BOSTON—A device that will revolutionize spinal fusion operations, an online Web site for selling products to babies in Brazil, and new software that turns a mobile phone into an accurate but inexpensive tool for diagnosing heart and lung disease were the big winners in the final round of the Harvard Business School Business Plan Contest. The event, held before a large and appreciative audience in Burden Auditorium on Tuesday afternoon (April 26), marked the 15th anniversary of the for-profit business venture track and the 11th year of the social venture track, which focuses on creating social value via nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid-model plans. The capstone of the School's extensive Entrepreneurial Studies curriculum, the contest awards prizes totaling more than $150,000 in cash and in-kind services to the winners and runners-up in both tracks.
The contest is open to all Harvard MBA candidates; at least one member of each team must be an HBS student. Sixty-three teams in the business venture track and twenty-five in the social venture track submitted plans to the 2011 contest. Over time, more than 100 judges from fields such as venture capital, angel investing, consulting, law, accounting, life sciences, high technology, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and academia reduced the field to the total of nine finalists.
"The HBS Business Plan Contest reflects the amazing talent at this school," said Dean Nitin Nohria. "The ideas presented here aim to transform the lives of others, and that is what Harvard Business School is all about. HBS created the first real department of entrepreneurship decades ago under the leadership of Professor Howard Stevenson, and only eighteen years after its creation, our Social Enterprise Initiative has become one of the greatest groups of its kind in the country."
This year there were co-winners in the business venture track. HBS second-year student Kimball Thomas and Davis Smith won for Baby.com.br, an online one-stop-shop for baby products in Brazil. Professor Jan Rivkin served as their faculty advisor. Romish Badani and Derek Poppinga (both HBS 2012) were members of the BOSS Medical team, which also included Haim Gottfried, Maxim Budyansky, Neil Shah, Peter Truskey, and Shoval Dekel. Using technology developed at The Johns Hopkins University, the new venture is developing a minimally invasive device to significantly improve the effectiveness of spinal fusion procedures. Following further testing and approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the company expects to be open for business in early 2013. Senior Lecturer Robert Higgins served as their faculty advisor.
In the social venture track, the winning team was Sana Care, comprising second-year student Sidhant Jena, along with Anshuman Sharma and Ikaro Silva. The new venture, which will undergo clinical trials in India, aims to provide remote cardiac and pulmonary diagnostic services over any mobile phone, with a goal of reaching ten million patients in five years. Their faculty advisor was Professor Tarun Khanna. Senior Lecture Michael Roberts, executive director of the School's Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, announced three runners-up in the business venture track. They were (in alphabetical order):
- MyTeksi, founded by second-year students Anthony Tan, Hooi Ling Tan, and Adeline Chan, plans to revamp the Malaysian taxi system by introducing low-cost, mobile-based technology to both the supply (dispatch companies) and demand (passenger) sides of the distribution chain to improve efficiency, safety, and quality of service. Senior Lecturer Frank Cespedes was the faculty advisor.
- Qweek provides a fully automatic cloud-based solution to workforce optimization and management, helping businesses achieve significant savings by replacing traditional rigid shift scheduling with dynamic shifts that adjust to align numbers of workers available with the demand for their services. Advised by Senior Lecturer Robert Higgins, the team was composed of Roman Itskovich, Anita Venkiteswaran (both HBS 2012), Alexander Ginzburg, and Daniel Rubinstein.
- Ubiquitious Energy distributes electricity to "off-grid" communities around the world by means of low-cost solar panels (a new product called "sol sheets") that are easy to use and that can be interconnected over time. The team members are second-year student Bart Howe, along with Miles Barr, Erdin Beshimov, Jutta Friedrichs, and Nathan Trujillo. Assistant Professor Ramana Nanda served as their faculty advisor.
Senior Lecturer Michael Chu announced the runner-up in the social enterprise track:
- The Watt Campaign is a for-profit social enterprise that mobilizes high school students to launch effective energy efficiency initiatives in their schools and communities. Advised by Senior Lecturer John Macomber, the team is composed of Luke Winston (HBS 2011), Rony Kubat, and Stephen Elliott.
Each winning team in the Business Venture track was awarded $25,000 in cash as well as an equal amount of in-kind services. They also received the Dubilier Prize, honoring the late Martin Dubilier (MBA 1952), cofounder of the prominent leveraged buyout firm of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
The runner-up teams in the business venture track received $10,000 in cash and an equal amount of in-kind services, as well as the Satchu-Burgstone Entrepreneurship Award, endowed by Jon Burgstone (MBA 1999), Asif Satchu (MBA 1999), and Reza Satchu (MBA 1996) 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.
The winning team and the runner–up team in the social venture track were awarded the Peter M. Sacerdote Prizes—$25,000 in cash for the winner and $10,000 in cash for the runner–up. These prizes were established by Mr. Sacerdote (MBA 1964) in honor of his 40th reunion and the Campaign for the Harvard Business School to enable more HBS graduates to apply their skills to develop and launch social–purpose ventures. Both winners and runners up in this track also received matching amounts of in–kind services provided by The Bridgespan Group, a social enterprise consultancy, and the law firm of Foley Hoag.
Also recognized during the event was Privahini Bradoo (MBA 2008), winner of the second annual Alumni New Venture Contest. Representing the HBS Association of Northern California and the HBS Tech Alumni Club, Bradoo is the founder of BioMine, which aims to apply existing technologies in a novel way to "mine" the e-wastes generated by the huge amount of electronics equipment discarded each year. Hosted by the Rock Center, the Alumni New Venture Contest shines a spotlight on graduates' enterprises, bringing to campus teams representing Harvard Business School Clubs from around the world. Bradoo received a cash prize of $25,000.
In addition, Rakhi Mehra (MBA 2009), founder of Micro Home Solutions, a New Delhi-based venture for creating a portfolio of housing solutions for the poor, was named the recipient of the 2011 Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship, designed to support recent HBS graduates who are creating ventures that focus on creating social value. Through a competitive selection process, the Fellowship supports recent graduates with a $25,000 award.
Past participants in the HBS Business Plan Contest have gone on to create many successful companies such as Cloudfare, which enables Web sites to intelligently protect themselves from online attacks; Finale, a Boston-area restaurant chain serving desserts and beverages; RelayRides, the world's first person-to-person car sharing service; Rent the Runway, which provides access to designer clothing at a fraction of the retail price; 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 world; Global Citizen Year, which encourages students between high school and college to address the global challenges of the 21st century; Good Start Genetics, which is developing a low-cost, pre-pregnancy test for multiple genetic disorders; 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 provides 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 1951). 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.
About the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative
Since 1993, the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) has applied innovative business practices and managerial disciplines to drive sustained, high-impact social change. The Social Enterprise Initiative acts as a catalyst for creating social value by serving as a focal point for the creativity and energy of its worldwide community. These efforts have manifested themselves in a number of areas, ranging from the participation of approximately 90 faculty members in social enterprise research and teaching to the creation of over 500 social enterprise cases and teaching notes. Courses that focus on social enterprise are embedded into the MBA curriculum and HBS Executive Education program offerings, reflecting a real-world blending of business and social issues. Beyond the classroom, the Initiative offers career development and community engagement programs designed to support students and alumni engaged in the social sector. For more information, visit: www.hbs.edu/socialenterprise/.