In a series of presentations in Burden Auditorium, teams of students recently presented their ideas and dreams for entrepreneurial success at the final round of Harvard Business School’s (HBS) 13th annual Business Plan Contest. A record 93 teams entered the competition this past January, and over time the panels of judges from fields such as venture capital, consulting, law, accounting, life sciences, and high technology reduced the field to the eight semifinalists (four teams in the for-profit track and four in the social enterprise track), before ultimately announcing one winner from each track.
In the traditional track, second-year M.B.A. students Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn received top honors as the entrepreneurs behind CloudFlare, a Web security venture that will enable Web sites to protect themselves from online attacks. William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration Tom Eisenmann served as the team’s faculty adviser.
In the social enterprise track, the winner was EGG-Tech, a start-up that aims to provide a battery charging and swapping subscription service to households in Tanzania, where 35 million people live without electricity. In a country where kerosene is often the dangerous energy substitute of choice, this venture will provide a cheaper, safer, and more convenient alternative energy source. Advised by Daniel Isenberg, senior lecturer of business administration at HBS, the EGG-Tech team included Emmanuel Cassimatis, Alla Jezmir, and Benjamin Lambert, all members of the HBS M.B.A. Class of 2009, as well as Jamie Yang, a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and MIT doctoral students Jukka Valimaki and Blandine Antoine.
Winning teams in each track received $25,000 in cash and $25,000 of in-kind accounting and legal services. In addition, following a tradition that began nine years ago, the CloudFlare team received the Dubilier Prize, which honors the late Martin Dubilier, M.B.A. ’52, co-founder of the prominent leveraged buyout firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, and the EGG-Tech team received the Peter M. Sacerdote Prize, established by Sacerdote, M.B.A. ’64, in honor of his 40th reunion at Harvard Business School to encourage HBS students to apply their skills to develop and launch social-purpose ventures.
Three traditional track runners-up:
Novophage Therapeutics will commercialize a new and more effective therapy to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections (Ann DeWitt, HBS; Tanguy Chau, Michael Koeris, and Timothy Lu, Novophage Therapeutics). The faculty adviser was Gary Pisano, the Harry E. Figgie Jr. Professor of Business Administration at HBS.
Vox Insurance will offer automobile owners in the United States who drive fewer than 12,000 miles a year the benefits of an innovative insurance company that provides lower rates and superior customer service, while encouraging people to help the environment by driving less in order to take advantage of their services (Michael Newton and Jon Altman, HBS). The faculty adviser was Mukti Khaire, assistant professor of business administration at HBS.
YouTea! will offer an over-the-counter beverage — first in powdered form, then in a bottle — that will provide a low-calorie, low-acidic solution to urinary tract infections (Alex Herzlinger, Nimmi Roche, and Tina Wu, HBS; Ashkan Kamali, MIT). The team was advised by Robert Higgins, senior lecturer of business administration at HBS.
Runner-up in social enterprise track:
Doodh Bhandar hopes to transform the lives of 1 million rural poor in India by creating a market-based solution to increase the productivity of their cattle (Siddharth Tata, HBS; and Shalaka Joshi). V. Kasturi Rangan, the Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration, served as the adviser.
The runners-up received $10,000 in cash and $10,000 of in-kind services, as well as the Satchu-Burgstone Entrepreneurship Award, which was endowed by Jon Burgstone, M.B.A. ’99, Asif Satchu, M.B.A. ’99, and Reza Satchu, M.B.A. ’96, in 2001. After being named runners-up in the 1999 contest, these alumni went on to achieve considerable commercial success with their plan for SupplierMarket.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling manufactured materials.
Past participants in the HBS Business Plan Contest have created many successful companies such as Diagnostic-For-All, a nonprofit enterprise that has developed a low-cost, paper-based “lab-on-a-chip” for diagnosing diseases in poor regions around the globe; EyeView, which helps Web sites convert visitors into customers; Good Start Genetics, which is developing a low-cost, pre-pregnancy test for multiple genetic disorders; Finale, a Boston-area chain of four upscale restaurants specializing in fine 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.
Run under the auspices of the HBS Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and the Social Enterprise Initiative, the HBS Business Plan Contest is the capstone of the School’s extensive M.B.A. entrepreneurship curriculum, providing an integrative learning experience for all participants. The prime objectives of the contest are to educate students in the process of creating and evaluating new business ventures, prepare them for opportunities in traditional and social entrepreneurship during their careers, and harness the unique resources that HBS offers.
The contest is one of several special programs funded by the Rock Center, which was created through the generosity of prominent venture capitalist Arthur Rock, M.B.A. ’51. In 2003, he 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 the heart of Silicon Valley in 1997.