24 Apr 2012

Harvard Business School Taps Four Alumni Businesses

Record number of start-ups compete
(LtoR) Sidhant Jena (MBA’11), Dean Nitin Nohria, Angela Newnam (MBA’96) Photo: Russ Campbell

BOSTON—Harvard Business School has announced the winners of its annual worldwide competition for alumni entrepreneurs, with a theme of leveraging new technologies.

Emerging from 130 global entries, Knock out! founder Angela Newnam (MBA 1996) received the $50,000 grand prize for new ventures. In the social sector, HBS named Sidhant Jena (MBA 2011), CEO and cofounder of Jana Care, its 2012 Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, with an award of $25,000.

Newnam's Knock out! line of high-performance undergarments for men and women bring moisture-absorbing, odor-control properties to comfortable cotton products. The company's innovative fabrics are available in t-shirts, underwear, and other garments in 250 retailers and e-tailers in the United States and Canada. With a textile background, Newnam believes the market for enhanced natural fibers is significant and has worked to ensure that manufacturing is US-based. Initial demand for the company's panties, designed to provide active clothing protection, has led to products for men, all using patented "NoTrace" technology. Launched in 2011, Knock out! sold 20,000 units in its first year.

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Selected from a record number of social-change ventures, Jena was honored for using technology "to democratize diabetes management." A leading cause of death and disability, diabetes affects nearly 250 million people in the developing world. His start-up, Jana Care, has developed a tiny attachment that transforms any mobile phone into a glucose monitor, allowing patients to test blood sugar and transmit results to their physician for feedback on diet, nutrition, and medication. Jena will use his grant from HBS to advance his work. The company has a clinical pilot underway in southern India and aims to reach 5,000 diabetes sufferers over the next year.

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Now in its fourth year, the annual HBS competition features two tracks: the New Venture Contest, with local contests held by participating Alumni Clubs around the world, and the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship, for alumni ventures addressing social challenges. With more than half of HBS alumni classifying themselves as entrepreneurs at some point in their lives, the competition supports alumni launching new businesses and social-impact ventures.

In the New Venture Contest, TrophoMax cofounder Stephen Kahn (MBA 1976) was named the runner-up, receiving a $25,000 prize. TrophoMax is an agricultural biotech company working with a naturally occurring, beneficial bacteria to improve plant and horticultural yield. Recognizing the strength of this year's social ventures, judges awarded honorable mention to Esther Hsu Wang (MBA 2010) and Paul Wang (MBA 2011), founding partners of IDinsight, a start-up that helps development organizations create rigorous field experiments to optimize financial resources. Recognition also went to Jonathan Assayag (MBA 2010), a New Venture finalist from Brazil with Lema21, and Brandon Molina (MBA 2010), who was named "Crowd Choice" in an online poll for his venture, Swing by Swing Golf.

The winners were announced as part of the School's 16th annual student Business Plan Contest, after which the alumni competition is modeled. While on campus, alumni teams received mentoring from HBS faculty members and participated in networking and educational sessions. Finalists were judged by a panel of HBS faculty members and alumni from fields such as venture capital, consulting, law, accounting, life sciences, and technology. Cooley LLP of Boston provided legal services for the competition.

Recent winners have included US and international entrepreneurs, working on a wide range of social and traditional ventures, who have gone on to raise significant funding and impact the lives of thousands worldwide. Among the honorees are Elizabeth Scharpf (MBA 2007), founder of Sustainable Health Enterprises; Krishna Mahesh (MBA 2005), CEO of Sundaram Medical Devices; Privahini Bradoo (MBA 2008), cofounder of Biomine; Darren Brehm (MBA 2007), founder of AbilityTrip; and Abigail Falik (MBA 2008), founder of Global Citizen Year.

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.