Last weekend saw the Hult Prize Foundation, Tsinghua University and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) all come together for a weekend of ideation and implementation. 15 teams of students from Tsinghua came to apply their problem-solving skills to this year's Hult Prize Challenge: How can we harness the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people?

 

Some of the ideas were magnificent. From harnessing the bio-gas from animals to supply power to villages that don’t have any, to widespread education programs that help villages, towns and cities understand the power of renewables.

 

One thing that really contributed to the experience was the speakers and mentors who spent their time guiding teams and challenging their ideas.

 

Two to mention in particular are Steven Wang, founder of Yiqiao and a Forbes 30 under 30 weapon, and Steven White, from the Tsinghua School of Economics Creative Department.

 

What struck me most was each team's ability to test their ideas. A big part of the curriculum of the weekend was actually getting outside of the Hackathon Hall and going to speak to the teams' demographic, target market or an expert in the field.

 

This was tough for many teams, as they were constrained by mental barriers such as:

 

“We’re in Beijing and our target consumer is in Shaanxi so, we can't reach them."

 

Or

 

"I need 500K RMB to be able to test this idea. I’m going to create a deck and find investors."

 

Alas, when there is a will there is a way, with a little nudge of course.

 

The power of an MVP is that it allows teams the scope to think creatively about their value proposition and how they can create a proxy variable that validates their idea. Think Skype face-to-face interviews, interviews in the streets and surveys via WeChat.

 

One group’s idea was to set up a skills-based exchange platform. They validated their idea by setting up a WeChat group and encouraging individuals to exchange skills, successfully executing two transactions by the end of day one. 

 

On the whole it was a very successful weekend, an amazing learning curve for all parties involved, and some fantastic contenders for the on-campus rounds of the Hult Prize Challenge!