BOSTON—Amid flashing lights, twirling logos, upbeat music, and a montage video focusing on entrepreneurial activity at Harvard Business School, the Grand Finale of the 17th annual HBS New Venture Competition (NVC) (formerly known as the Business Plan Contest) took place on Tuesday afternoon (April 30) in Burden Auditorium before an audience filled with a mix of judges, investors, entrepreneurs, and prominent alumni as well as enthusiastic and supportive students, faculty, and staff.
The NVC includes both business and social enterprise tracks and awards more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind support to winning and runner-up student and alumni teams. The Competition is sponsored by the School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, and HBS Alumni Relations. The student competition is open to all Harvard MBA candidates and eligible graduate students from Harvard University. The alumni competition is open to entrants with a Harvard graduate on the founding team.
“If Harvard Business School is to be true to its mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world, it must support the entrepreneurial spirit, which focuses on that very goal by solving problems and turning challenges into opportunities,” said HBS Dean Nitin Nohria.
The Grand Finale’s program included remarks by entrepreneurial finance expert Professor William A. Sahlman (MBA 1975), a 90-second pitch to the audience by the eight student finalists, a crowd vote that enabled the audience to choose their favorite team, and the announcement of the student and alumni prizes.
Winners within the student competition included:
- Grand Prize, Student Business Track: Tauros Engineering and the founding team of Adrian Ross (MBA 2014), Alison Flatau, David Flatau, and Tyler Flatau. Tauros Engineering is commercializing a revolutionary technology for the detection of “bridge scour,” the widespread erosion that weakens bridge pilings and has put some 500,000 bridges in the United States at risk. It received the $50,000 Dubilier Grand Prize, which honors the late Martin Dubilier (MBA 1952), co-founder of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, one of the premier leveraged buyout firms in the United States.
- Runner-Up, Student Business Track: Quickstor and the founding team of Rebecca Greene and Todd Rudnianyn (both MBA 2013). This new venture has developed a mobile app to facilitate the process of finding self-storage facilities, now used by half of all U.S. households. Quickstor received the $25,000 Satchu-Burgstone Runner-Up Prize, endowed by Jon Burgstone (MBA 1999), Asif Satchu (MBA 1999), and Reza Satchu (MBA 1996)—all recipients of the runner-up prize in the 1999 Competition with their plan for SupplierMarket.com.
- Grand Prize, Student Social Enterprise Track: Blue Light and the founding team of John Ikeda, Manoah Koletty (both Harvard Kennedy School), and Mustafa Khalifeh. Blue Light has created innovative consumer finance products to make saving easier for base-of-the-pyramid consumers in developing economies. It will begin operations in Jordan this summer. Bluelight received the $50,000 Peter M. Sacerdote Grand Prize, which was established through the generosity of the Sacerdote family to honor the late Peter Sacerdote (MBA 1964) and enable more HBS students to apply their skills to develop and launch their own social-purposes ventures.
- Runner-Up, Student Social Enterprise Track: WAVE Hospitality Academy and the team of Misan Rewane, Karan Chopra, Navid Rahimi, and Bryan Chiduben Mezue (all MBA 2013), who aim to empower 25,000 youth each year in West Africa to access employment opportunities through vocational training. WAVE Hospitality Academy received the $25,000 Peter M. Sacerdote Runner-Up Prize.
Winners in the Alumni Competition included:
- Grand Prize, Alumni Business Track: Vaxess Technologies, headed by Michael Schrader (MBA 2012) and representing the HBS Association of Boston, whose patented technology uses a silk-derived protein that makes it possible for vaccines to be shipped without refrigeration. Vaxess Technologies received a $50,000 Grand Prize.
- Runner-Up, Alumni Business Track: Bookalokal, headed by Evelyne White (MBA 2010) and representing the HBS Club of New York, helps travelers and newcomers match up with native hosts over home-cooked meals and other “food events.” Bookalokal received a $25,000 Runner-Up Prize.
- Grand Prize, Alumni Social Enterprise Track: Yaso Biotechnology Inc., founded by Mary Weitzel (MBA 1988) and dedicated to reducing the global epidemic of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies through the development of a unique, woman-controlled prophylactic product. Yaso Biotech received a $50,000 Grand Prize.
Monique Burns Thompson (MBA 1993), president of Teach Plus, and Steven Papa (MBA 1999), founder and CEO of Endeca, presented the student awards.
Alumni awards were given out by Lynn Thoman (MBA 1979), co-president of the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, and Jules Pieri (MBA 1986), founder and CEO of The Grommet.
The Competition began with more than 130 student teams earlier this year, ending with four finalists in each track. One hundred and twenty alumni teams participated, representing HBS Clubs and Associations from cities around the United States and countries around the world. Over time, some 150 judges took part, coming from fields such as venture capital, angel investing, consulting, law, accounting, life sciences, high technology, venture philanthropy, impact investing, social entrepreneurship, and academia.
With more than half of HBS alumni classifying themselves as entrepreneurs 10 to 15 years after graduating from the School, the New Venture Competition is designed to support students and alumni in the process of creating and evaluating new business and social-impact ventures.
Through the NVC, students and alumni pursue a highly inventive and disciplined journey – one that is anchored in a robust learning model and that enables participants to leverage a rich and unique array of educational resources, mentorships, and feedback opportunities to further the development of their ideas, including the Rock Accelerator, which provides funding for new ventures ready to go into the marketplace with a minimum viable product; workshops; and easy access to HBS faculty, Rock Center Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, partner law firms, and outside experts from the business and social enterprise sectors.
According to Laura Moon, Director of the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative, “The New Venture Competition is a vehicle for accelerating innovation for business and society. It is a journey that serves in many ways as a catalyst for both students and alumni, enabling them to pursue and develop ideas, while bringing together people from different backgrounds and with different levels of expertise to form cohesive teams.”
“This is an extraordinary time for entrepreneurship and innovation at Harvard Business School and the University at large,” said Meredith McPherron (MBA 1993), Director of the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship. “It’s not just about launching new ventures; it’s an entrepreneurial mindset – the ability to see problems and solutions, whether in a disruptive new venture or in an established company.”