15 Mar 2022

Get to Know Past NVC Winners: RapidSOS


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) Finale right around the corner and in celebration of the competition’s 25 years at Harvard Business School, we caught up with some of the past participants across the three tracks (Alumni, Student Business, and Social Enterprise) to learn more about how NVC and their time at HBS helped shape their entrepreneurial journey.

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

Student Business Track

Michael Martin, Founder and CEO, RapidSOS

NVC team:
Michael Martin (MBA 2015)
Jessica Reed (MBA 2016)
Rebecca Scharfstein (MBA/MPP 2018)

What inspired you to start your company or organization?
In late 2012 and early 2013 two experiences touched me and my family directly around the challenges of reaching 911 in an emergency. Those experienced sparked the idea of RapidSOS, but it was really the work over the past 9+ years in close collaboration with thousands of first responders which would be the continuous inspiration to keep pushing through all the challenges.

How has HBS helped with your entrepreneurial journey?
HBS and the Rock Center were there for every step of our journey at RapidSOS - from our earliest days cold calling 911 centers across the United States to hiring our early team and launching out of HBS and MIT in 2015.

What part of the NVC journey was most helpful for your team?
Iterating on core elements of our business model with some of Harvard's top alumni entrepreneurs was like getting through three start-ups worth of mistakes and missteps in three months.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Continuous learning is what drives you forward, passion is what fuels you.

What is a failure that you experienced as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it?
Our whole first product was a failure - neither side of our two-sided platform wanted the product. But the success or failure of that initial MVP was not nearly as important as learning from the why. The failure ultimately led to our updated technology approach and business model that today links 400M+ devices to most 911 centers across North America, supporting 165M+ emergencies annually.

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