31 Oct 2011

Harvard Business School Announces First-Round Winners for Minimum Viable Product Funding

Seven student teams receive financial assistance from student start-up competition

BOSTON—Harvard Business School's (HBS) Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship has announced seven winners of the first round of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Funding for the 2011-2012 academic year, offering a total of $50,000 in total awards to student entrepreneurs.

The MVP Fund was started last year by MBA students Dan Rumennik, Jess Bloomgarden, and Andrew Rosenthal, and funded by the Rock Center. It is based on the premise of the Lean Startup methodology, which focuses on rapid prototyping, a process that brings products to market as quickly as possible. This methodology has been advanced and popularized by Eric Ries, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at HBS, who advises students and collaborates with faculty members on research and course development.

This academic year, the Rock Center is offering two rounds of MVP Fund awards. Submissions for the first round were due September 30 and were open only to second-year MBA students. Forty-eight teams, each with at least one current Harvard second-year MBA student, submitted entries. Submissions for the second round of funding, which is open to both first-year and second-year students, is due January 20, 2012.

Funded teams are required to meet with a mentor on a monthly basis, attend a monthly gathering of other MVP teams, and present lessons learned from the MVP program at the end of the semester.

"In last year's pilot of the MVP Fund program, we were impressed by the number and quality of entries we received," said Tom Eisenmann, the Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration in the HBS Entrepreneurial Management Unit. "We are pleased to be able to double the size of the fund to $100,000 and offer two rounds of awards this academic year, to support more of the extraordinary entrepreneurial ideas our students are generating."

The seven winning entries (with their founders) are:

  • BeautyX (Jamira Cotton, HBS 2012): A social shopping site where women of color can discover beauty products based on user photos and reviews.
  • Colectivo (Jeremy Doutte, HBS 2012, Antoine Bonnier and Antonin Blanc): An online group purchasing organization that allows small and medium-sized businesses to leverage their joint purchasing power to benefit from large discounts.
  • CPGlink.com (Benn Manning, HBS 2012): An online business-to-business service platform that connects small- to mid-size domestic manufacturers with independent sales representatives and other companies that support the consumer packaged goods industry.
  • Eksis (David Sokoler, HBS 2012): An online platform that utilizes Facebook's social networking technology to connect job seekers and employers in Indonesia.
  • Excelegrade (Jason Brein and Lauren Miller, both HBS 2012): An online software platform that allows K-12 teachers to design standards-based assessments, administer tests on mobile devices, automatically track student performance, conduct rigorous data analyses, and create individualized progress reports.
  • FeedBx (Maya Farah and George Audi, both HBS 2012): A new sampling channel for small and medium manufacturers in the food and beverage industry.
  • Tenth & Taylor (Cynthia Samanian, HBS 2012): An online home decor platform that efficiently bridges the gap between design inspiration and product purchase for consumers.

Among the many HBS graduates who have founded successful business ventures are Marla Malcolm Beck (MBA 1998), founder of bluemercury; Michael Bloomberg (MBA 1963), founder of Bloomberg L.P.; Marc C. Cenedella (MBA 1998), founder, president, and CEO of TheLadders.com; Scott Cook (MBA 1976), chairman and cofounder of Intuit; Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss (both MBA 2009), cofounders of Rent the Runway; Rajil Kapoor (MBA 1996), cofounder and former chairman and CEO of Snapfish; Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson (both MBA 2004), cofounders of Gilt Groupe; Christopher Michel (MBA 1998), founder of Military.com; Tom Stemberg (MBA 1973), founder of Staples; and Jeremy Stoppelman (MBA 2005), CEO and cofounder of Yelp.

About The Arthur Rock Center:

The Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship was created through the generosity of prominent venture capitalist Arthur Rock (MBA '51), who 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 outreach efforts to extend the impact of the School's extensive work in this field. HBS offered the country's first business school course in entrepreneurship in 1947 and, today, entrepreneurship is one of the largest faculty units at the School, with over 30 faculty members conducting entrepreneurship research and teaching. The Rock Center works closely with the HBS California Research Center in Silicon Valley on entrepreneurship-related research and course development efforts.


Kristen Raymaakers

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.