I knew that the lives of these 4 entrepreneurs would change forever.