The Diamond Challenge is a real world business concept competition with a strong educational foundation. Participating students working in teams of 2-4 submit written concepts for new businesses and social enterprises, deliver 5-minute investor pitches, and answer questions about their concepts. A panel of entrepreneurs and business executives evaluate the written submissions, pitches, and responses to questions in two rounds. Eight preliminary round sites were selected spanning four states in the U.S. (DE, MD, PA, & NJ) and two international locations: Kenya and Moldova. The Diamond Challenge was developed by a broad coalition of partners to provide high school students with an outstanding opportunity to explore entrepreneurship as a viable career path and help them acquire valuable knowledge and skills.
Since September 2013, leaders from Invento worked rigorously to create Diamond Challenge Moldova and to support 48 teams to register and develop business plans. A team advisor (the majority of which were Moldovan school teachers) and a Peace Corps volunteer mentor, trained in the concepts of the business model canvas, were assigned to each team of students. In advance to the national contest in Moldova, teams were welcome to join Junior Achievement, GLOW/TOBE (Girls Leading Our World/Teaching Boys to Excel) Moldova, and Peace Corps volunteers for two special events; the Cash Flow game at Hasdeu Library and Innovation Weekend during the inaugural Global Entrepreneurship Week Moldova. Both allowed teams to learn more about the lean startup methodology and receive one-on-one consultation from participating mentors.
The first step for all teams was to submit business concept papers. The goal for teams was to demonstrate a strong understanding of the problems in their community/country, identify customer segments, offer viable solutions, prepare financial projections, exhibit their marketing and distribution skills, and provide evidence that their concepts were tested and able to withstand competition. Of the teams that submitted papers, 14 were selected to present their concepts at the national competition.
The premier entrepreneurship competition for high school entrepreneurs took place in Chisinau, Moldova. 14 teams participated in the national competition with 12 pitching on Saturday, February 8th, 2014. Splitting the teams into three rooms, the teams competed in a preliminary round in front of panels of 2-3 judges. The best three teams from each room were nominated to pitch their business concepts in front of all eight judges and a room of approximately 100 spectators. The finalists were a bicycle business, mushroom distributor, and private sanitation agency. The winners were Tamara Ceaicovschi and Tudor Petrici of Grozesti, Moldova with their bicycle concept.
The winning team’s concept included collaboration with Pedals for Progress in the United States, which donates 500 used bicycles per developing nation to grow their local economy and provide employment opportunities. The team converted the bike donations into a sound concept paper and conducted a very attractive investor pitch. The winning team will have the opportunity to travel to the United States for the international competition.
Due to the lack of financial resources, the Diamond Challenge Moldova steering committee is currently raising funds for the winning team’s trip to Delaware through the crowdsourcing website Indiegogo. Donate to the campaign, here.
The University of Delaware Horn Program in Entrepreneurship located in the United States created the Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs, a real world business concept competition designed to offer high school students the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship while developing their creative, analytical, and communication skills. Last year, Diamond Challenge formed a partnership with Startup Africa in Kenya to allow high school students to vie for the top prize in Delaware.
On April 30th, 2014, the University of Delaware will host the international competition and award $25,000 in prizes to the top teams. Team members can elect to use the prize money as scholarship funding for higher education or to implement their business ideas. A prize will also be awarded to the team that presents the concept with the greatest social impact.
The Diamond Challenge is presented by the Horn Program in partnership with Delaware Technical Community College, Junior Achievement of Delaware, Delaware Department of Education, Startup Africa, Invento, and UD’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, as well as international sponsors in Africa and Moldova.
“The prize money for top teams is nice but the knowledge, skills and connections all students will gain from participation is even better,” said Dan Freeman, director of the Horn Program.