KAUST Student Group Promotes Social Entrepreneurship

KAUST’s Student Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation Group (eBIG) was established in 2014 to promote entrepreneurial activities for graduate students at KAUST and provide them with mentorship and guidance from the Entrepreneurship Center.

One of its leading proponents has been Lakshmi Selvakumaran, a PhD student at KAUST. In August 2015, she was appointed Campus Director for the Hult Prize at KAUST.

The Hult Prize is a start-up accelerator for social entrepreneurship which brings together the brightest college and university students from around the globe to solve the world’s most pressing issues.

The highlighted challenge for 2016 is crowded urban spaces with entrepreneurs being asked how they would double income in urban areas around the world by connecting people, goods, services and capital.

On December 1, KAUST’s Entrepreneurship Center hosted a Hult event where a number of teams pitched potential solutions to this problem.

Judges included Tristan Walker, Deputy Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development at KAUST, Dr. Brian Moran, Dean of Graduate Affairs at KAUST and Dr. Sarah Ghaleb, a leader in sustainable innovation and social entrepreneurship.

The winning team was CookHub, which consists of KAUST PhD students Andrew Yip and Ge Gao and recent PhD graduate (and now KAUST post-doc) Ronell Sicat.

In high-density urban areas, professionals often do not have the luxury to enjoy home-recipe food at work or even after work. They would love to have nutritional home-cooked meals that are reasonably priced.

There are also a number of talented cooks from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are skilled but lack the capital and knowledge to enter the food industry.

CookHub is a holistic solution that provides food safety training, access to fully-equipped commercial kitchens and on-going support on marketing and logistics. With the help of CookHub, talented cooks can prepare quality food at a time-shared kitchen and fulfill orders from office workers placed online. Preliminary case studies have shown promises of the concept in mega-cities such as Manila and Hong Kong, and Cook Hub hopes to work with KAUST’s Entrepreneurship Center and Saudi Initiatives to develop a pilot project here on campus.

“CookHub provides not just a livelihood for the bottom of the pyramid but empowers the cooks with the right tools they need to develop and launch their own personal culinary brands,” said team leader Andrew Yip.

Other competing teams with outstanding ideas included Tekiti (identifies and provides technical skills for people who are seeking jobs), Rodrigo’s Team (uses cargo containers to build community centers and housing projects), Diggers (converts organic waste into energy) and UPower (uses solar power solutions for small scaled enterprises).

CookHub will now represent KAUST at the regional Hult competition that is held in Dubai in March 2016. Regional finals are held in five international cities around the world, including: Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai.

Each of the regional winning teams will get the chance to pitch their game changing idea to former United States President Bill Clinton, receive win one million dollars and receive a one-year membership to the Clinton Global Initiative.