Campus & Community

HBS contest features social enterprise

3 min read

The bubble may have burst on dot-coms, but entrepreneurship is alive and flourishing at Harvard Business School (HBS). A total of eight teams of students – half of them representing social enterprise ventures – competed in the final round of the fifth annual HBS Business Plan Contest on Monday, April 30.

The two winning teams – Potentia Pharmaceuticals and Low Cost Eyeglasses – represented for the first time separate tracks for traditional and social enterprise contenders. Both teams addressed important global health care issues.

Potentia Pharmaceuticals proposed a way to help drug companies in the development of new products, 90 percent of which now fail in the clinical testing phase.

Low Cost Eyeglasses, which represented the social enterprise track, developed a solution to meet the needs of the 1 billion people in the developing world who need eyeglasses but can’t afford them.

Each winning team received $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in in-kind professional services. As the winner of the traditional track, Potentia Pharmaceuticals also won the Dubilier Prize, established in honor of the late Martin Dubilier, M.B.A. ’52, and cofounder of the leveraged buyout firm of Clayton, Dubilier, and Rice.

Contest runners-up represented new ventures in wireless technology and next-generation optical test and measurement technology. The social enterprise runner-up will provide goods and services to Mexico’s low-income housing market.

Forty-one teams, involving approximately 100 HBS students, submitted plans to the contest, 11 of them in social enterprise. More than 30 HBS faculty served as advisers.

Two separate panels of judges drawn from areas such as venture capital and nonprofit consulting determined the winning teams.

Among those addressing the large audience in Burden auditorium were two of last year’s winning team members, Bob Rosin and Sarah Boatman, both graduates of the Class of 2000 and cofounders of Bang Networks, a developer of an intelligent routing network for the Internet. Former runner-up Jon Burgstone ’99, cofounder of, recently purchased by Ariba, urged students not to be discouraged by the gyrations of the stock market. “The quality of people wanting to join new ventures is still high,” Burgstone said, “and there is a high level of satisfaction to be had from creating something.”

The HBS Business Plan Contest is the capstone of the School’s extensive entrepreneurship curriculum. The contest aims to educate students in the process of creating and evaluating new business ventures; to prepare them for opportunities in traditional and social entrepreneurship during their careers; and to harness the unique resources that HBS offers.

The addition of the social enterprise track reflects the considerable interest among HBS students in entities with a social purpose. In 1994, with the support of the John C. Whitehead Fund for Not-for-Profit Managers, HBS launched its Initiative on Social Enterprise to develop programs for both Harvard M.B.A. candidates and executive education participants.