Bill Clinton awards $1M to refugee ridesharing startup

Bill Clinton Hult Prize 2017 AP FBN

Former President Bill Clinton awarded $1 million in seed funding to four Pakistani-American students who created a ridesharing rickshaw startup service to help refugees—especially women—travel to major points of interest in Pakistan.

The startup, called Roshini Rides, was developed by Rutgers University students who were participating in the 2017 Hult Prize Foundation competition that showcases more than 10,000 student volunteers in more than 500 on-campus university programs around the world. This year’s challenge, which was issued by Clinton himself, was to find a way to restore human dignity and rights to millions of displaced people by 2022.

"This year’s topic is particularly important because we have 65 million displaced people in the world, the largest number since World War II,” Clinton said during a ceremony at the United Nations on Saturday.

Clinton added that climate change continues to displace millions of people a year since 2008, citing recent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which slammed Texas and Florida respectively, and Hurricane Jose, which currently poses a threat to the East Coast of the U.S.

“This total of involuntary migration is enormous,” the former president said. “It has destroyed communities and families and livelihoods and has caused enormous suffering. Thank God [it] only killed a small number of people, but there is a staggering amount of damage. Now we all have to rebuild. So all of you dealing with refugee issues are doing more than people with more money and more governmental power should be doing more of. I think it’s important to recognize that despite all the bad news, there is good news.”

Roshni Rides, which uses solar-powered rickshaws to take passengers to major points of interest such as schools, hospitals and marketplaces using ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, told FOX Business that while they’ve already secured partnerships and created a brand and presence in Orangi Town, Pakistan, they plan to use the Hult capital to roll out their plan faster.

“[We’re looking] to scale fast to create high-impact in a short period of time,” Gia Farooqi, one of the founders of Roshni Rides said. “Hult Prize has shown us that we were born to do this and we will be pursuing social entrepreneurship no matter what.”

Clinton, who served as a judge, said the business concept hit home with him because, “they use routes and a card transaction platform inspired by New York City’s subway system. It guarantees that customers will pay a fixed-price instead of having to face haggling and price uncertainty. This is a private solution to a public problem.”

Ahmad Ashlar, CEO of the Hult Prize Foundation told FOX Business that they chose the refugee crisis because it presents "one of the largest commercial opportunities for nations, private companies and others by leveraging the talents, passion and drive of those whom are forced to involuntary migrate.”

“We wanted to push the world to believe that if looked at through the lens of impact, that the refugee crisis may one day be remembered as one of the world’s greatest renaissance of entrepreneurship,” he added.

The former president ended the ceremony by announcing that next year’s challenge will be focused on energy.

“It’s really important because if you look around the world and if you believe as I do that intelligence and hard work are evenly distributed, but opportunity isn’t. The convergents of technologies and energy systems offers not only a way to fight climate change but [is] one of the most important things that we can do to close the gap,” Clinton said.