It’s the 16th of August 2019, a typical cloudy summer day in Berkhamsted, some 40 km north west of London. The teams participating in the Hult Prize Startup Accelerator, the biggest annual social accelerator, have already finished pitching their ideas and they were impatiently waiting for the results. They had only one week of work since their last pitch and this announcement will be very crucial since they are already halfway through their stay.
The await is over, Ahmad Ashkar, founder and CEO of Hult Prize, grabbed the mic and asked everyone to pay attention before passing it to one of the mentors to announce the top 3 and bottom 3 teams, out of the 40 teams that were present at Ashridge Castle. Everybody stopped eating and stared carefully at her. The lovely Carolina Arriagada started by announcing the bottom 3 teams. They were nowhere near being decieved. To be honest, even being the worst team there was no shame. It was like the world cup of social entrepreneurs: all the teams worked hard to earn their place there, and that’s something they should definitely be proud of.
Then, it was time to announce the best 3 teams, for that week. To my surprise, Tollabco, a platform that aims to offer internships for students from the middle east, were chosen as the best team to pitch that day. I was extremely happy for them! The three boys from Palestine were the closest to me among all the participants, we managed to develop a strong bond of friendship in a matter of few days. I even had the honor to help them preparing their pitch. I congratulated them so warmly, like Arabs do :). I knew how big it was for them. The best thing that can happen to someone is when he finally gets to see his hard work paying off.
After the announcement, I stayed with Tollabco to have a chat with them. Everyone passing by was stopping to congratulate them. They were so proud, and so was I. That’s when he came in, Ahmad Ashkar. He shook my hand and said: “Hi, my name is Ahmad!” I shook back his hand and said: “Hi Ahmad, I’m Ikdem from Tunisia. It’s so great to meet you in person”. and That’s it!
There were a lot of things that I could’ve said to him, but I just didn’t .. Why? because I honestly didn’t expect him to say those words. Somehow, his simple words marked me a lot. He was the founder and CEO of Hult Prize. In a matter of 10 years, he managed to take his Idea from a simple competition inside the Hult International Business School to the biggest movement of social entrepreneurs in the world. I already knew who he was and what he has achieved in his life. I knew where he came from and how far he came. I was representing his business in my University, the University of Tunis el Manar. Yet, he was introducing himself to me as I had no idea who he was. That was some great piece of humbleness. Of course, in the next few days, I had the chance to talk to him again, to make a pitch in front of him, and even to smoke “shisha” with him. But, he has never acted as the one who owns the place or as the big boss that everyone needs to respect or worship. He gained that respect through humbleness. That’s exactly the kind of bosses I wanna be around.
In fact, everyone in that accelerator, from the “simple” competitors to the “prestigious” mentors were kind and friendly. These are the people someone needs to surround himself with. That was the movement I decided to belong to.
That was Hult Prize, ladies and Gentlemen, and that was Ahmad Ashkar. You can all be part of the change they are looking to do by becoming the next Campus Director of Hult Prize in your universities, same as I did. Or by competing with a team of 3–4 people from your university and try to grab that 1M dollars of fund for your idea!
Remember, it always starts with a thought 💭