Yale SOM D-Prize Competition


The world has solutions to poverty. Can you distribute them to the people most in need?


Yale SOM’s Design + Innovation Club, along with SOM's Program on Social Enterprise, Program on Entrepreneurship, the Dean's Office, and D-Prize, challenges you to start a new enterprise that tips the scale against global poverty.


From vaccines to solar lamps, our society has already invented many poverty interventions that are highly effective. Sadly, most of these fail to reach the people who actually need them. The world needs an entrepreneur who can find a better way to distribute proven poverty solutions in the developing world. 


Can you figure out a better way to increase access to solar lamps, vaccines, or any other proven poverty solution? Pitch your idea to solve one of the challenges outline by D-Prize here. If selected, we will award up to $20,000 to launch a startup and pilot your distribution solution in a developing country of your choosing this summer.

The competition will follow the timeline below. Please reach out to Lisa Riskin (lisa.ruskin@yale.edu) and Hannah Grill (hannah.grill@yale.edu) with any questions or to get involved!

  • Share your interest & find a team here by December 31

  • Round 1 submissions due: Friday, February 3

  • Invitations to Round 2: Friday, February 17

  • Round 2 submissions due: Friday, March 10

  • Invitations to interview: Friday, March 24

  • Final decisions: Friday, April 14 

  • Celebration & Showcase: Friday, April 21

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The Competition



This competition is for Yale students who want to launch a new social enterprise in the developing world. You should be committed to launching a pilot this summer if you win. If your pilot is successful, you should be ready to grow your venture as a full time career upon graduation. At least one person on your team must be a current student at Yale SOM. If this is you, read on:


  1. Review the challenges. We have already identified several proven poverty solutions that are in need of greater distribution. These challenges will give you a framework for designing your new venture.

  2. Design your solution to the challenge that most inspires you. The application packet on this website explains more details on how to design a solution, and what to submit. There is also more guidance and tips listed in the support section of this webpage too.

  3. Submit your pitch by Sunday, March 13. Judges will invite the most promising entrepreneurs to submit a full 10 page proposal by Sunday, April 10. Finalists will interview with several judges. Judges will offer up to $20,000 in seed capital in a convertible grant to ventures ready to launch.  


What happens after you win? You book a plane ticket, hire a staff, and launch. You will spend the next three months using every last shred of ability and talent that you have to grow a new organization that will change the world. 

To get started, begin by reviewing the Challenges below and then downloading an Application Packet with more instructions.


The Challenges



Sugar Daddy Awareness Challenge: 14 million unintended teen pregnancies occur annually in sub-Saharan Africa, and girls are 5x more likely to be infected with HIV. A one-hour “sugar daddy awareness” class reduces these risks 28%. Can you teach “sugar daddy awareness” classes to girls in need? Download the full challenge.


Scholarship Challenge: Fewer than 50% of girls in developing countries will finish high school because they cannot afford fees. A $250 scholarship can quickly change a young girl's life. Can you create a fundraising website and raise money from developed-world donors? Download the full challenge.




Solar Lamp Challenge: 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa use kerosene lanterns to light their homes. Solar lamps are cheaper, cleaner, create cost savings, and increase household incomes by 30%. Can you sell solar lights to rural or slum-dwelling households in need? Download the full challenge.

Cook Stove Challenge: 3 billion people cook on traditional stoves, which cause chronic smoke exposure and are the cause of 4% percent of the global disease burden. A $13 modern stove provides cost savings and health benefits. Can you sell cook stoves and maintain long-term adoption rates? Download the full challenge.




Flipped Classroom Challenge: By 2030 Africa will need to fill an impossible 4.1 million teaching positions. “Flipped classrooms” and deskilled curriculum can be run by a facilitator, and reduce the need for expert teachers. Can you implement an effective curriculum to teach students in a resource-limited classroom? Download the full challenge.


Testing Challenge: In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of children remain illiterate even after five years of school. Testing and public scorecards increase accountability in poor education systems. Can you launch an organization that tests student and school performance, and makes the information publicly available? Download the full challenge.




Transparency Challenge: Public services in developing countries are rife with corruption. Public reporting and scorecards creates real accountability. Can you improve transparency and report data on the public service performance? Download the full challenge.

Road Monitoring Challenge: World Bank infrastructure projects see a high social ROI, yet only 19% of roads in sub-Saharan Africa are paved. New road projects often cuts corners and may not even be finished. Can you create a simple road-construction mapping and monitoring system? Download the full challenge.




Vaccine Challenge: For $20, a child can be vaccinated against a range of infectious disease for life. Yet millions of vaccines are wasted. Can you create a simple management system that tracks vaccine supplies? Download the full challenge.

Corrective Surgery Challenge: Obstetric fistula, cervical cancer, club foot, and cataracts all have effective treatments. Yet identifying patients among large populations is difficult. Can you create a way to identify patients and connect them to early treatment solutions? Download the full challenge.

Maternal Health Challenge: Misoprostol is a $3 drug that could prevent 100,000 maternal deaths from postpartum hemorrhaging. Can you develop an organization to train birth attendants to administer misoprostol? Download the full challenge.




Distribute a sustainable, scalable, proven solution of your own. The custom challenge opens the door to any ideas you may have. It can come from any sector, focus on any poverty-related issue area, and address it in any region you choose in the developing world. Download the full challenge.


Timeline & Details



Ready to design your venture? Start by downloading an application packet here.




First Round: Deadline Sunday, March 13. Download an application packet from this website and follow the instructions to draft and submit your idea. You will submit a two page concept note and resume for each core team member. A team of judges will review and invite the most promising ideas to the next round. Invitations will be sent by Thursday, March 17.


Second Round: Deadline Sunday, April 10. Those invited will receive a second round application packet. You will expand on your concept and draft a full 10 page plan of your new venture. The plan will include an executive summary, a budget, milestones you plan to hit, and your future vision. A team of judges will review and send decisions by Thursday, April 14.


Third Round: Begins Thursday, April 14. The most promising entrepreneurs will have several interviews with judges on the phone. Based on your plan and interview, judges may decide to award you seed capital to launch. Winners will be notified no later than Wednesday, April 27.




There are a number of helpful resources you can access as you begin designing your new social venture. 


  • Attend supporting events hosted by the Design + Innovation Club

  • Get inspired with a short TEDx video on global poverty and the need for better distribution

  • Read a one-page guide on what makes a great proposal

  • Download example proposals from past winning ventures:

    • Young 1ove, an NGO teaching “sugar daddy awareness classes” - concept note and full proposal

    • Miti Health, solving bottlenecks within drug supply chains - full proposal

    • Youth Globe, a fundraising platform to support secondary school scholarships - concept note




Proposals will be evaluated on the following:


  • Commitment and quality: you or your team must be passionate about development, have the skills to build a new organization from scratch, and committed to expanding to a large scale organization.

  • Quality and thoroughness of the social venture plan: good plans are tightly focused on solving one specific problem. Anyone reading your proposal should have a thorough understanding of exactly what your organization will do, and how you will do it. 

  • Projected impact: we expect your pilot program will start small, but will then quickly grow and one day help millions of people. We want to understand your plan to grow, and how you will measure your impact over time. 

  • Feasibility of post-competition success: a good proposal doesn’t end after three months. We want to see your vision for 6, 12, and 24 months out.




This competition is for individuals or teams with at least one member currently enrolled at Yale SOM. You can choose to launch in any developing country, and may decide to operate a for-profit or a non-profit.




Funding from D-Prize is offered in the form of a convertible grant. An award given to a for-profit winner may have the option to convert to equity if the company issues stock to other investors in a Series A funding round. An award given to any non-profit winner or to a for-profit winner that does not sell stock in a Series A round will be treated as a grant.


About & Contact



Contact Sam Haddaway at samuel [dot] haddaway [at] yale [dot] edu if you have any questions about the competition.




We are a passionate group of students at the Yale School of Management who believe understanding how to generate ideas in a constructive and iterative process is a critical skill for future leaders of business and society. Our club is function-oriented and cross-industry, educating and empowering students to apply design thinking to business challenges and catalyze innovative solutions wherever they are - whether in big companies, the government, new ventures, or beyond. 




PSE supports scholars, students, alumni, and practitioners interested in exploring the ways in which business skills and market disciplines can be harnessed to most effectively and efficiently achieve social objectives. PSE facilitates work on nonprofit and public sector social entrepreneurship as well as initiatives in private sector social enterprise. Activities span courses, research, lectures, conferences, and publications. In addition to these formal activities, the PSE also serves as a focal point for social enterprise-related activities at SOM, facilitating, advising, and drawing connections among students, faculty, the Yale community, and the broader network in the US and internationally of interested practitioners and institutions.




The program expands entrepreneurship initiatives through new curriculum development and strengthening connections across Yale’s entrepreneurship community, while also adding an important global dimension through connections with faculty and students in the Global Network for Advanced Management.The entrepreneurship program at Yale SOM has three goals: Expand Entrepreneurship curriculum to meet student demand; Support and encourage SOM student-founded ventures while at SOM; Build a culture of entrepreneurship at SOM and across Yale University.




D-Prize is dedicated toward expanding access to poverty-alleviation solutions in the developing world. Many solutions to poverty already exist; the challenge is distributing these solutions to the people who need it most. We tackle this by challenging social entrepreneurs to develop better ways to distribute proven life-enhancing technologies, and then providing crucial funding and support so that these ideas can launch a pilot. 


D-Prize was started by a team of investors and social enterprise co-founders who are excited to support the world’s next wave of entrepreneurs who will change the world. D-Prize is a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization.

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