17 Apr 2020

HBS New Venture Competition: Entrepreneurs Innovate in a Time of Crisis


BOSTON—Late yesterday afternoon, video screens around the world were glowing as the winners of the 23rd annual HBS New Venture Competition (NVC) were announced. This year’s finale, which was all virtual in this COVID-19 era, featured 20 student and alumni finalist teams vying for $300,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. The top prize in the student business, student social enterprise, and alumni tracks was $75,000 each.

The Harvard Business School New Venture Competition is open to all students and alumni interested in launching new business and social impact ventures. The School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and its Social Enterprise Initiative, in partnership with HBS Alumni Clubs & Associations, organizes the annual competition. This year, 241 teams entered the virtual competition—71 in the Student Business Track, 53 in the Student Social Enterprise Track, and 122 Alumni Track teams in eight regional competitions around the world. Since its inception in 1997, there have been more than 6,000 participants, and almost $3 million has been awarded to the students and alumni who are creating groundbreaking new businesses and social impact ventures.

“In these very unusual times, innovation and entrepreneurship are more important than ever,” noted Jodi Gernon (MBA 1991), director of the Arthur Rock Center. “These winners will help to drive growth as we begin to come out on the other side of this pandemic and its related economic slump.”

“When we talk about the NVC, we talk about being adaptive, forming partnerships, collaborating, testing, experimenting, and pivoting when we need to,” said Laura Moon, managing director of the HBS Initiatives. “We are so proud of all the student teams that participated, adapted, and really discovered the strength of their commitment to the ideas they are pursuing.”

HBS Professor Shikhar Ghosh, faculty co-chair of the Arthur Rock Center, asked the participants to consider the similarities between General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Disney, Microsoft and What's App, Uber, Slack, AirBnb, Instagram. “All of these companies were founded in bear markets and recessions,” said Ghosh. “If you look at successful companies measured by the Inc. or Fortune 500, what you find is that well over half were created during recessions. When there are a lot of uncertainties and stress in the system, it’s one of the best times to create a company.”

Executive Dean for Administration Angela Crispi, on the call with a Klarman Hall Zoom backdrop, welcomed and thanked the teams. “Nothing will stop us from being together or hinder us from doing what needs to be done. This is a moment for ingenuity. We're accelerating into the future right now, and you are the future—your ideas will accelerate us,” said Crispi.

In addition to the $300,000 in cash prizes, sponsors have donated in-kind tools and services that will help the startups launch and grow. In-kind sponsors are Airtable, Amazon Web Services Activate Credit, Hub Spot for Startups, Google Cloud for Startups, Sketch, CASE Smart Impact Capital, MassChallenge, Foley Hoag LLP, and Harvard i-labs.

This year’s winners are:

Student Business Track

Alife Health, Inc.

Helps doctors select the healthiest embryo(s) for assisted reproductive therapy.
Team: Paxton Maeder-York (MBA 2020)

The Dubilier prize was established by New York and London-based private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in 1998 in honor of their founder, Martin Dubilier (MBA 1952), to support entrepreneurship.

For the first time in the history of the NVC, the prize will be split equally between two runner-up winners.

A digitally-native, vertically integrated e-commerce fashion brand that provides the best online shopping fashion experience for customers in the Middle-East and North Africa. Team: Yazan Halwani (MBA 2020)
Watch their pitch


A customer partnership platform helping B2B SaaS companies provide world-class onboarding to new customers.
Team: Ross Lerner (MBA 2020)
Watch their pitch

The Satchu-Burgstone Prize honors 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.


Tune Bio
Unlocks next-generation gene therapies through regulatory element engineering.
Team: Kristina Wang (MBA 2020)

This is the inaugural year for the Frontier Technology Prize, sponsored by the Rock Center in collaboration with the HBS Digital, Health Care, and Business and Environment Initiatives, to recognize challenging tech and science startups from HBS.

Student Social Enterprise Track


Provides a complete picture of a patient's health data across the continuum of care.
Team: Sarah Schewe (HBS 2020)

The Sacerdote Prizes were initially established in 2003 by Peter M. Sacerdote (MBA 1964) to encourage more HBS graduates to become involved in social enterprises and to support their efforts.


Combats loneliness and helps to develop emotional and social intelligence for isolated pediatric patients using immersive Virtual Reality (VR) technology.
Team: Jean Jung (HSPH 2020), Mayank Aranke (HSPH 2020), Osaze Udeagbala, Jay Lee
Watch their pitch

Alumni Track

$75,000 GRAND PRIZE:
Foodology Inc.

The largest virtual restaurant group in Latin America.
Team: Juan Azuero (HBS 2019), Daniela Izquierdo (HBS 2019)

Vena Vitals

Improves cardiovascular health through continuous blood pressure monitoring.
Team: Ray Liu (HBS 2010)
Watch their pitch

For information about all New Venture Competition finalist teams, please visit:

Social Enterprise Track Finalists

Business Track Finalists

Alumni Track Finalists

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.