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Student group named among best innovators

Mar 29, 2012   |   by Katie Tai   |   The Dartmouth

Over the last few weeks, Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering’s hydropower project — which currently operates two sites in Rwanda — was recognized as a semifinalist in both the University of Washingon Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition and the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, according to DHE president Ted Sumers ’12.

During the final week of Winter term classes, Sumers and DHE vice president of marketing Alison Polton-Simon ’14 presented the hydropower business plan at the Seattle rotary of the competition. DHE placed as one of 18 semifinalists out of over 200 participants, according to Polton-Simon.

“GSEC was the first business plan competition DHE had ever entered,” Polton-Simon said. “We were looking for a way to get funding, and it was supposed to be our first trial run.”

Despite DHE’s relative inexperience with this type of competition, the organization won the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovations Alliance’s Design to Venture scholarship and was awarded a $1,500 travel grant to attend a NCIIA workshop on developing business plans. The NCIIA prize was one of several awards for which teams competed at the Global Social Entrepreneurship, attended largely by students from business, medical and graduate schools, according to hydropower projet leader Joey Anthony ’12.

“Ted and Alison were by far the youngest people there,” Anthony said. “But the first round gave DHE a lot of feedback and helped teach Ted and Alison about how to better sell DHE in business plan competitions. It was a good learning experience for the group as far as marketing and development.”

Sumers said that while the judges supported DHE’s ideas and objectives, they encouraged the group to improve its business plan. Because the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition is a “launching point for socially-conscious start-ups,” many participants include non-governmental organizations and venture capitalists from whom DHE leaders could learn, according to Sumers.

“In the past we didn’t really have a concrete business plan — we hired people to run the sites,” Sumers said. “We didn’t really take careful control over funding. Now we work closely with Tuck students, among other students and faculty, to implement a stronger plan.”

Following the competition, DHE members were notified that the organization was selected as a semifinalist for Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge, which includes both a judged portion and “people’s choice” vote, Anthony said.

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