Listen to an interview with HBS Business Plan contest winners Hayat Sindi of Diagnostics-For-All and Tal Riesenfeld of EyeViewDigital.com.
BOSTON — Harvard Business School (HBS) held the final round of its 12th annual Business Plan Contest yesterday in the School's Burden Auditorium, the culmination of a process that began last January with a total of some 70 student teams. Eleven made it through the various stages of judging to Monday's final round of presentations.
"It's a thrill to hear about these interesting ideas and the development of these ideas into a business," said Harvard Business School Dean Jay Light. "Events like this are an important part of the education HBS offers. There are lots of ways to learn - both inside and outside the classroom. I know of no better demonstration than this of the kinds of things our students can do beyond the classroom to help them develop all sorts of important skills - from putting together a team to creating an innovative plan for a new venture."
Second-year Harvard MBA student Tal Riesenfeld was part of a five-person team that won first place in the traditional for-profit track with their business plan for EyeViewDigital.com. The team included Yaniv Fain, a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and EyeViewDigital.com colleagues Oren Harnevo, Yaniv Nitzan, and Gal Barnea. Already a going concern, the startup enables communication between businesses and customers through cutting-edge video technology. HBS Professor Paul Gompers served as the team's faculty advisor.
In the social enterprise track, the winning team was Diagnostics-For-All, a not-for-profit diagnostics company that will provide health care agencies and commercial organizations with a new generation of point-of-care tools to address the diagnostic and clinical management needs of the global medical community. Advised by HBS Professor Vicki Sato, the seven-member team included HBS second-year students Jon Puz and Gilbert Tang; HBS first-year student Krishna Yeshwant; Harvard School of Public Health student Kyra Bobinet; Roozbeh Ghaffari, a recent Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology graduate and currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Freeman Lab at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics; and their colleagues Hayat Sindi, a Visiting Scholar in Professor George Whiteside's lab in Harvard University's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; and Carol Waghorne, a participant in Harvard Medical School's Scholar in Clinical Sciences Program and a Research Fellow in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Each first-place team received $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in in-kind legal and accounting services. As winners of the traditional track, the EyeViewDigital.com team also received the Dubilier Prize, which honors the late Martin Dubilier (MBA '52), cofounder of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, one of the premier leveraged buyout firms in the United States. The Peter M. Sacerdote Prize went to the Diagnostics-For-All team. Established by Peter Sacerdote (MBA '64) in honor of his 40th Reunion at Harvard Business School, the prize fund is meant to encourage HBS students to apply their skills to develop and launch social-purpose ventures.
The Contest's judges, who represented a wide array of prominent professional services firms in fields such as venture capital, law, and consulting, also named a total of five runner-up teams.
In the traditional track:
- Good Start Genetics is a pre-conception genetic risk diagnostic company led by Paris Wallace (HBS '08).
- MyHappyPlanet.com provides a fun way to learn languages through peer-to-peer learning and user-generated language lessons. Members of the team were Karen Ong, Steve David, and Ethan Laub, all of the HBS Class of 2008, and their MyHappyPlanet colleagues Francois Gagnon and Todd Pinkerton.
- Physica Solutions aims to start and operate office-based medical practices that provide minimally-invasive treatment for varicose veins. The team was made up of HBS second-year students Carlos Jaramillo and Jeremy Friese.
- Supply Solutions provides a new business model for supply chain efficiency between the United States and China under the direction of second-year students Kevin Sousa and Jun Wang.
In the social enterprise track:
- Ghonsla will sell straw-based insulation products designed especially for corrugated galvanized iron roofs in the earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan and beyond. The four-person team included HBS/Harvard Kennedy School cross-registrant student Emmanuel Arnaud, MIT student Zehra Ali, Harvard School of Public Health student Monica Hau Le, and Mubarik Imam of Bain & Co.
The runners-up all received $5,000 in cash and $5,000 in services, plus the Satchu-Burgstone Entrepreneurship Award, endowed by Jon Burstone (MBA '99), Asif Satchu (MBA '99), and Reza Satchu (MBA '96). Named runners up in the 1999 Contest, these alumni went on to achieve great commercial success with their plan for SupplierMarket.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling manufactured direct materials.
This year, Harvard University's Office of Technology Development (OTD) is providing a one-to-one "match" of the cash component of any prize for business plans that plan to commercialize Harvard University technologies. Two winners of the 2008 HBS Business Plan Contest qualified for this match: Diagnostics-For-All Is based on technologies developed in Professor George Whiteside's lab in Harvard's Department of Chemistry, and Good Start Genetics contemplates using technologies developed in Professor George Church's lab at Harvard Medical School. The OTD match is one example of efforts to establish closer links between HBS and OTD in order to involve HBS students and faculty in the process of commercializing Harvard technologies and provide students with more entrepreneurial opportunities. Both Diagnostics-For-All and Good Start Genetics are examples of startups based on Harvard innovations and part of a portfolio of 20 Harvard technology startups that OTD has helped catalyze in the past two years.
Past participants in the HBS Business Plan Contest have gone on to create successful enterprises such as Bang Networks, a leading provider of technologies and services for using the Internet; Magellan Distribution Corp., an independent distributor of electronic components; Finale, a restaurant in Boston and Cambridge specializing in upscale 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.
The HBS Business Plan Contest is a student-run event. Cosponsored this year by the HBS Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise Clubs, it provides an integrative learning experience for participants, drawing on all facets of the Harvard MBA curriculum. It is one of several special programs funded by the Rock Center, which was created through the generosity of pioneering venture capitalist Arthur Rock (MBA '51).
In 2003, Rock donated $25 million to Harvard Business School 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 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 as well as a broad selection of electives 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.