Yale University student wins $1 million Hult Prize for banana scrap leather startup

Winners of the world’s largest student social entrepreneurship business competition announced in Paris

Winners of the $1 million Hult Prize 2023, the world’s largest student social entrepreneurship business competition, announced in Paris on September 22ndn.d. By fashion superstar Stella McCartney.

Yale University’s Banoffi Leather Company beat out five other global university startups, ending a year-long student challenge.

The for-profit social enterprise was the brainchild of former McKinsey employee and sustainability master’s degree holder Jinali Modi after an unsuccessful quest to find sustainable leather bags.

Banoffi aims to target the multi-billion dollar leather industry by providing an alternative made from banana plant waste. The company said it could “completely eliminate” toxic waste and reduce carbon emissions by a comparatively 90%. .

Redesigning fashion with a focus on SDGs

In Part 14th The theme of this year’s Hult Prize was “Redesigning Fashion.” A university team was challenged to find a sustainable social venture for the clothing and fashion industry, which accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Participants had to create a business that “has a measurable positive impact on people and the planet and supports the achievement of the United Nations SDGs by the 2030 deadline.”

More than 40,000 student entrepreneurial teams from 120 countries submitted ideas for sustainable solutions across the entire fashion value chain.

Teams will be selected to compete against other global teams in cities around the world for a coveted spot in this summer’s four-week digital accelerator program for intensive coaching through rounds on university campuses. I got it. Ultimately, the number of participating teams was reduced from 23 to six, and the Hult Prize was moved to Paris, marking the first time the grand finale was held outside of New York City.

‘Shark Tank’ pitches investments

A prestigious panel of judges, including fashion company founders, heard “Shark Tank”/”Dragon’s Den” style pitches from the finalists on stage. They trained their teams in front of a packed Le Trianon theater and backstage, and used scorecards to make the final decision.

While the Yale team won the award, which is distributed each time the company reaches a clear milestone, the other five finalists also received a $100,000 investment in their companies. .

Lori Van Dam, CEO of the Hult Foundation Prize, said what made the finalists special was their optimism.

Furthermore, she added: “What stood out about these teams was the energy, their qualifications and how well they worked together.

“Having a great team is extremely helpful in developing a strategy and moving the business forward. All of the shortlisted ideas are truly innovative, and many of them have already been sold and are generating revenue. This clearly shows that they have the potential to continue to grow, not just as a social idea, but as a business. It’s that combination that allows them to rise to the top.”

Meet the 2023 Hult Prize finalists

(winner) banofi leather

Yale University, New Haven, CT (USA)
A B2B social enterprise focused on supplying fashion houses with vegan leather made from banana crop waste.


University of Alexandria, Alexandra (Egypt)
A sustainable furniture company that reuses discarded clothing materials to create lightweight, durable furniture. The company’s textile products are used by architects, interior designers, schools and educational centers.

Graph Co., Ltd.

Hult International Business School, Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA)
We aim to replace the use of plastic by turning textile waste into sustainable hangers, providing solutions for fashion houses, retail stores, home furnishings, luggage, accessories, wall and floor insulation, etc. .


Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK
We develop packaging solutions made from biodegradable and compostable materials to meet industry and environmental demands.

labware studio

ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland
A sustainable manufacturing company that produces clothing using lean manufacturing and circular design principles, targeting up-and-coming fashion designers who prioritize sustainability and social responsibility.


National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
We focus on preserving the value of all fabrics used in the fashion industry by converting surplus clothing and textiles into usable materials. Pioneers in the transition to a renewable fashion industry.

Next year’s Hult Prize theme

At the Paris final, the theme for the 2024 Hult Prize was also announced. The theme, called “Unlimited,” was explained in a video by former US President Bill Clinton, a longtime collaborator of the award.

“We have just six years to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which means there is a lot to do in a short period of time. And it will take everyone’s best efforts. So this year, for the first time, I’ll put you in the driver’s seat.

“Towards 2024, the overall product challenge is to [for the Hult Prize] It will be “unlimited”. This means you can pitch any idea you want for a social enterprise, as long as it changes the world and aligns with at least one SDG. If you need advice, check out the topics we’ve been working on for the past 14 years. ”

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