High school entrepreneurs win thousands as summit features Diamond Challenge finals
4:23 p.m., April 25, 2016--Four high school students from Moldova won a prize package worth more than $10,000 at this year’s 2016 Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs at the University of Delaware, and they plan to use their winnings to create a business that addresses three critical social problems in their home country.
Lyudmila Zgurean, Vladlen Grecu, Daniela Tihon and Victoria Bradescu were inspired to create Do it for Bunica (“bunica” means grandmother in Romanian) after Bradescu’s grandmother was bedridden due to a car accident.
National Medal of Science
Like over one million Moldovans who work outside of the country, Bradescu’s parents were unable to physically help their bunica around her home.
And many Moldovan families share this struggle: As the country’s elderly population grows, migrant workers send back over $2 billion per year to their families, but cannot provide in-person help.
“Furthermore, Moldovan youth unemployment is 58.8 percent,” Grecu said. “Of the 50 youth we interviewed, 90 percent said they needed to find a flexible work schedule in order to make extra money.”
“We thought of a brilliant solution that connects all three of these groups: the elderly, migrant workers and unemployed youth, in order to solve these problems,” added another team member.
The solution? “An online platform in which migrant workers from Moldova can find and pay local youth helpers to assist their elderly parents with household chores.”
The group described the platform as similar to AirBnb, but instead of finding apartments, clients find local youth helpers.
The team, who wore their national costume to the challenge to represent their home country, said they were excited to use their winnings to build and launch their website.
During this year’s Diamond Challenge, more than 1,000 high school students from around the globe worked together in teams to conceive and pitch ideas for new business concepts and social ventures.
The challenge, a signature part of the Paul and Linda McConnell Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative led by the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware, saw submissions from students representing 22 countries and 16 states this year.
The challenge’s final round took place at the Horn Program’s Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (YES!), during which over 300 students participated in interactive workshops and heard from influential entrepreneurs.
Katlyn Grasso, founder and CEO of GenHERation, a female empowerment network for young women, appeared as the keynote speaker.
“When I say ‘entrepreneurship,’ what’s the first word that pops into your head?” Grasso asked the audience at the beginning of her speech.
The audience called out words like “independent,” “innovation,” “ideas” and “risk” as Grasso agreed.
“A definition I use to encapsulate all of that is that entrepreneurship is executing a vision in the face of uncertainty,” Grosso said. “Entrepreneurs are incurable optimists.”
Grasso, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, is also a recipient of a 2015 Impact Grant from NBC Universal.
Other winners of the Diamond Challenge included, in the social venture track:
- 2nd Place – Fresquiticos by Diego Uribe and Nicole Birkner.
- 3rd Place – MentourU by Michael Chan and Emily Yu.
In the business concept track:
- 1st Place – Retracta-ball pump by Gabriel Werner and Nathan Wagener.
- 2nd Place – Polar Solis by Philip Lee, Rostam Reifschneider and Julian Davis.
- 3rd Place – Notifica by Aditya Ganapathi and David Hou.
Youth Entrepreneurship Summit workshops
Some of the summit’s highlights included workshops on topics ranging from the importance of coding to how to brand oneself and one’s business.
Several participants attended the following break out workshops:
- “Educator’s Roundtable on the Innovative Classroom” led by Dan Freeman and Julie Frieswyk was held for educators, administrators and parents who were interested in improving the state of entrepreneurial thinking among high school students.
- “Data Science: America’s Most Wanted Skillset” led by Ryan Swartz focused on learning about data science and how both start-up and big name companies use it to their advantage.
- During “Startup Story,” Shelby Newsome shared her story to inspire and teach other entrepreneurial young people.
- “Yes! You Can…Come Up with LOTS of Ideas” was held by Tony Middlebrooks to provide techniques and tools for students to tap into creativity. The participants were taught how to see differently and enhance their creativity to be applied to future entrepreneurial activities.
- “The Process Is the Inspiration” was led by Rich Roat and followed how his childhood fascination with drawing led to creating fonts that help the world communicate.
- “The Art and Science of Social Recommendations” led by Susan Frech showed how marketers design a brand experience.
- “Learn to Code, Change the World” led by Trevor Geise explored how learning to code can open up opportunities and give someone the ability to solve big problems while pursuing their passions.
- “Icebergs: What You Think a Job Is vs. What It Really Is” was held by Zach Philips, who told stories of real-life scenarios in the software startup and filmmaking industries.
- “Be a Maker: Intro to Soldering” featured Jessica Taylor teaching participants a fundamental skill needed to experiment with electronics: hands-on soldering.
- “Finding Your First Customers” by Benjamin Rapkin introduced Lean Startup methodology in the context of finding early adopters and minimizing risk.
- “Building Your Personal and Professional Brand” led by Jill Gugino Pante helped participants develop and build their brands and discussed how to create and manage perceptions.
About the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship
The Horn Program ignites imaginations and empowers world changers through entrepreneurial education.
The program’s offerings emphasize experiential learning, evidence-based entrepreneurship and active engagement with entrepreneurs, business leaders and members of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Participation in Horn Program courses and co-curricular activities empowers students by providing them with the knowledge, skills, connections and access to resources needed to successfully create, deliver and capture value from new ideas and thrive in our rapidly changing world.