From a company that’s touted itself as being able to “turn shit into gold,” to the city’s premier streetwear truck, the colleges and universities in and around Boston have seen a banner crop of innovative business ideas in 2011. And not only have they seen them, but they’ve acknowledged them and given them funding in hopes they grow. Whether it be $500 or $100K, the city’s schools have done what they can to help foster the entrepreneurial spirit and drive growth in Boston. Here’s a look at 37 ideas that have spun out of the various business competitions and venture accelerator programs just this year.
Harvard College Innovation Challenge (i3) —
Over $50K in cash grants, and up to 12 months of free office space, are awarded to student startups who win the i3 Challenge. Broken into three categories — commercial enterprise, social enterprise and tech — this year’s winners included:
Newsle: Bringing “stalker” to a whole new level, Newsle let’s you track your friends in the news, and allows you to see what they’re reading about you.
Hollre: Hollaa at this new social event gathering service that can help you discover what’s going on around you. From concerts to sporting events and parties, you’ll never be out of the loop with this app.
Aid Aide: Who doesn’t like the sounds of “financial aid made easy?” Aid Aide was designed to help students get their financial aid forms completed in 20 minutes or less. The idea was so great, it was scooped up by Alltuition, who merged with Aid Aide in order to make FAFSA and the like less frustrating.
W.I.S.E. Words Magazine: Now known as “Scientista,” the magazine provides articles, advice, videos and information on job openings to women who are embarking on careers in science or engineering.
Bynamic Edge’s Multi-Functional Microbial Reactor: Behind that long name is a technology with an amazing mission: to use electricity to manipulate the metabolism of bacteria so that they break down harmful chemicals in wastewater or natural gas supplies.
MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition —
Now in its 22nd year, the competition not only provides finalists with $50K each in cash, but also feedback from top VCs and entrepreneurs, along with media exposure, mentorship, educational guidance and networking. This year’s big winner was:
Sanergy: The company won the crowd (and Sliggity) over with the phrase, “Join us as we turn shit into gold.” Sanergy is able to produce electricity and fertilizer by providing safe and affordable sanitation in Kenya’s urban slums. Following their win at MIT, and Tufts (see below), the USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures offered them another $100K.
Tufts $100K Business Plan Competition —
Divided into two categories — the Classic Business Plan Competition and the Social Entrepreneurship Competition — the contest awards two startups $50,000 in cash, as well as legal and advisory services. Sanergy was winner of the Social Entrepreneurship Competition, while the winner of the Classic Business Plan was:
Roof For Two: “Making monsoons manageable,” Roof For Two provides a quality weather protection product, that shields South Asian motorcycle riders from inclement weather.
Emerson College’s E3 Exhibition —
When you hear “Emerson College,” the word “entrepreneurship” might not necessarily come to mind. With this exhibition, however, business-minded students are awarded $16,000 in startup capital and prizes. This year’s first place winner was:
Babson College $100K Business Plan Competition —
Two startups — one from the MBA graduate school and another from the undergraduate business school — are pronounced “best business plan” winners. The beauty of this competition, however, is that even the runner-ups are awarded $20K each. The two deemed first place included:
Redeemr, Inc.: The undergraduate school winner, Redeemr is a cloud-based business intelligence and customer retention tool for small- to medium-sized businesses.
SkyCrepers — In hopes of bridging the gap between the street cart and the “foo-foo cafe,” SkyCrepers is a new fast-serve crepe franchise. After winning the competition, former Patriots player Matt Chatham opened the first location in North Attleboro’s Emerald Square Mall.
Boston College Venture Competition —
This year, two teams tied for first place in the Boston College Venture Competition. They were each awarded $6,500 to get their companies off the ground. The winners included:
Additup: Now called Jebbit, Inc., Additup is an online advertising service that allows users to answer questions about businesses that interest them and gives them cash for every question they answer correctly.
My Savvy Shoes: This snap-on shoe accessory system allows women to mix, match and incorporate different designs into their shoes.
UMass Boston Business Launch Competition —
Hosted by the Entrepreneurship Center, this was the inaugural competition at UMass Boston. Up or grabs was free office space in the Venture Development Center, in-kind legal consulting and some hefty cash. First place winners received $2,500, while runner-ups still walked away with either $1,000 or $500. First place was awarded to:
Sigma Surf Research: This startup takes a new approach to the surfboard, using recycled and bio-derived materials to create boards with substantially less environmental impact than the industry standard.
Boston University’s ITEC $50K New Venture Competition —
Sponsored by the School of Management’s Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization, the competition provides students and alumni with mentoring and advice from start-up veterans, as well as prizes worth over $50,000. This year’s first place winner was:
RayVio: A spin-off from a Boston University research lab, the company has developed UV LEDs that are low-cost, durable and an energy efficient substitute for mercury lamps in the water purification and disinfection market.
Harvard’s Winners of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Funding —
Sixteen student startups have received funding from Harvard so far this year. Based on Eric Ries’s Lean Startup methodology — focused on rapid prototyping — the fund was designed to help students push their ideas forward in the most effective, time efficient way possible. Each semester, $50,000 are doled out between the finalists. This year’s MVP funded include:
Adiply: A self-serve tool that executes online advertising direct deals (that is, instances in which an advertiser works directly with a publisher–the Web site selling ad space) to buy ad inventory on that site.
AfterSteps: An online end-of-life planning platform with educational resources and tools to create a plan, store it, and transfer it to designated beneficiaries.
Children’s Stories for American Muslims: A children’s entertainment and education brand for the underserved North American Muslim population. The business will start as a subscription service delivering monthly stories and will later expand into toys, books, games, videos, and licensing.
MatchLend: A tool to improve loan underwriting accuracy by incorporating data often missed by traditional methods.
MyDayz: A web application that allows women to keep track of their health data, focusing on period and fertility monitoring.
Rewardly: A rewards program that works with the customers’ existing credit cards wherever they make purchases.
UpStart: A program that seeks to do for entrepreneurship what Teach for America did for teaching by creating a well-branded path for young talent to work at promising startups and learn entrepreneurial skills.
Vinamea: A platform that allows people to rent a portion of a vineyard, follow an online wine production process from grape to bottle and ultimately receive their share of the year’s vintage in a customized package.
Zumper: An online real estate market in which students and others can bid on and secure properties in a more efficient and transparent manner.
BeautyX: A social shopping site where women of color can discover beauty products based on user photos and reviews.
Colectivo: An online group purchasing organization that allows small and medium-sized businesses to leverage their joint purchasing power to benefit from large discounts.
CPGlink: An online business-to-business service platform that connects small- to mid-size domestic manufacturers with independent sales representatives and other companies that support the consumer packaged goods industry.
Eksis: An online platform that utilizes Facebook’s social networking technology to connect job seekers and employers in Indonesia.
Excelegrade: An online software platform that allows K-12 teachers to design standards-based assessments, administer tests on mobile devices, automatically track student performance, conduct rigorous data analyses and create individualized progress reports.
FeedBx: Now known as “PeekPak,” FeedBx is a new sampling channel for small and medium manufacturers in the food and beverage industry.
Tenth & Taylor: An online home decor platform that efficiently bridges the gap between design inspiration and product purchase for consumers.
Companies Funded Through Northeastern’s IDEA —
IDEA, Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator Program, helps coach ventures through the development of their business idea, connect them with the resources they need and then funds those that show exceptional potential with up to $10,000. The companies that won funding this year included:
Smak: Have too many email and social media accounts? Smak helps you organize and optimize everything through their easy-to-use technology.
Jola Venture: Jola Venture calls itself a “for-profit entity with a social mission” that aims to improve agriculture production in Cameroon through its patented solar food dehydrator innovation.
Moniker Guitars: The company provides custom electric guitars, that are “designed by you, built by us.”
Apifia: “Changing the world, one app at a time,” Apifia has decided to change the way social applications are being used. Their first endeavor has been SplashScore, which gives users a new way to define their social influence on Facebook.
Mini Pops: Although it has the look of popcorn, Mini Pops has far more health benefits. Made of air popped sorghum grain, Mini Pops is a brand new, delicious, all-natural, organic snack.
SnoworSand: Helping with all your student travel needs, SnoworSand is a “travel company with a backpacker’s soul.” Not only do they help send small groups of students on long weekend trips to Morocco, Turkey, Sicily, Greece, Ireland and the Canary Island, but they also provide them with experienced local guides.
Annie Mulz: Since its founding, the urban street apparel brand has garnered a lot of street cred and has grown to become Green Street Vault’s best-selling brand. They’re also expected to open up permanent shop in 2012.