Earlham College team wins $1M Hult Prize to meet Clinton’s Urban Spaces Challenge

A team of Earlham College students was awarded $1 million in start-up capital on Tuesday after winning the Hult Prize, the world’s largest student competition for social good. The Earlham project is designed to positively affect 11 countries and millions of people.

Team “Magic Bus” — Iman Cooper ’15, Sonia Kabra ’16, Leslie Ossete ’16, and Wyclife Omondi ’17 — was one of five finalists left standing in a field of 25,000 applicants comprised of students from more than 150 countries. The Hult Prize, which is sponsored by the Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative, aims to create and launch the most compelling social business ideas.

“Magic Bus” aims to optimize public transportation in developing countries and meet former President Bill Clinton’s “Crowded Urban Spaces” challenge of doubling the income of 10 million people by 2022. Magic Bus is a text-based ticketing service accessible from inexpensive mobile phones to standardize bus fares and reduce wait times for city buses.

The business has already been beta tested in Kenya last summer and was awarded $10,000 after being selected as one of the best three transportation start-ups at the Transdev Transport Challenge.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (center) stands with Winners, Leslie Ossete, Wyclife Omondi, Iman Cooper and Sonia Kabra of Team Magic Bus, from Earlham College, winner of the Hult Prize during the Hult Prize Finals and Awards Dinner 2016 at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in New York. (Brian Ach/AP Images for Hult Prize Foundation)

Magic Bus’ journey started with an on-campus competition and accelerated this spring after being accepted to compete in a regional competition in Boston that they later won (a second team from Earlham also competed in the San Francisco regional). Magic Bus advanced past teams of students representing some the nation’s most prestigious business schools, including Harvard and Georgetown.

The final round of competition took place in New York City during the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting. Clinton personally awarded Earlham’s team with the $1 million prize.

“This is a really clever idea,” Clinton said after announcing Earlham’s winning team.” Some wag will call it Uber for buses.”

“On behalf of everyone at Earlham, I congratulate the Magic Bus team on its success,” said Earlham President David Dawson. “It was a thrill to see them compete so well and to imagine the transformative change this plan can create. I am also gratified that the success of the Magic Bus team exemplifies exactly what we hope for our students — that they find opportunities to hone their individual gifts, explore global issues, and bring their passions to the challenge of creating positive change in the world.”

Social entrepreneurship is thriving at Earlham and further advances are anticipated with this fall’s debut of the Earlham Program for Integrative Collaboration (EPIC) and five Centers of Excellence that foster student projects like those of the Magic Bus team. EPIC is the flagship expression of the College’s commitment to teach students the kind of professional skills most valued in the 21st Century, according to a survey of CEOs conducted by IBM.

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