28 Apr 2009
Harvard Business School Holds 13th Annual Business Plan Contest
Record number of student teams participate
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BOSTON— In a series of lively presentations yesterday in Burden Auditorium, teams of students presented their ideas and dreams for entrepreneurial success at the final round of Harvard Business School's 13th annual Business Plan Contest. A record 93 teams entered the contest when it officially began in January. Over time, panels of judges from fields such as venture capital, consulting, law, accounting, life sciences, and high technology reduced the field to the eight finalists who competed on Monday - four in the traditional for-profit track and four in the social enterprise track, which focuses creating social value and may include nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid business plans.

Winning top honors in the traditional track was the team of second-year Harvard MBA students Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn, the entrepreneurs behind CloudFlare, a web security venture that will enable websites to protect themselves from online attacks. "We are initially targeting small websites with fewer than 5,000 unique monthly visitors," they told the HBS student newspaper, The Harbus, in a recent interview. "By building a significant user base from small sites, over time our value to large sites increases. In time, we plan to launch services designed for higher traffic websites." Professor Tom Eisenmann served as the team's faculty advisor.

CloudFlare: Dean Jay Light, Michelle Zatlyn (MBA '09), Matthew Prince (MBA '09)
Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva

In the social enterprise track, the winner was EGG-Tech, a start-up that aims to provide a battery charging and swapping subscription service to households in Tanzania, where 35 million people live without electricity. In a country where kerosene is often the dangerous substitute of choice, this venture will provide a cheaper, safer, and more convenient alternative energy source. Advised by Professor Daniel Isenberg, the EGG-Tech team included Emmanuel Cassimatis, Alla Jezmir, and Benjamin Lambert, all member of the HBS MBA Class of 2009, as well as Jamie Yang, a post-doctoral associate at MIT, and MIT doctoral students Jukka Valimaki and Blandine Antoine. "EGG-Tech bridges the last mile by taking electricity at its source-the grid-and packaging it into small, light rechargeable batteries, each about the size of a brick," the founders told The Harbus.

EGG-Tech Benjamin Lambert (MBA '09), Alla Jezmir (MBA '09), Jamie Yang, Dean Jay Light, Emmanuel Cassimatis (MBA '09), Senior Lecturer Michael Chu (not pictured, Blandine Antoine and Jukka Valimaki)
Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva

"Today we have seen some amazingly interesting and diverse looks at what entrepreneurship should be," said Harvard Business School Dean Jay Light. With a record number of student entries and the involvement of some 60 faculty members, this is one of the activities that makes HBS such a special place."

The winning teams in each track received $25,000 in cash and $25,000 of in-kind accounting and legal services. In addition, following a tradition that began nine years ago, the CloudFlare team received the Dubilier Prize, which honors the late Martin Dubilier (MBA '52), cofounder of the prominent leveraged buyout firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. To the EGG-Tech team went the Peter M. Sacerdote Prize, established by Mr. Sacerdote (MBA '64) in honor of his 40th reunion at Harvard Business School to encourage HBS students to apply their skills to develop and launch social-purpose ventures.

Senior Lecture Michael Roberts announced three runners-up in the traditional track:

  • Novophage Therapeutics will commercialize a new and more effective therapy to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The team included Ann DeWitt (HBS 2009) and her Novophage Therapeutics colleagues Tanguy Chau, Michael Koeris, and Timothy Lu. The faculty advisor was Professor Gary Pisano.
  • Led by Harvard second-year MBA students Michael Newton and Jon Altman, Vox Insurance will offer automobile owners in this country who drive fewer than 12,000 miles a year the benefits of an innovative insurance company that offers lower rates and superior customer service, while encouraging people to help the environment by driving less in order to take advantage of their services. The faculty advisor was Assistant Professor Mukti Khaire.
  • YouTea! will offer an over-the-counter beverage - first in powdered form, then in a bottle - that will provide a low-calorie, low-acidic solution to urinary tract infection, a common problem in women's health. Advised by Senior Lecturer Robert Higgins, the team was made up of second-year students Alex Herzlinger, Nimmi Roche, and Tina Wu (also a medical student at UCLA), as well as MIT student Ashkan Kamali.

Senior Lecturer Michael Chu announced one runner-up in the social enterprise track:

  • Doodh Bhandar hopes to transform the lives of one million rural poor in India by creating a market-based solution to increase the productivity of their cattle. In the words of founders Siddarth Tata (HBS 2010) and Shalaka Joshi, "we want to help these people turn indigenous cows into cash cows." Professor Kash Rangan served as their advisor.

The runners-up received $10,000 in cash and $10,000 of in-kind services, as well as the Satchu-Burgstone Entrepreneurship Award, which was endowed by Jon Burgstone (MBA '99), Asif Satchu (MBA '99), and Reza Satchu (MBA '96) in 2001. After being named runners-up in the 1999 Contest, these alumni went on to achieve considerable commercial success with their plan for SupplierMarket.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling manufactured materials.

Past participants in the HBS Business Plan Contest have gone on to create many successful companies such as Diagnostic-For-All, a nonprofit enterprise that has developed a low-cost, paper-based "lab-on-a-chip" for diagnosing diseases in poor regions around the globe; EyeView, which helps Websites convert visitors into customers; Good Start Genetics, which is developing a low-cost, pre-pregnancy test for multiple genetic disorders; Finale, a Boston-area chain of four upscale restaurants specializing in fine desserts; and New Leaders for New Schools, a national nonprofit organization devoted to improving education for all children by attracting and preparing the next generation of outstanding leaders for urban public schools.

Run under the auspices of the Harvard Business School's Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and the Social Enterprise Initiative, the HBS Business Plan Contest is the capstone of the School's extensive MBA entrepreneurship curriculum, providing an integrative learning experience for all participants. The prime objectives of the Contest are to educate students in the process of creating and evaluating new business ventures, prepare them for opportunities in traditional and social entrepreneurship during their careers, and harness the unique resources that HBS offers.

The Contest is one of several special programs funded by the Rock Center, which was created through the generosity of prominent venture capitalist Arthur Rock (MBA '51). In 2003, he donated $25 million to HBS to support the entrepreneurship faculty and their research, fellowships for MBA and doctoral students, symposia and conferences, and new outreach efforts to extend the impact of the School's extensive work in this field. To further contribute to its research and course development efforts, Harvard Business School also established the California Research Center in the heart of Silicon Valley in 1997.

Harvard Business School offered the country's first business school course in entrepreneurship in 1947. Today, members of the HBS Entrepreneurial Management Unit, which numbers more than 30 faculty, teach a required course to some 900 students in the first year of the MBA program along with a broad selection of popular elective courses to second-year students.

The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship has recognized the Harvard Business School entrepreneurship program as the best in the country.