Promising start

honorCode
Nation, World & Society / Business & Management | October 31, 2016

honorCode, which provides curriculum and training to schools to bring more web development into the general K-12 classroom, won the social entrepreneur competition. (Photo by Jordon Tempro, courtesy of Forbes)

The $1 million 2016 Forbes Under-30 Global Change the World Venture Competition had a successful debut in Boston last week, thanks in part to the involvement of the Carroll School of Management’s Shea Center for Entrepreneurship and the Boston College School of Social Work’s Center for Social Innovation, both of which were involved in the judging

The event was part of the Forbes Under 30 Summit, which attracted entrepreneurs from around the world, including headliners like Ashton Kutcher, Michael Phelps, Jessica Alba, Deepak Chopra, Chrissy Teigen, Bobby Flay, and Maria Sharapova. The competition had two components, one involving early stage for-profit entrepreneurs with potentially world-changing ideas, the other for social entrepreneurs whose goal is to advance solutions that address education challenges. 

The Shea Center set up the applications for the competition, then screened, assessed, and whittled down the for-profit field to 20 semifinalists, while the Center for Social Innovation did the same for the non-profit competition.

“Boston College did an amazing job,” says Forbes Editor Randall Lane, principal organizer of the summit, who cites BC’s network and presence in the city as a critical reason for teaming up. “BC checked every box in terms of having the muscle, the skill-set and the know-how that we were looking for in a partner for this big competition.”

“It was an honor and a privilege, and I think we did a really good job,” says Shea Center Executive Director Jere Doyle, who credits Assistant Director Kelsey Kinton for her role. “It was really great for the Boston College community, for the students and for Forbes.”

Adds Center for Social Innovation Assistant Director Olivia Mathews: “The competition gave students a chance to be inspired by new ideas, showing them that it is really possible to think of novel ways to address social challenges that can change the world.”

The winners in the for-profit division were Opus 12, which developed a device that recycles CO2 into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels, and Boston’s Pillar Technologies, which uses sensors and predictive analytics to prevent damages to construction sites. honorCode, which provides curriculum and training to schools to bring more web development into the general K-12 classroom, won the social entrepreneur competition.

“To see Forbes approach us to be an academic partner and help out with the competition really says a lot,” says Tom Herer ’17, a finance and marketing major who helped coordinate the judging teams. “I think this will bode well just to have the word out there that BC played a role in this. This will help bring in more entrepreneurially-minded students in the future and it will continue to grow as the years go on.”

BCSSW student Elise Springuel wasn’t sure at first whether she was qualified to help with the judging, but once she began reading proposals, she realized her BC education had prepared her for the task. “I do have a very critical lens to look at programs, from what my professors have taught me and what I’ve been able to learn from my field placement. Going through this process actually gave me a lot of confidence in my own skills as member of this industry.”

The fact that students like Herer and Springuel did the judging appealed to Forbes, according to Doyle. “It was something that resonated with them: They liked the idea that this was going to help students become start-up ready.”

“It really reframed my perspective and helped me think about when I’m in the position of submitting a similar kind of proposal; what I should be communicating, what I should be trying to tell people,” says Springuel, who is hoping to work in program development with small community-based non-profits. “There were definitely times where I would look at these proposals and think, ‘Oh, this is a really cool idea’ but they didn’t actually address the question that was asked in the application. So seeing it from that lens, I think, is going to be a great asset when I’m on the other end of it.”

Forbes gave 50 free tickets for Boston College students to attend the summit, which also featured seminars and discussions involving some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.

“Students got to see, read, and think about how early stage ideas were laid out,” says Doyle. “The fact that you’re able to look at multiple business plans presented in the same format gives students who are interested in entrepreneurship a good educational opportunity.”

Given the event’s all-around success, Forbes is interested in making Boston the permanent home of the Forbes Under 30 Summit, says Lane – which, if it happens, is good news for Boston College: “We’d like to come back, and if we do, we’d love Boston College to play a major role.”

-Sean Hennessey | News & Public Affairs