Epoch has won the regional Hult Prize in London, England, bringing Jade and Keith one step closer to $1 million in seed funding for their social venture.
As a result of winning the regional title (and beating out 50 other teams!), the Epoch team will head to the Hult Prize Accelerator in Boston where they will develop their venture further. Then it’s on to Washington D.C., where Epoch will compete with four other ventures for the $1 million grand prize.
Two SHAD Fellows are hoping to move a step closer to winning a prestigious global prize which comes with a nice reward - $1 million USD they hope to win to start their social enterprise to help refugees.
Keith Choy, SHAD 2010, and his sister Jade Choy SHAD 2011, originally from Mississauga, Ontario are part of a team from the University of Waterloo competing with students from around the world for the Hult Prize. They will pitch their idea for a mobile app in early March in London, England. The app aims to help refugees better integrate into their communities.
Jade was looking to find a way to help after seeing first-hand the refugee crisis while studying overseas last year. She was unable to book a train to go from Germany to Austria because of the number of refugees.
“Refugees are basically people fleeing from real tragic events looking for a better life. They just need help,” she says.
She contacted her brother Keith who was just finishing his CPA and they sprang into action.
“Being part of this platform essentially makes you feel at home. You know there’s a community that has your back,” Jade says.
People who work with refugee agencies are very supportive of the idea as well according to Keith.
Keith and Jade at the Velocity Garage, guiding their developer through the app.
“The agencies are so backlogged with cases. They can hardly see five or six people a day and they have 100 or 200 people in their files. To help support newcomers you can’t just do it once a month; you need to guide them through the steps.”
Speaking to me today at the Communitech Technology and Innovation hub in Waterloo where they are working on their pitch, the two siblings reflect back to their experience at SHAD while in high school which they say laid the foundations for what they are doing now.
“We did social enterprise at SHAD without actually calling it social enterprise,” Keith says.
He’s referring to the social challenge or theme SHADs are presented with every summer where they are asked to create a business to solve a pressing social issue over the course of the month.
In Keith’s year, the theme was how to deal with an aging population and his group created a bio-filter to keep the water supply from being contaminated. Jade’s group created a tool for children with special needs to become more physically active.
Jade says there was another important lesson that stuck with both of them as a result of SHAD.
“If you see a problem in society or in the world, SHAD shows you that you really do have the ability to address it."
Jade Choy speaks with CBC's The Morning Edition about Epoch:
Read Epoch's feature on CBC News: Waterloo startup Epoch to help newcomers to Canada use their skills
She adds, “SHAD really motivated me. It showed me that everyone can start a business if you have an idea and are passionate about it especially if it helps better the world. I think it’s really important.”
She adds, “I think it’s great to spark that inspiration in kids that age.”
Jade, Keith and the team are working on their prototype and the six minute pitch they hope will sell their idea in London so they can move onto the finals in September.
They say much like SHAD, The Hult contest challenges students from around the world to come up with solutions to global social issues. For this year's prize, the focus for all competitors was the migrant crisis.
Win or lose, they hope to make the app available soon.
“The competition forces us to have a stricter timeline. It’s an accelerator for us. We decided to join so we can focus and really get this going,” Jade says.
She says one refugee they spoke to said the app “sounded like a dream". It’s one dream they want to turn into a reality.