Max Jessen ’15 (on left in picture) is part of a three-person team at Purdue University recently selected as a global regional finalist for the 7th Annual Hult Prize, which inspires the brightest university students from around the globe to focus on solving one of the world’s key social challenges. The prize carries with it $1 million in startup capital to develop the winner’s project as well as opportunities to work with business leaders from around the world.
Jessen’s team – which also includes Dominic Cascino and Dhruv Sharma – was selected from a record-breaking pool of over 25,000 applicants. The competition has been narrowed to 300 entrepreneurial teams who will pitch their startup business ideas on March 11-12 at any of the five regional finals locations: Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, and Shanghai.
The 2016 theme – selected by President Bill Clinton – is Crowded Urban Spaces, which focuses on economic inclusion, more specifically, doubling the incomes of the residents who live in some of the toughest conditions in the world through improved mobility and increased connectivity to people, products, services and capital by 2022.
Jessen, who is working on his finance major in the Krannert School of Management, came up with the idea for Project Annulus, a venture that would create mass-produced housing, drastically reducing the cost of construction. Harboring ideas from Henry Ford’s industry changing format back in the early 20th century, Jessen has theorized that a similar approach could be translated in the housing sector.
“If you look at cars that were made before Henry Ford’s vision, the cost was extreme because each vehicle was hand made,” said Jessen, who is originally from Germany. “Imagining the cost of today’s cars – Toyota Corollas or Honda Civics – built by hand would be millions of dollars. Thus, I formulated a plan to initiate change through mass production.”
In doing so, Jessen envisions housing being reduced in third-world countries and lower income urban areas throughout the world from “a rough estimate of $32 per square foot to approximately $2 per square foot.”
If the team wins the San Francisco regional finals next month, they would receive a one-year membership into the Clinton Global Initiative and an opportunity to spend the summer at the Hult Prize Accelerator, a world class center for innovation and entrepreneurship in Boston, MA where the team will refine its concept toward developing a prototype in association with the international business community.
The regional champions will pitch their business solution prototype at the Clinton Global Institute’s annual meeting in the third week of September, which takes place simultaneously with UN Week in New York City. Global leaders will select the winning team, awarding them the Hult Prize and $1 million in seed capital.
“It’s pretty remarkable that our team has advanced because we were told a majority of regional winners are in graduate school,” said Jessen, who attended Farragut as a seven-day boarder for six years.
Jessen contributes a lot of his early success in college to the preparation he received at Farragut. In addition, the cultural diversity at Farragut has played a large role.
“College brings together people from all over the world and I have been used to that type of environment for so long that it just felt natural,” said Jessen. “Working with people from different parts of the country and the world has been a seamless transition. It’s easy to get along with people of different backgrounds because that is what I’ve been doing for a majority of my life. Also, the classes at Farragut are structured similar to how they are in college. Teachers at Farragut want to see results so they have a certain expectation of you and they form that working relationship with you based upon that structure. Finally, they encourage participating in extracurricular activities at Farragut so that certainly helped me in regard to reaching out and doing something as big as the Hult Prize as a freshman.”