Nothing happens by chance.

As many of you know, this week we’re running our Artificial Intelligence series, a collection of stories focusing on the Boston AI ecosystem. On Wednesday, MIT announced the winner of the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition — an annual contest that gives away $100,000 to the grand prize winner.

And the winner turned out to be an AI startup: Lightmatter, which is using light to accelerate artificial intelligence.

This year, the Institute received 160 applications that went down to 50 semi-finalists. Two weeks ago, the semi-finalists pitched their ideas behind closed doors and were narrowed down to eight finalists. On Wednesday, the final eight ventures pitched in front of the judges — Caroline Brown, Edward Ahn, Erik Norlander and Mira Wilczek — and the public.

Here’s the list of the eight startups that competed in the MIT $100K Launch Finale (descriptions courtesy of MIT’s blog):

CareMobile Transportation

This company aims to provide empathy-driven, end-to-end assisted-care services, including a technology platform where customers and caregivers can access scheduling, payment, service customization and shared patient information. CareMobile CEO Kelley Barclay has been working as a healthcare professional for 15 years. Members of the team are Kalhan Koul, Thompson Warren ND Vedaant Kukadia. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “Always have a relentless focus on the customer to make sure you are solving the right problems.”

change:WATER Labs – Winner of the Audience Choice Award

Thanks to a material that passively, rapidly vaporizes the liquid content of sewage, releasing only pure water vapor, this company is developing a portable evaporative toilet for homes with no power or plumbing. Both CEO Diana Yousef and CTO Huda Elasaad are from the Middle east and wanted to do something to help with water strain and scarcity in the Region. Members of the team are Matt Rosen and Nadir Ait-Laoussine. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “Talk to your customers! Go with your passion!”.


Alexander Gruentzig, Jillian Gruentzig, Mark Bradley and Craig Matthews are developing a hemorrhage control system which is integrated into clothing for military and law enforcement professionals. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “Showcase your vision with a working prototype.”

A moment of Lighmatter’s pitch Wednesday evening (photo by Lucia Maffei)

Lightmatter – Winner

This team of four – Nick Harris, Darius, Yichen Shen and Thomas Graham – is working on new kind of artificial intelligence hardware that is powered by light, rather than electrical signals. The final goal of the company is replacing transistors with Lightmatter’s systems, which are able to calculate faster and more efficiently than existing artificial intelligence hardware. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “You’re only a company if you have a customer.”


This company is developing a patent-pending platform providing managed security and intelligence for IoT devices. Members of the team are Caleb, Greg, Pavel, Carlos, Kel and and Rahul. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “Don’t get distracted by setbacks, keep on pursuing the mission. Keep thinking big.”


Louwai Muhammed and Matthew Carey have developed a low-cost and automated nerve conduction sleeve for the diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, that occurs when a key nerve of the hand becomes trapped at the wrist and it’s often diagnosed in the U. S. by using expensive electrical tests. When he was working as a medical resident, Louwai had the very first inspiration for the company when he saw a patient in London who had arrived from a developing country and was complaining of very weak hands. The most valuable piece of advice Louwai and Carey have received is: “Get something useful out there in the shortest possible time.”

PipeGuard – Winner of the Booz Allen Hamilton Data Analytics Prize

Her name is Daisy and she’s a robot. With her innovative skirt sensor, Daisy can locate leaks – even the ones that are too small for current technology to detect – while she is traveling inside the water pipes. Members of the team are You Wu, Daniel Gomez, Jonathan Miller and Pedro Ortiz. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “Get customers.”


This company is developing a virtual reality platform to provide aging population with cognitive stimulation, socialization and immersive therapeutic experiences. CEO is Dennis Lally, members of the team are Charles Lin, Kyle Rand and Tom Neumann. The most valuable piece of advice they’ve received is: “Don’t lose focus.”