Social enterprises’ pitched battles result in two victors

A spectacular ending in its exciting final; there were not one, but two winners of the I WILL Award 2018 at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). Six finalists pitched their inspiring ideas for improving society in head-to-head battles at the I WILL Get in the Ring event on Tuesday 6 March 2018. The two award winners were Boxrs4ALL, a company making boxer shorts which donates underwear to someone in Tanzania for each pair of shorts sold, and Juvoo, a ‘digital administration buddy’ for healthcare professionals. Each start-up won €15,000 to put their inspiring idea into action. Juvoo also won the audience prize of €2,000.

“At RSM, business students learn to think about a larger goal than making money. They want to do something valuable,” said moderator Dorothy Grandia, RSM’s assistant director of Career Services. “That’s the magic of I WILL; it creates a sense of naming your ambition and your commitment. And it reflects RSM’s mission to create positive change.”

Submissions for the I WILL Award came from the RSM community: researchers, students, alumni and staff. In addition to winners Boxrs4ALL and Juvoo, the other I WILL Award finalists were Circal Technologies, which turns CO2 emissions into valuable resources; Common Element, a generator that extracts clean water from the atmosphere; Burgs Foods, which produces sustainable food from crickets; and Pawel Electrics, which developed a DIY kit to convert old motorcycles into electric vehicles.

Superfood versus clean water

In three rounds of head-to-head battles, each team’s spokesperson had 30 seconds to demonstrate how their idea can change society and inspire others. The audience joined in, waving glow sticks to indicate their support.

In the first round, Burgs Foods’ Sander Peltenburg pitched against Common Element’s Jaime Lezama. Peltenburg said farming crickets has a very small ecological impact, and Burgs Foods’ team comprises experts from RSM, Delft University of Technology and the University of Wageningen. “We can also do vegetarian products, and create new products with crickets, which is a true superfood with many nutrients.” Peltenburg plans to invest in machinery to carry out the nine steps to make a cricket burger.

Jaime Lezama (Full-time MBA Class of 2019) showed how Common Element can extract clean water from the air, to address water shortages. “Water is the blue gold of tomorrow. It’s the biggest industry in the world. We will make this dream a reality,” he said. Lezama explained the machinery would be leased to farms and industries. Common Element’s prototype is ready, and the team has letters of intention from potential investors and customers. “The first year we’re going to focus on the farming sector. We can enable a four-fold increase in crop production, and want to expand in Mexico, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Asia.”

Hygiene in Africa and electric motorbikes

Boxrs4ALL and Pawel Electrics stood in the ring for the second round. “Our idea started when we were 16 years old,” said first-year BSc IBA student Thom Uildriks from Boxrs4ALL “Imagine you had to go to school or work without underwear. Millions of people out there deal with this every day. We don’t only give underwear to someone in Tanzania for every pair of boxer shorts we sell, but the underwear will also be produced there and Boxrs4ALL will provide hygiene workshops to encouraging washing hands and brushing teeth.”

Uildriks said Boxrs4ALL has already sold 500 pairs, and hopes to expand to other countries and develop women’s underwear too. He said the prize money would contribute to setting up a factory in Tanzania to help the country’s economy, and so they can offer locals the same high-quality boxer shorts as the ones sold online. “I will always chose social impact over personal profit,” he concluded.

Paul Brettschneider (MBA 2017) said Pawel Electrics enables people to make a positive impact on their environment and themselves. “Our product will make the transition to an electric vehicle easier for people. We have a working prototype and capability to make our DIY conversion kit a success.”

Digital care buddy versus reducing pollution

The third round was Juvoo versus Circal Technologies.

“Imagine yourself 50 years from now. What kind of care would you expect?” asked Juvoo’s Roopesh Santokhi, who will graduate from the Executive MBA this month. “Gifted nurses are wasting a lot of time on bureaucracy and administration; these hours should go to caring for patients.” By focusing on the human side of care and using smart technology like the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, Juvoo aims to win time back for nurses to spend on caring for the elderly. “The elderly don’t care what you know. They care about how much you care. Our digital protocol system brings back hours to the nurses so they can start caring again,” Santokhi explained.

Hein Laterveer from Circal Technologies said: “Don’t you just love shopping online? It’s even better with free shipping, and 90 per cent of consumer goods come from container ships. Our emissions affect everyone. To break into this archaic industry we need to reach out to shipping companies.” He explained that Circal Technologies turns emissions into algae as valuable resources for bio applications. Shipping companies can generate revenue by selling them, at the same time as complying with the 2020 International Maritime Organisation regulations. “Time is ticking away, and we’re ready to help turn the most polluting industries into a circular industry.”

Convincing investors

The winners of each initial battle went through to the final three-way battle: Common Element, Boxers4ALL and Juvoo, in which they put everything into a one-minute pitch to convince the jury that their idea should win the €15,000 prize. Ultimately, Boxrs4ALL and Juvoo both won, and received a cheque of €15,000 each.

While the jury deliberated, past I WILL Award winner Ollie Smeenk (BScIBA 2016) presented the progress of the weather services organisation Kukua, which won the I WILL Award 2016 in the same kind of head-to-head pitching competition. Smeenk, who now lives in Tanzania, told the audience what it was like to deliver a critically important pitch: “Pitching in front of an audience and putting in so much effort, means you have to be convinced of your idea and ask yourself what you want to achieve. Then build on that. You have to keep pushing. If you believe in your vision, you will achieve.” Smeenk added that the I WILL Award contributed greatly to his start-up in Africa, but that the most important thing about such events is to connect to companies and find investors.

All the finalists had taken part in coaching sessions to refine their pitching skills prior to the live final. The coaching was provided by Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE).

Moderator Dory Grandia pointed out that all the finalists, winners or not, can use their RSM, ECE and I WILL networks to help figure out the next step. She encouraged the audience to think about these initiatives and how – and who – can help.

The jury consisted of an investment manager, an assistant professor in entrepreneurship, RSM’s dean, the chairman of study association STAR, and the chairman of the I WILL Embassy. “We have six movers and shakers who are ready to change the world. They’re real ambassadors of positive change,” says Johan Hoffstra, chairman of the I WILL Embassy.

“Indeed, it’s amazing how much talent our students bring in. As professors we can learn, be inspired and be surprised by our students. This event inspires others to show there are many opportunities to bring this positive change to the world,” added Magdalena Cholakova, assistant professor strategy and entrepreneurship.

One of the main prize winning teams, Juvoo, was a big hit with the audience, winning the audience prize of €2,000 for its digital administration buddy for healthcare professionals. The event concluded with a festive reception at the Erasmus Paviljoen.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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