Amid the bright lights, music and glitter in Harvard Business School’s Burden auditorium last week, entrepreneurs came out in force to compete in the grand finale of the 20th annual HBS New Venture Competition.
Pitching before a group of distinguished judges, many of them HBS graduates, the participants were competing for awards totaling more than $300,000 in cash, along with in-kind prizes.
Hosted each year by the School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and its Social Enterprise Initiative, the competition is open to all students and alumni interested in launching new business and social impact ventures. This year, 283 teams entered the competition — 63 in the student business track, 49 in the student social enterprise track, and 171 teams from 30 countries in the alumni track.
“The New Venture Competition is the capstone event for HBS entrepreneurs,” said Jodi Gernon, director of the Arthur Rock Center. “Since its inception in 1997, nearly 5,000 people have participated.”
The event marked the growing interest in entrepreneurship at Ivy League business schools. In 2012, just 3% of HBS’ MBA class started a company, but last year, 7% did. The Rock Center was established with a $25 million donation from the venture capitalist Arthur Rock in 2003. Its aim is to galvanize the entrepreneurial community at HBS, through support, access to valuable resources, and a gateway to entrepreneurial ecosystems everywhere.
Past winners of Harvard’s business plan competitions have gone on to achieve much, such as Birchbox, which offers consumers a monthly box filled with a curated assortment of the hottest samples from high-end beauty brands. Hayley Barna and Katia Ververis founded that company in 2010, the same year they graduated from the HBS MBA program. It has since raised $86.9 million in venture capital from investors including Accel Partners, which backed Facebook and Dropbox.
The event also highlights the growing desire among MBAs to have “an impact” in their careers. Harvard’s Social Enterprise Initiative aims to educate, support and inspire leaders across all sectors to tackle society’s toughest challenges and make a difference in the world.
Here are some of the hottest startups coming out of HBS’ New Venture Competition:
Student Business Track
The Dubilier $75,000 Grand Prize: Veho, which aims to replace large delivery trucks with a platform that enables anyone to deliver packages in his or her car. Team: Itamar Zur (MBA 2017), Matt Graham (MBA 2017), Keith Cheong (MBA 2018)
Satchu-Burgstone $25,000 Runner-Up Prize: CozyKin, which helps working parents seeking infant childcare by pairing families so that they can share in-home Montessori care offered by the new venture’s network of technology-enabled nannies. Team: Jeremy Au (MBA 2018)
Student Social Enterprise Track
Peter M. Sacerdote $75,000 Grand Prize: Flare, which is reinventing personal security by creating technology-enabled safety devices for women. Team: Quinn Fitzgerald (MBA 2017), Sara de Zarraga (MBA 2017)
Peter M. Sacerdote $25,000 Runner-Up Prize: Juva Therapy, which effectively connects mental health patients to providers best suited to their needs. Team: Stephanie Tong (MBA 2018), Qian Qian Tang, (MBA 2018)
$75,000 Grand Prize: Apli, a Mexican talent agency that delivers qualified on-demand workers in 24 hours. Alumna: Vera Makarov (MBA 2010), Region: Latin America
$25,000 Runner-Up: Vention, a platform that allows businesses to design and order custom manufacturing equipment online via 3-D printing, with delivery in three days instead of several months. Alumnus: Etienne Lacroix (MBA 2011), Region: Canada