TCI News

TCI’s Gabriel Saunders and Team Win University-Wide Social Entrepreneurship Competition

#Providenciales, 24 December, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – Gabriel Saunders, a 23-year-old Turks and Caicos Islander, recently won the University of Waterloo’s Hult Prize Finals, as part of Team “Decomp”. On Tuesday, December 3rd, the University of Waterloo Hult Prize Finals was hosted at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business. Eight teams pitched their ventures that aligned with this year’s social challenge – “Building Start-ups That Have A Positive Impact On Our Planet With Every Dollar Earned.”

The judges heard pitches on ideas, such as leatherless “leather” created through using bacteria, artificial intelligence sorting bins, as well as re-useable and antimicrobial menstrual pads.

Decomp, which is comprised of four members who have specialized in different areas – Gabriel Saunders (Marketing), Alison Purdon (Global Development), Caleb Turpin-Quaye (Finance), and Samuel Abdelshahid (Engineering) – pitched their solution to combat global plastic pollution.

Since 1950, humans have produced 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic – of which most becomes waste. Plastic waste takes 400-1,000 years to degrade and while sitting in landfills, it emits harmful greenhouse gases.

Decomp identified microbes – both fungi and bacteria – that are able to consume different types of plastics in 6-8 weeks. The group will be utilizing bioreactor technology to control temperature, pH, and humidity levels to optimize the growing conditions of the microbes. Plastics will be sorted, shredded, and placed into the bioreactors to be degraded by the microbes.

Decomp was awarded the first place prize – winning $3,000 for research and development, as well as having their travel expenses to the regional round covered.

“We’re extremely proud to have won the Hult Prize at University of Waterloo Finals, but this is just the beginning,” said Saunders. “Teams from University of Waterloo have done extremely well at this competition. In the past three years, two teams from our university have made it to the finals. We want to be the first University of Waterloo team to win it all,” added Saunders.

As a result of winning their On-Campus Hult Prize Finals, Decomp has a guaranteed spot at the Regional Summit of their choice. The Top 50 teams from the Regional Summits will spend six weeks at the Hult Prize Accelerator in Boston to learn from a global ecosystem of business leaders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners. Following this, six teams will be chosen to pitch their social ventures at the Hult Prize Finals, which will be hosted at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York City.

The Hult Prize is the largest student entrepreneurship competition in the world. Each September, Former President Bill Clinton announces a social challenge topic. Thousands of post-secondary students from universities around the world form teams and create social enterprises to tackle the challenge and compete for the grand prize of $1 million USD in start-up funding.

Gabriel Saunders is a Master of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (MBET) student at the University of Waterloo, as well as a Student Entrepreneurship Coach for Concept – the university’s pre-incubator program. Gabriel attended The Ashcroft School (now The International School of the Turks and Caicos Islands) and British West Indies Collegiate (BWIC) in Providenciales, and graduated from Trinity College School in Port Hope, Canada. He is the proud son of E. Jay and Drani Saunders.

You can watch Decomp’s pitch at the Hult Prize at University of Waterloo Finals at the following link –

Release: Gabriel Saunders

Photo Caption: Team Decomp (Left to Right) Samuel Abdelshahid, Alison Purdon, Caleb Turpin-Quaye, & Gabriel Saunders

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