Campus & Community

HBS holds annual Business Plan Contest

5 min read

Harvard Business School (HBS) held the final round of its 11th annual Business Plan Contest late last month in the School’s Burden Auditorium. The contest began this past January with a total of 62 student teams, eight of which made it through the various stages of judging to the final round of presentations. Four of these teams were in the traditional business track and the remaining four were in the social enterprise track, reserved for ventures with a primarily social agenda.

The judges, representing an array of venture capital, law, and accounting firms, selected second-year HBS master of business administration candidate Sandra Nudelman and her sister, Michele, a student at Washington University Law School in St. Louis, as the first place winners in the traditional track for their business plan for a product called Judicial Intelligence. A suite of computer-based tools, Judicial Intelligence will help litigators strategically analyze the opinions of judges they will face in court. HBS assistant professor Mukti Khaire served as the team’s faculty adviser.

In the social enterprise track, the winning team was Unite for Health! — made up of Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) research fellow Onil Bhattacharyya, HSPH graduate student Lingling Zhang, and Harvard Medial Student Anna Chodos. Looking toward China, the Unite for Health! team hopes to reduce the instances of heart disease in that country by providing training in innovative, simple, and effective treatment and by working with existing neighborhood organizations to promote heart-healthy behavior. Their adviser was Kennedy School of Government lecturer Gordon Bloom.

Each first-place team received $10,000 in cash and $10,000 in legal and accounting services. As winners of the traditional track, the Judicial Intelligence team also walked away with the Dubilier Prize, which honors the late Martin Dubilier M.B.A. ’52, cofounder of Clayton, Dubilier, and Rice, one of the premier leveraged buyout firms in the United States. The Peter M. Sacerdote Prize went to the Unite for Health! team. Established by Peter Sacerdote M.B.A. ’64 in honor of his 40th reunion at HBS, the prize fund is meant to encourage Business School students to apply their skills to develop and launch social purpose ventures.

Additionally, the judges named a total of four runner-up teams (three from the traditional track and one from the social enterprise track). HBS Professor James Heskett served as a faculty adviser for all three of the traditional track teams, which are listed below.

C3 BioEnergy (Tracy Mathews, HBS; Curt Fischer, M.I.T.; Andrew Peterson, M.I.T.) will produce bio-propane for the $21 billion U.S. propane market, offering the only economically competitive, domestically produced, renewable source of this clean-burning fuel.

Clear Suppliers (Alex Zhang and Paul Morgenthaler, both of HBS), already in operation in Germany and China, is a global supply chain “infomediary” for manufacturers.

Katherine Kwei (Elenor Mak and Ying Soong, both of HBS) is a young luxury handbag company. Their business plan aims to help the company make a mark in this multimillion-dollar industry.

HBS senior lecturer Stacey Childress served as the faculty adviser for Charitable Donations Group, the social enterprise runner-up. Charitable Donations Group (Matt Scherrer and Paris Wallace, both of HBS) intends to raise millions of dollars for nonprofits in Boston and other locations by helping them accept and liquidate real estate transactions.

All four runners-up received $5,000 in cash and $5,000 in services, plus the Satchu-Burgstone Entrepreneurship Award, endowed by Jon Burstone M.B.A. ’99, Asif Satchu M.B.A. ’99, and Reza Satchu M.B.A. ’96. Named runners-up in the 1999 contest, these alumni went on to achieve commercial success with their plan for, an online marketplace for buying and selling manufactured direct materials.

“This contest is especially near and dear to my heart,” said HBS Dean Jay Light. “It reflects the intense interest of our alumni in new ventures. Ten to 15 years after graduation, about half of our alumni describe themselves as entrepreneurs. But the statistics for Business Contest participants go beyond that. Two-thirds of them start their own business only five to seven years after they graduate, and half of that group is working on an idea they first formulated for our Business Plan Contest. Year after year, I am amazed and inspired by the quality of the work I see at this event.”

Past participants, for example, have gone on to create successful enterprises such as Bang Networks, a leading provider of technologies and services for using the Internet; Magellan Distribution Corp., an independent distributor of electronic components; Finale, a restaurant in Boston and Cambridge specializing in upscale desserts; and New Leaders for New Schools, a national nonprofit organization devoted to improving education for all children by attracting and preparing the next generation of outstanding leaders for urban public schools.

Organized by the HBS Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, and HBS students in the Entrepreneurship Club and Social Enterprise Club, the Business Plan Contest provides an integrative learning experience for participants, drawing on all facets of the Harvard M.B.A. curriculum. It is one of several special programs funded by the Rock Center, which was created through the generosity of pioneering venture capitalist Arthur Rock M.B.A. ’51.

In 2003, Rock donated $25 million to HBS to support the entrepreneurship faculty and their research, fellowships for M.B.A. and doctoral students, symposia and conferences, and new outreach efforts to extend the impact of the School’s extensive work in this field. To further contribute to its research and course development efforts, HBS also established the California Research Center in Silicon Valley in 1997.