Sprint, Overland Park, Kansas, has launched its inaugural Smartphone Encore Challenge in conjunction with Brightstar Corp., Miami, and HOBI International, Batavia, Illinois. Sprint says the challenge calls for students to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components. Nonprofit Net Impact, San Francisco, will facilitate the challenge.
Sprint says it envisions the challenge as a way to address the growing environmental issue of electronic scrap by engaging students to use their creativity and knowledge to spur innovative solutions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that while 135 million cellphones are discarded annually, only 11 percent are recycled.
“At Sprint, we believe innovation is fundamental to creating positive change,” says Doug Michelman, senior vice president of corporate relations. “We are in a unique position to provide resources and business support to entrepreneurial students who can give mobile phones a ‘next’ life. This challenge is just one example of our corporate responsibility efforts in action.”
Registration for the challenge opened Feb. 2, 2015, and will close March 27, 2015. Teams of students in the United States who are members of Net Impact’s 155 undergraduate and graduate chapters across the U.S. are eligible to participate. Participation is limited to the first 25 teams that register. Sprint says each team is challenged to develop a product concept, business pitch and an optional brief video using refurbished smartphones and accessories provided by Sprint and Brightstar, a wireless distributor.
“The Encore Challenge is an incredible opportunity for our Net Impact students to use their entrepreneurial business skills to help drive transformational change and positive social impact—the cornerstone of our mission,” says Liz Maw, CEO of Net Impact.
“Used smartphones in good condition are affordable, adaptable and have a wide range of capabilities,” according to a new release about the challenge issued by Sprint. “They still have the capacity to capture, process, store and transfer data, with working features including an accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, camera and display screen. While many may consider them passé, they could actually be the core component of a new product or solution. They represent an untapped business opportunity.”
Courtesy of Sprint and Brightstar, participating teams will receive two preowned Android smartphones with batteries and chargers for reference and prototyping. The phones will be activated with domestic voice, text and data for the length of the contest, Sprint says.
HOBI, an asset management and electronics recycling company, will share a video that demonstrates how the teams can disassemble and reassemble the devices. The teams also will receive guidance on pricing for the device and wireless connectivity to further support their business plans.
Judges will evaluate submissions and pick one winner and two runners-up. Panel representatives will come from Net Impact, the participating companies and other thought leaders, including Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and leading voice on the circular economy, Sprint says.
Submissions will be judged on how well teams define the problem, market, solution, innovation, value proposition and financial feasibility associated with their business idea and on the pitch delivery of their submission.
The winning individual or team will receive $5,000 that can be used toward attending a Startup Weekend to help take the winning idea to the next level. The winner or winners also will have the opportunity to strengthen their business model through strategic guidance from Sprint, Brightstar or HOBI executives. In addition, the winner and two runners-up will be featured in a Net Impact “Issues in Depth” webinar on Earth Day, Sprint says.
“We partnered with Sprint and HOBI on the Smartphone Encore Challenge because their business values around reuse and innovation align with ours,” says Patrick Burns, Brightstar vice president of buy back and trade in. “Together, we are committed to responsibly addressing e-waste and stimulating even more aftermarket demand for these devices.”
Sprint says the Smartphone Encore Challenge further demonstrates Sprint’s commitment to sustainable innovation and leadership in corporate sustainability.
In 2014, Sprint put more than $250 million back in customers’ pockets with its trade-in program, Sprint Buyback, buying back more than 3 million phones. Of those phones collected, more than 80 percent were remanufactured as certified preowned devices, the company says. To date, Sprint’s phone trade-in programs have helped create more than$1 billion in cost avoidance for the company by reusing most of the devices they collected.