Hello Tomorrow Global Summit
Post by Dylan Husted ’17
With over 3,000 applications worldwide, the Hello Tomorrow Startup Challenge was an intense one spanning months of vetting processes. My startup, SaveOhno, was selected to the top 500 worldwide overall, top 50 worldwide in the Data & Artificial Intelligence track, and top 10 in North America for Data & AI. Receiving that level of recognition was a really sobering experience, and being a part of the Hello Tomorrow global network unlocked doors for us with investors and strategic partners. As a Top 500 startup we were featured at Hello Tomorrow’s Global Summit in Paris, and with help from Babson’s Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund, I was able to attend it in person on October 13th and 14th. Here are my top takeaways from the experience:
- Social entrepreneurship is no longer a trend, it’s a phenomenon. EVERY startup in the Top 500 had a social purpose beyond financial returns, and thousands of investors, executives, journalists, and large corporations gathered to learn about those purposes. With companies like Tom’s Shoes and Patagonia proving the increased economic potential of companies that do well while doing good, entrepreneurs are following suit and other stakeholders in the startup ecosystem are intrigued.
- That’s not to say social entrepreneurship is any easier, though. The increased spotlight on social enterprises is certainly a great thing for social entrepreneurs, but the road is still incredibly difficult. Managing a triple bottom line involves perfection across all cylinders. To effectively raise money, grow, and reach profitability, social entrepreneurs have to create businesses with large markets, unique, defensible value propositions, traction in the market, strong, experience teams, and measurable social impact rooted in strong science. That’s a tall order, no matter how passionate you are about your cause.
- Social entrepreneurship as a student… what are you crazy? Add classes into the mix, and the idea of starting a social enterprise becomes even more daunting. As awesome as Paris was, I did have to miss 3 classes to be there, which meant the plane rides, nights, and 6 hours in a café were all dedicated to homework and essays. Somewhere in between those, I had to actually attend the conference I was there for and keep my company running.
- Surrounding yourself with a passionate, talented team makes the road possible. I was a solo entrepreneur for a year and a half, and it was absolutely exhausting. I was certainly aware that teams are one of the most (if not THE most) important factors in a startup’s success, but it’s important to take the time necessary to build the right team. A person with domain experience, complementary skills, passion for the problem your company solves, and the ability to work full time on a startup is a rare mix. But if you take your time and find the right people, it will dramatically improve your ability to scale with your company’s growth. While I was in Paris, this really sunk in. Having my team back home working on data analysis, web development, and upcoming accelerator applications kept the trains moving for us, and having my COO with me at the conference itself provided me with the bandwidth to take full advantage of the opportunity, without failing all my classes in the process.
- Entrepreneurship can be taught, but it can’t only be taught in a classroom. Get out there and gain experience. As a student at the #1 school for entrepreneurship, I certainly believe in the value of higher education for entrepreneurs. Knowledge is only part of the battle though. With the Babson Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund, we can put knowledge into practice by attending huge conferences throughout the world where we can test our ideas against experienced people, push the limits of how hard we can work, and grow our network in the process. In my mind, those are the three most important elements of a strong student entrepreneur: knowledge, diligence, and emotional intelligence. We don’t have vast experience and domain expertise yet, but we do have the ability to learn from others, work hard, and build a substantial network.