Roberts Wineware

Thirty-five teams entered the Harvard Business School Association of Boston’s New Venture Competition, vying for their chance to win $10,000 in cash, entry into the HBS Worldwide Venture Competition and a fast track into the MassChallenge 2012 Accelerator. Four companies made it to the semi-final March Madness round, yet two were acknowledged with first and second place awards last night.

Prior to the Final Four presentations, 22 teams who took part in the Competition demoed their business ideas. Harvard Professor William Sahlman also led a discussion with Steve Papa, founder of Endeca, and Pankaj Amin, president of Affinitel Communications on what it takes to build a company from scratch and then grow it to scale.

Before any envelopes were opened, the Final Four teams gave five minute pitches to prove why they were worthy of winning. The judges who decided their fate, however, were Joe Caruso, partner at Bantam Group; Hambleton Lord, managing partner at Launchpad Venture Group; Gus Weber, entrepreneur-in-residence at Dogpatch Labs; and Akhil Nigam, founder and president of MassChallenge.

Walking away with second place was Roberts Wineware, founded by Darrol Roberts. Featuring patented Taste Stimulating Technology, Roberts was inspired to start the company after having the best espresso of his life from a chipped espresso cup. He’s already received validation from Wine Enthusiast Magazine and Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company.

“When you ask people if they like wine, they’ll pull back and say, ‘Yes, but I’m no expert,’” Roberts said while pitching to the judges last month. His goal is then to help drinkers become better tasters, and give everyone their chance to feel like an expert.

The agricultural biotech firm TrophoMax grabbed the first place spot. With the goal of improving the world’s food supply through scientific development, the company’s patented technology is based around a naturally occurring bacteria that improves plant growth and increases yield.

President and CEO Thomas Laurita realized this is a “large, untapped market,” and said farmers wouldn’t need to change their current farming practices. The team’s currently performing trials right now in the Midwest on corn and soy.

The team will also be entered into the worldwide New Venture Contest, which will be held on the HBS campus on April 23rd and 24th. The Contest celebrates the winner from each local contest, and awards a grand prize of $50,000 and a second place prize of $25,000 to the top teams. A separate $25,000 grant will also be awarded the same weekend as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship competition.

To take a look at a summary of all 22 business plans, you can click here. Good luck to TrophoMax as they go on to represent Boston!

Photos Courtesy of Susan Young/HBSAB