April 22, 2015

RapidSOS and FOCUS Foods Lead the Way at the 2015 HBS New Venture Competition

"One simple idea can change everything.” That’s the mantra of Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition.

The New Venture Competition serves as a launching pad for Harvard alumni and HBS alumni-created businesses and social-impact ventures. The competition awards cash and in-kind prizes totaling more than $150,000 across alumni and student businesses. These businesses fall into two “tracks”, Business and Social Enterprise.

Professor William Sahlman (MBA ‘75) set the tone for the pitches by offering his perspective on entrepreneurship:

Entrepreneurship can be thought of as a duality of problems and solutions, with entrepreneurs being the ones that think about problems as opportunities.” 

This year’s impressive finalists are...

Business Track:

  • Be Mixed: Natural and zero-calorie mixer for cocktail sipping anytime, anywhere.
  • RapidSOS: Commercializing a suite of advanced communication technologies to revolutionize emergency response and communication.
  • Tagup: Reinventing the way businesses share asset data. Their mission is to provide a web interface between manufacturers and their customers.
  • Watson: Empowers 1099ers by providing automated tax, accounting, health, savings, and insurance services that reduce costs of independent work.

Social Enterprise Track:

  • New Majority Community Labs: Empowering communities of color to identify and solve challenges using big data and organizing tools.
  • Barakat Bundle: A conditional newborn essentials kit that reduces infant and maternal mortality in South Asia
  • FOCUS Foods Inc.: urban aquaponics farms that are self-sustaining symbiotic fish and produce systems
  • Honeycomb Homes: Living and training on the farm to provide sustainable careers for at-risk young adults

And your 2015 New Venture Competition WINNERS are...

Business Track:

  • $50,000 Grand Prize Winner: RapidSOS - Watch the winning pitch HERE
  • $25,000 Runner-Up: Be Mixed

                                                     RapidSOS team accepting their $50,000 grand prize

                                            RapidSOS team accepting their $50,000 Grand Prize 

Social Enterprise Track:

                                                    FOCUS Foods accepting their $50,000 grand prize

                                Julia Kurnik of FOCUS Foods accepting the $50,000 Grand Prize 

Past notable Venture Competition companies include Birchbox, GrabTaxi, The Reset Foundation, and West Africa Vocational Education.

Dean Nitin Nohria wrapped up the event by highlighting the entrepreneurial spirit of Harvard Business School, saying, “Twenty years after graduation, fifty percent of HBS alumni are principals of their own companies.” Given the popularity and ease of starting a company along with the highly competitive nature of top business schools attracting entrepreneurial talent, it’ll be interesting to see how that trend progresses.

Jack Mulvaney is Account Manager for VentureFizzYou can follow Jack on Twitter @JackMulvaney9 and keep up with his latest posts by signing up for the VentureFizz Weekly Email!