Kiana Ghazouli, Grand Challenge Scholar and Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, arrived in Nice, France this past July ready to participate in the European Innovation Academy. Innovative ideas for ventures raced through her mind as she prepared for the three-week long summer program.

The European Innovation Academy (EIA) educates students about technological entrepreneurship. Students are separated into teams where they are then provided the opportunity and resources to create and develop a business venture.

Kiana Ghazouli (left) pitches Barrier Breaker at the the EIA.

Kiana Ghazouli (left) pitches Barrier Breaker at the the EIA.

As Kiana and her team brainstormed venture ideas, they recognized the cultural diversity that surrounded them. The 87 different nationalities represented at the EIA illustrated a bigger picture of the cultural diversity present in schools and the workplace. With this in mind, Kiana and her team created the venture Barrier Breaker.

Barrier Breaker is designed in an online game format where users, represented by their avatars, can interact with fellow users from around the world. The purpose is to facilitate cultural interaction and teach cultural competency. During the program’s first week, the team established their idea. During the second week, they built a landing page and a clickable prototype of the product. During the third week, they created a revenue and business model, as well as a marketing strategy. Having spent three weeks perfecting Barrier Breaker, the team pitched the idea to a team of investors and set up meetings with potential partners.

The EIA proved to be beneficial for Kiana. She learned that “in order to be successful, you cannot make excuses, you must simply do.” Though she entered the program with many ideas and was unsure of where to start or how to create a venture, everything worked out in the end due to the help of her peers, program mentors, and lectures put on by the EIA. She learned more about the technology industry, she improved on articulating her ideas, she was pushed out of her comfort zone. And when three program members lost their lives during the recent terrorist attack on Nice, she learned the importance of seizing every opportunity; the program came together in their honor and made the most of their time there.

Kiana explains that in the program, “you will meet many talented individuals and mentors who will give you invaluable advice and help.” Though the opportunity and resources are provided by the EIA, it’s up to the students to create a unique and innovative venture from those resources. She recommends that other students take advantage of this opportunity and advance their knowledge of technology and perspectives of entrepreneurship and culture.