Six startup teams whose work focuses on building scalable social enterprises to improve lives in urban slums across the globe pitched a panel of judges last night at the Duke University Bullpen in downtown Durham for a chance to compete for $1 million to implement and scale their companies provided by the Hult Prize and the Clinton Global Initiative.

The winning team was Dhoop Energy, whose solar power unit will provide street vendors with a compact, versatile, reliable, and low cost source of lighting; households will be a second, eventual customer segment.

“The other judges and I selected this team unanimously because we felt that it was the most promising innovation of those proposed by the teams,” said Matthew Nash, Managing Director, Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the 
Duke Univeristy Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative in an interview. “It is both disruptive and scalable, with the potential for significant impact on the livelihood of vendors.”

A key secondary benefit to the concept, said Nash, is an increased access to quality local and affordable food for populations in urban areas after sunset. The panel of judges also included Jennifer Headley, Mailande Moran, and Savitha Sridharan.

“The Dhoop Energy team did a fantastic job of recognizing and illustrating a widespread problem (lack of access to affordable, clean, reliable power and lighting for street vendors in India), demonstrating its impact (shortened working hours, unsafe situations, turning to unhealthy sources of power like kerosene), creating a viable solution, and thinking through the process of implementation,” said Moran. “Their presentation really showed us how this idea could be a game changer for their target market, and we’re excited to see where they go from here.”

Dhoop Energy will now automatically advance to the regional finals in the competition. The other five companies are allowed to apply to the regional finals and compete, should they elect to do so. In total, sixteen teams expressed interest in participating in this year’s Hult Prize at Duke University.

“The Hult Prize annual social innovation competition provides an outstanding platform for Duke students to ideate innovative, sustainable solutions to critical social problems,” said Nash. “We were impressed with the creativity and ingenuity of the student teams this year.”