6/24/2011 - With their plan to solve India’s sanitation and electricity shortcomings by distributing toilets and converting human waste to energy, a team of Northwestern students captured the Kellogg Innovation Network’s
Global Prize — and $40,900 in seed money.
The award ceremony was a fitting conclusion to the third annual KIN Global Summit June 1-3.
The spirited, invitation-only conference assembles thought leaders from around the world to examine how innovation can improve global prosperity. This year’s summit brought together representatives from 25 nations and six continents, as well as industries as varied as healthcare, government, technology, academia and communications.
“Kellogg has an opportunity to be a convener, to bring people with diverse perspectives together on a neutral platform to communicate and learn from one another,” said KIN Executive Director Robert C. Wolcott. “KIN Global is our annual chance to do just that.”
While the conference explores pressing issues and ideas, its ultimate goal is to create practitioners and innovators committed to creating a better world.
KIN Global 2011 included noted speakers such as GE CMO Beth Comstock, TechNet CEO Rey Ramsey and Mean Chhi Vun, director of Cambodia’s national HIV/AIDS program. Northwestern faculty members Harry Kraemer, Michelle Buck, Julio Ottino and Mohanbir Sawhney were also featured presenters.
In the summit’s opening session, Carlos Dominguez, senior vice president at Cisco Systems, reminded delegates of the vital need to adapt to the world’s rapid pace. He pointed to real-world case studies such as Circuit City versus Best Buy and Blockbuster versus Netflix to illustrate what happens when organizations don’t change quickly enough.
“The world is challenged by the speed of change, more complexity and constant disruption, all of which demand new approaches,” Dominguez said.
Shifting the paradigm of problem solving to account for that pace, “master hacker” Pablos Holman observed that the same hacking fundamentals that might swipe credit card information during a “secure” online purchase can also be used to solve some of the world’s most critical issues, including malaria and hurricane suppression.
It was after Holman’s engaging presentation that Wolcott told guests: “Entrepreneurs start with the opportunity and challenge, and deal with the constraints later.”
KIN Global placed a premium on networking and collaboration. Prior to the conference, Wolcott asked all “KINians” to be prepared to discuss a current problem they are facing. Once at the conference, the delegates broke into small groups and relayed those problems to fellow KINians, who provided the names of people who might help provide solutions.
The event also sought to inspire.
The second day of the conference featured “Etudes for Innovation,” a KIN Global Summit favorite celebrating the synergy of the arts and innovation. This year’s program, conceived and directed by KIN Creative Director Jeffrey Ernstoff, featured Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winners as well as internationally renowned designers. The evening was capped by an emotion-charged performance by the Chicago Children’s Choir.
“Etudes creates a different environment for people and brings them together to experience something with intellectual and emotional purpose,” Wolcott said.
The KIN Global Prize, meanwhile, advanced the summit’s focus on innovation.
Earlier in the year, dozens of teams of Northwestern students and professionals had submitted their proposals for addressing global prosperity in an inventive way. Four finalist teams emerged after two rounds of judging.
At the finals on June 3, the roughly 160 KIN delegates were allotted $500 each to bestow on a team of their choice — creating a pool of nearly $80,000 to be distributed to the four finalists.
But even before the results were announced, delegates Kenneth Jones, a partner at Fusion Ventures, and New World Ventures partner Matthew McCall ’91 offered a combined $25,000 in equity financing to the winner, while IndieGoGo CEO Slava Rubin pledged online funding platform resources to all four finalists.
As a result, the startup San+Co — composed of Northwestern students Swapnil Chaturvedi, Joshua Engel and Bryan Lee — emerged from the competition with seed funding in excess of $65,000.
The other three finalist teams, all of which received funds from the prize, included:
- Alcantara, an incubator for Brazilian entrepreneurs
- Rozghari, a mobile-based solution matching India’s laborers with employers
- and Sanjeevini Diagnostics, a community-based health organization bringing affordable healthcare diagnosis and prevention to India.
Wolcott praised the finalists’ vision, reminding KINians of the spirit necessary to build a more fruitful world.
“If we’re going to create value in the world, then we must innovate,” Wolcott said.