The people behind two Singapore-based firms were among six international nominees of an annual award which recognises leaders who are reinventing growth.
These leaders develop business models which benefit many people, rather than a small elite.
The Inspired Leadership Award is given out by non-profit Norway-registered organisation The Performance Theatre and introduced in 2006. Previous winners include Ms Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who won it in 2014.
Singaporean Tan Jun Yuan, 31, co-founder and chief executive of mobile app 11th Hour, was one of the six nominated. He described the challenges he faced as he tried to get funding for his business, which connects consumers to last-minute discount deals to avoid food waste.
Mr Tan said he was rejected more than 200 times before he finally secured the money needed to keep his tech start-up afloat.
"It's easy to do it for one week, and give up on the second or third week. But we believed that somebody, somewhere, would appreciate what we were doing," he said.
The app currently has 300 merchants and 15,000 users on board, up from 200 merchants and 7,000 users last December.
Award chairman Jeremy Hillman said the nominees were shortlisted from a pool of several hundred applications.
The winner, announced yesterday, was Dr Nthabiseng Legoete, founder of Quali Health, a social enterprise focused on delivering affordable primary healthcare to marginalised communities in South Africa.
As part of the award, Dr Legoete and the nominees will have access to advice, help and mentoring from a community of global leaders.
For instance, Mr Tan will meet a contact in San Francisco who has helped giants like Facebook with their algorithms.
Ms Masami Sato, the 42-year-old founder of Singapore-based Buy1GIVE1, which aims to encourage firms to give to high-impact social projects, was also nominated.
The other nominees were Dr Jamie Chiu, who founded Hong Kong-based The Brightly Project to promote mental health awareness; Ms Lindsay Stradley, co-founder of Nairobi social enterprise Sanergy, which aims to make sanitation affordable and accessible; and Mr Mani Vajipeyajula, co-founder and CEO of Indian recycling company Banyan Nation.