The 15th annual $150,000 Harvard Business Plan Contest kicked off at 4:30pm sharp today at Burden Auditorium. HBS students arrived early, decked out in full suits, shaking hands, and offering one another the best of luck. Many darted with anxiety up to the audio visual crew to make certain their slides were in the queue, others hopped on stage for a quick photo opportunity, and some scooted to the basement for last minute pitch run-throughs. One thing rang certain as I sat in the auditorium and took in the precursor to the capstone of Harvard Business School’s MBA Entrepreneurship curriculum: Each team was fully prepared to win. And when I heard the pitches, I was even more impressed with the teams and their extraordinary (as in big) ideas.

The annual Business Plan contest kicked off this January with 63 teams submitting business plans. A long list of judges narrowed the list down to 12 business track semi finalist teams and 16 social venture track semi finalist teams earlier this spring. These were judged again, and 5 finalist teams were selected from the business plan track and 4 from the  social venture track. Each of these 9 teams pitched today on stage to an (almost) full auditorium. Up for grabs:

  • Business Venture Track, 1st Place Winners (2 this year): $25,000 in cash and in-kind legal services
  • Business Venture Track, Runner-Ups (3 this year): $10,000 in cash and in-kind services
  • Social Venture Track, 1st Place Winner: $25,000 in cash and $25,000 in in-kin consulting and legal services
  • Social Venture Track Runner-Up: $10,000 in cash and $10,000 of in-kind services

The finalists and winners of the 2011 Harvard Business Plan Contest:

Business Venture Track


From the Pitch: These cousins want to bring consumables that are low cost, high volume and durables that are low volume, high cost to Brazil. It is tough for people in cities in Brazil to find baby products, yet search traffic for these goods soar in the region. The company is partnering with a third party warehousing and distribution company in Brazil who also does business for people like Wal-Mart, and the duo expects to generate $130 million in 5 years. Their case study here in the US: Their case study in Brazil: – essentially the Zappos of Brazil which is growing like a weed. Investors include people like Ron Conway of SV Bank.

The Boilerplate: “Brazil’s one-stop-shop for baby products online, offering the deepest selection, lowest prices and free 24 hour delivery. We’re changing the lives of Brazilian moms one click at a time.”

Team Members: Kimball Thomas and Davis Smith


From the Pitch: This company has revolutionized spinal fusion with a new tool. After a painful (pun intended) description of what spinal fusion is and the current solutions out there, we learned more about the tool this team has created. Results from the device include lower costs and less pain for the patient, among other positive outcomes. The company has already lined up three MD’s from Johns Hopkins Medical Institute on their clinical teams, having already moved into the clinical testing phase. Discussions with the FDA are well under way and the team expects to be in the market by the first quarter of 2013. (PS: They’re looking for a CEO.)

The Boilerplate: “BOSS Medical is developing a revolutionary minimally invasive device for the extraction of iliac crest bone graft during spinal fusion procedures. It will improve procedures by reducing patient morbidity while achieving gold-standard fusion rates.”

Team Members: Romish Badani, Derek Poppinga, Haim Gottfried, Maxim Budyansky, Neil Shah, Peter Truskey, and Shoval Dekel

RUNNER UP: Ubiquitous Energy

From the Pitch: This company wants you to imagine that energy is as ubiquitous as paper. Their technology literally converts paper into solar panels that can generate energy. The technique was developed at MIT, and is extraordinarily versatile, flexible, disposible and low cost – allowing the company to integrate the materials into every day products from curtains and blinds to clothing. Ubiquitous Energy has already been featured on CNN, CNET and hopes to continue to create buzz moving forward, with plans for a full product portfolio with the every day products mentioned above. Their first product: SolSheets – paper solar panels that can charge a phone in 3-6 hours and which is completely disposable. The company is already in talks with Nokia for a pilot in Kenya.

The Boilerplate: “Ubiquitous Energy distributes electricity to “off-grid” communities worldwide via low cost paper solar panels that are easy to use and can be interconnected over time.”

Team Members: Bart Howe, Miles Barr, Erdin Beshimov, Jutta Friedichs, Nathan Trujillo


From the Pitch: Taxis in Malysia take forever (20 minutes longer to arrive than here in the US) and are NOT safe, as the we in the audience learned from newspaper clippings spread across the presentation deck. MyTeksi is looking to use the smartphone to connect dispatcher, passenger, and driver to transform the taxi industry in Malaysia similar to how it has been done here in the US and in Europe. Their system optimizes the matching process to speed up the time for taxi drivers to reach passengers – all from right within a mobile app. The app will also allow real-time tracking and eventually feedback and ratings of drivers.

The Boilerplate: “MyTeksi has the vision of revamping the Malaysian taxi market by introducing simple yet effective low cost mobile based technology to both the supply (dispatch companies) and demand (passenger) sides of the distribution chain.”

Team Members: Anthony Tan, Hooi Ling Tan, and Adeline Chan


From the Pitch: This team hopes to revolutionize workforce management. Their solution breaks current rigid schedules in shift structure, using algorithms to forecast employee demand and thereby reducing the maximum billed hours by up to 20% for businesses. The market for this? Well, currently $1B is spent annually in the US on shift-based workforces. The company is targeting SMBs, and is using a SaaS model versus a licensing model used by competitors. They company has already piloted this in two hospitals in Israel and 20 restaurants here in Boston. They expect to be a $30M company in 5 years.

The Boilerplate: “Qweek is a fully automatic cloud solution for workforce optimization and management. Qweek helps business achieve significant savings by breaking traditional rigid shift scheduling and using dynamic shifts to align workforce supply with demand.”

Team Members: Roman Itskovich, Anita Venkiteswaran, Alexander Ginzburg, and Daniel Rubinstein

Social Venture Track

WINNER: Sana Care

From the Pitch: This company sees the mobile phone as the backbone of the future of preventative disease recognition. 17 million people die in the developed world every year from cardiovascular diseases, and most of these deaths can be prevented if diagnosed early enough. But devices like ECG machines are expensive, hard to find and require expertise — especially in the developing world. Sana Care plans to turn your phone into a medical device with some code and a $50 sensor. (That compares to upwards of $5,000 for ECG machines.) The app allows anyone to triage patients and send the results anywhere in the world for diagnosis – like to a Doctor who can diagnosis the data he receives. The company is currently piloting in India, and they plan to commercialize the technology in 100 clinics to reach 75,000 patients by the end of the  year.

The Boilerplate: “Provide remote cardiac diagnostic services in the emerging markets, which account for 80% of global cardiovascular disease burden. Our proprietary software and low-cost wireless sensor converts any mobile phone into a diagnostic platform capable of performing ECG, Heart/Lung Sounds and colorimetric tests and transmitting to a specialist for feedback.”

Team Members: Sidhant Jena, Anshuman Sharma, and Ikaro Silva

RUNNER UP: The Watt Campaign

From the Pitch: This company believes behavior change is just as important to saving energy as technological change. Their vision: To save schools $1B in energy savings, and in doing so enable students to be the advocates of change. The company has developed a program so any student can create an energy campaign at their school – connecting them with other students, mentors, and professors with the same goal in mind. To back this up, they are providing a software platform to help organize, educate, analyze and socialize these campaigns.

The Boilerplate: “The Watt Campaign is a rapidly scaling for-profit social enterprise that mobilizes high school students to jumpstart effective energy efficiency initiatives in their schools and communities.”

Team Members: Luke Winston, Rony Kubat, and Stephen Elliot


From the Pitch: 440,000 low income Americans (that’s larger than the population of Atlanta) do not go to college every year. This company is trying to change that statistic with an online platform that links applications with mentors. These mentors are ‘Campus Leaders’ from colleges the company plans to partner with. The company prides itself on matching these mentors (for example, an actual journalism major will be paired with someone interested in journalism) and using technology to connect the pair online to move through the college application and financial aid process.

The Boilerplate: “AppSuccess is a collaborative web-based platform which matches low-income high school seniors with college stuents from top universities, who work together one-on-one to select colleges, complete a competitive college application, and apply for financial aid – all through the online platform.”

Team Members: Miki Litmanovitz, David Baron, David Shepard, Daniel Choi, and Andrew Offit

Debate Mate USA

From the Pitch: This company is trying to provide communications skills to children in middle school so they can grow and develop with confidence. The team (and according to the team, people like the Conference Board) believes soft skills – like communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills – are being put to the side next to hard skills measured with standardized tests. As a solution, the team wants to run an after school programs that create a new “cool” way of debating, with student mentors taken from top tier colleges. In fact, it’s already running a pilot in 7 Boston middle schools.

The Boilerplate: “Debate Mate USA develops verbal intelligence in young people through free after school debate programs in urban public schools.”

Team Member: Jonathan Bailey

According to presenters, 5-10% of HBS students every year start businesses right after graduation, and the school expects this to be in a higher percentile this year. (Not to mention that 35-45% of alumni report having started a company before their 20th reunion — in fact, just yesterday the school hosted the 2011 Alumni Venture competition.)

Sponsors of the 2011 Harvard Business Plan Contest included Bridgespan Group, Cambridge Innovation Center, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, Foley Hoag, Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, Polaris Venture Partners and Thoughtbot.

Congrats to all the winners, and enjoy photos from the event below:

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