Brian portrait

Read how business grad Brian Beukes got on when his team took part in the global $1m Hult Prize competition

4 min read

As graduation draws to a close for another year, we are showcasing some of this year’s fantastic graduates. Those who’ve gone above and beyond and made the most of their time at Portsmouth.

Brian Beukes (pictured right), BA (Hons) Business Management and Entrepreneurship graduate, along with team members Harry Buckle and Josh Holloway (pictured left), entered into the Hult Prize competition: an international initiative in which students from around the world develop social enterprises to compete for $1m from the United Nations (UN).

We asked Brian to tell us more about his team’s involvement in the competition and his plans following graduation:

Tell us about the Hult Prize competition and why you wanted to take part:

The Hult Prize competition is the biggest student entrepreneur competition in the world. It’s  an annual competition that crowd-sources ideas from university students after challenging them to solve a pressing social issue such as food security, water access, energy and education.

Each year the competition focuses on different crises and sends out a brief to the teams involved detailing the goal for that year. The winning team gets $1,000,000 so it's a fantastic opportunity for students to get involved in.

We wanted to compete because it's one of the best ways to network with other students across the world and you also get paired up with mentors who are great at sharing their knowledge and expertise. We wanted to find a global issue that we could solve and to put our business and IT brains together to create a sustainable and environmentally focused project. 

What did your group focus on?

Our brief was to change the failing world of agriculture. My group ‘KonVert’ focused on utilising anaerobic digestion plants to develop a circular economy where food waste became our currency. Changing the means of exchange resulted in all individuals having access to food, and not just the ones who can afford it.

We focused on the logistics of food waste and how to convert food waste into a system of
producing fresh food for poorer consumers through a complex logistics network on the ground. We predicted that over 5 million individuals could be impacted in the first year alone as an impact of our idea.

How far did you get in the competition?

There were two parts to the competition with the first ‘on campus’ round in December, and we won. It was amazing to be part of the winning team and we were in disbelief when we won as the other teams' ideas were insanely good. It came as a massive surprise.

We were paired with a mentor who helped us to develop our idea and identified our strengths and weaknesses so that we were prepared for the next stage in the competition. We set up our idea in India and eventually had five partnerships to support our idea, which was a surreal and scary experience.

In April, we competed against 50 other teams across the world. We had to prepare a four minute pitch for the second stage in the global competition and we all felt very confident about our idea. Sadly we didn't win. But despite not winning, I had such an amazing time taking part in the competition and it’s given me many more connections on LinkedIn.

How did you stay motivated during the pandemic?

As a team we arranged study sessions as we found we were more motivated when working together.

It’s been a challenging year with COVID but my top tip to stay motivated during the pandemic and lockdown is to enjoy the little things and wins in life. I find everything gets much easier and more enjoyable if you appreciate everything you are doing on a daily basis, rather than just seeing them as monotonous tasks.

What’s your favourite memory of Portsmouth?

My time at Portsmouth has been absolutely fantastic. My favourite memory will be the first time we all came on Zoom. The amount of technical issues and problems with screen sharing for the first few weeks was hilarious and a great learning curve for all of us.

What are you looking forward to most after graduation?

I’m over the moon that I got a first and I can't wait to graduate.

Although a little nervous as it’s a step up, I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter studying a masters in business strategy and innovation management. I’m not ready to leave education yet. I want to continue to stay focused on my studies and I’m hoping to get a scholarship to study for another masters in America after my business masters.