18 Mar 2022

Get to Know the 2022 NVC Alumni Track Finalists


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) Finale right around the corner learn more about this year’s Alumni track finalists, including what inspired their venture and how HBS has shaped their entrepreneurial journey.

Tickets are now available for the NVC 2022 Finale on March 31, 6:00 – 7:00 pm.

Nitesh Jain (OPM 48)

Founder and CEO, BeSingular

Additional Team Members:
Siddhartha Jaitly
Kapil Sethi

How did you come up with your idea?
We saw three problems in current education standards:

  • A lack of skill-based education in school systems, with passing exams as the foremost goal. Unfortunately, the current focus is not teaching the skills necessary for the next generation to solve our great global challenges. No one is creating a lifelong learning opportunity that is practical, implementable, and relevant.
  • Social consciousness and the mindset needed to undertake real action and make an impact is missing in today’s students.
  • As a result, we came up with what we think is a way to bridge these gaps—a platform that provides critical skills through an immersive and interdisciplinary set of courses. The programs at BeSingular focus on not only preparing the young minds for a desirable and exciting future, but also inspire them to create it.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    Attending HBS was a life defining moment for me and there is no better way than taking part in the New Venture Competition to show the community what we are doing to empower young adults and shift their mindset. They will create the biggest impact.

    Anil Taneja (MBA 2020)

    Co-Founder and COO, Favarr

    How did you come up with your idea?
    My co-founder and I are both immigrants to the US. Whenever we visit our family in our respective home countries, we usually get requests to bring things which are unavailable locally. Hence while traveling home, we have carried items such as electronics or clothes for our family and friends. We realized that this existing behavior can be effectively harnessed and Favarr (pronounced as Favor) was born. A simple concept already known to a considerable size of the world population aims to disrupt the traditional C2C courier model.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    The HBS NVC has provided us access and exposure to potential mentors and advisors. It will also help us attract funding and has given us the confidence and skills to present to potential VC firms. Moreover, throughout the competition we have received multiple levels of constructive feedback, which has helped us refine our business model.

    Patricio (Pato) Bichara (MBA 2015)

    Founder and CEO, Collective Academy

    How did you come up with your idea?
    I have been working on the talent field in Latin America for more than 12 years. I started at Bain & Company, where in addition to being a consultant, I led the recruitment of analysts at the main universities in Mexico.

    Three years later, at IGNIA as an investment associate, leading the pipeline meetings, I realized that innovative startups in the education sector were not reaching us, despite being one of the top five industries in the region.

    I noticed how Latin America’s business ecosystem was (and still is) evolving at a fast-paced rate, and for the first time, the limiting factor was not access to capital, but managerial and executive talent. Companies were, and still are, struggling to find and upskill their talent. It was at the Harvard i-Lab in 2015, after bringing these ideas together and getting to know first-hand what a first-level education is, that I joined connected the dots and founded Collective Academy, under the premise that higher education and corporate education in Latin America has to evolve to train professionals and managers in the digital age.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    My years at HBS were a breaking point for Collective Academy to be born. I learned first-hand about the importance of a great education, and the competitive advantage it gives to every organization.

    We've been a bootstrapped company so far, and this year we are raising capital to grow further and reach our vision to become Latin America’s top university. Coming back home to compete in the New Venture Competition seemed like the right next step, and to be in a place where education and talent are valued as much as we do at the Collective Academy. Having Harvard's support to help us grow would be invaluable.

    Steven Henderson (MBA 2016)

    CEO, Fleetzero

    Additional Team Members:
    Michael Carter, Co-Founder and COO

    How did you come up with your idea?
    We have a background in ship technology and were so disillusioned by the broader conversation on decarbonizing ocean shipping—we wanted to do something. We started with broad research and calculations on technologies to decarbonize ships and were surprised to find that electrification offers a pathway for zero-emission cargo without needing green premiums, unlike other technologies.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    Getting an MBA at HBS changed the course of my life and career and I was particularly inspired by many of the entrepreneurs I met through the HBS Rock Center. When we started our company, we knew we would one day take part in the NVC.

    Sandeep Pannu (MBA 1997)

    Founder and CEO, OneLibri, Inc.

    Additional Team Members:
    Dr. Susanne DeMeester, MD
    Dr. Anthony Edelman, MD

    How did you come up with your idea?
    After four physician visits, my daughter was finally correctly diagnosed for an auto-immune condition. Wrong treatment plans had made her symptoms much worse, and she suffered needlessly for months. She is not alone. Over one in 10 primary care diagnoses or treatment plans are wrong. That’s 50 million patients every year, in the US alone, who suffer delayed recovery at best and sometimes permanent harm. The reason for this is not incompetence—our physicians are more overworked than ever. Patient loading for our physicians increased by 50 percent in the last decade, visit times have now shrunk to less than 10 minutes, and it keeps getting worse. There are no viable options on the horizon to reverse the shortage of physicians and increase visit times. While I understood the problem very well and really wanted to address it, it took a few years to come up with a workable solution—OneLibri.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    There is an old saying, “When you want to go fast, go alone. When you want to go far, go together.” Our team is transitioning from going fast to going far. The HBS NVC has helped us refine our story, improve our plans, and meet talented people and investors who may join us. We cannot do this alone.

    Mike Teodorescu (DBA 2018)

    Co-Founder and CEO, SurgiBox

    Additional Team Members:
    Julian Greene
    Sashi Jonnalagedda
    Macauley Kenney
    Atif Rakin
    Debbie Teodorescu

    How did you come up with your idea?
    SurgiBox was born out of our physician/engineering/humanitarian team's collective pool of personal experiences trying to provide good care in a wide range of austere settings: field hospitals in post-earthquake Haiti, converted warehouses in Afghanistan, district hospitals in Cameroon, even American ICUs for patients too sick to get to proper surgical facilities. The crosscutting theme for us has been that our patients deserve better than what circumstances traditionally allow, and safe surgery needs to be available at the point of need. A crushed arm can become either a quickly-fixed, quickly-forgotten event, or the start of lifelong pain and disability, depending on the timely availability and quality of surgical care.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    The HBS NVC was a great opportunity for us to gain visibility and introductions to key people at the start of our fundraising round. Additionally, we valued being able to receive feedback from a large and diverse collection of judges, and be exposed to other phenomenal alumni startups in the Boston area

    Karen Caswelch (MBA 1988)

    COO, Archytas Automation

    Additional Team Members:
    Laura Armstrong
    Bobby Caswelch
    Tom Caswelch
    Ravonne Collins
    Araz Madenlian
    Ryan Polk
    Ellis Rugazoora
    Mike Stark

    How did you come up with your idea?
    My co-founder Ryan Polk and I both were interested in commercializing a robot but soon realized that we also wanted to create a business that offered wealth generation opportunities for people. Archytas provides design, manufacturing, installation, training, and ongoing support of automation solutions engineered specifically for our customers’ operation; driving lower operating costs, higher productivity, better quality, less waste, and improved safety.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    One of my classmates won last year, and that inspired me. As my enthusiasm for our business grew, I realized that I wanted to share our vision with more people.

    Asha Haji (MBA 2011)


    How did you come up with your idea?
    In January 2020, my co-founder Riya Pabari and I launched Founders Academy, a nine-month alternative MBA program tailor-made for professionals who wanted to transition into the world of startups. We were inspired to launch the program because of our own previous experiences transitioning into "startupland.” Even though we had both gone to the best universities and worked for top companies, we had found the leap to startups jarring. We chose to launch Founders Academy with an anchor investment from Founders Forum, a private network of some of the world's most dynamic tech leaders, which afforded us access to incredible operators as our faculty community. The program was a great success, garnering a Net Promoter Score of 70 (many people calling it "life changing") with 75 percent of our first cohort accepting full-time offers from our partner companies.

    In running Founders Academy, we discovered that there was a desperate need for further learning and development for the people already working inside tech startups and scaleups. Our founding partners who hired our program associates repeatedly told us that they wished the curriculum we offered was made available to the rest of their existing teams. While they gave their teams discretionary learning and development budgets, only an average of 20 percent of them were utilized. We dug deeper to find out why, and after speaking to hundreds of startup employees, we discovered three key pain points with current learning solutions: lack of time, lack of guidance, and being overwhelmed by choice. This was our lightbulb moment to seriously explore a new offering to serve their needs.

    From our conversations, we knew that a mobile-first, bite-sized learning experience that provided an on-demand curriculum and community of like-minded professionals would be highly attractive for this audience. We also knew that if we transitioned from a service-led model to a much more saleable product-led model, the scope of our impact could be enormous. With those insights, we rebranded as Framework, raised $2 million in seed funding and are now deploying our brand-new learning experience to a highly engaged beta community.

    Why the HBS New Venture Competition?
    It would be a great honor for us to be recognized as the global winners of the HBS Alumni New Venture Competition. As a business education platform, our mission is fully aligned with the school's—"educating leaders who make a difference in the world." Framework's members are actively building the future, yet they are woefully underserved in the knowledge, resources, and networks that can help them navigate the rapid scaling journey. Professor Jeff Bussgang's book, Entering Startupland, has served as inspiration for our curriculum, and we believe even deeper connections forged with the Rock Center and the HBS community through this competition would help us deliver transformative outcomes for our members and beyond.

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