Within two weeks, Harvard has awarded roughly $250,000 to student entrepreneurs looking to make a significant impact on the world through three different competitions: the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge, the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge and the President’s Challenge. From a crime-fighting platform to an arts discovery app, the 2013 winners span a wide spectrum, highlighting the breadth of entrepreneurship at Harvard.
The two Deans’ Challenges were new to students this year, after being announced in December following a successful inaugural President’s Challenge. Sponsored by 13 deans from Schools across Harvard and hosted by the Harvard innovation lab, the contests’ goals were to have students create cross-disciplinary teams and develop solutions for social and health issues head-on.
Walking away with the first-place $30,000 prize in the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge was Musey, a mobile app that allows users to find art in their vicinity, learn more about the individuals behind the art and even donate to projects in real-time.
“This is a huge vote of confidence and encouragement,” said Harvard Graduate School of Design student Judy Fulton, a co-founder of Musey, to the Harvard Gazette. “We were going to go ahead with it whether we won or not, but there’s so much more momentum. Now we know we can probably work on it for a full year. It’s amazing.”
An additional three teams were named runners-up, each walking away with $15,000 awards. They were: Midas Touch, which utilizes 3-D printing technology to make paintings an accessible, tactile art form for the visually impaired; Culturally, an online social discovery platform for the arts; and Music+1, a mobile app that provides adaptive orchestral accompaniment to musicians in real-time.
The winner of the Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge was announced Wednesday. Walking away with the grand prize of $40,000 was MatriTarg Laboratories, a team striving to develop new ways of diagnosing and treating solid organ fibrosis, a progressive disease that affects major organs and often doesn’t go diagnosed until the later stages of the disease.
Founders Derek DiRocco and Rafael Kramann are both Harvard postdoctoral fellows at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and created MatriTarg alongside their research advisor Benjamin Humphrey.
Three runners-up were also announced, including: CareSolver, a web platform that will allow family members and informal care providers to increase quality care of the elderly; Broadleaf Health and Education Alliance, a nonprofit working to integrate mental health care for children at schools in India; and SQ, a mobile application that gives users the ability to manage and share their sexual health.
Caresolver won $20,000, while the other two finalists each walked away with $7,500.
Harvard President Drew Faust announced the winner of the President’s Challenge on Wednesday, as well, awarding $70,000 to Nucleik, a team developing software to reduce paperwork for law enforcement officials.
“I spoke with the members of Team Nucleik earlier this month at the President’s Challenge Demo Day and was struck by their commitment to pursuing an idea and applying what they had learned in the classroom to improve the lives of others,” said Faust in a statement. “They’ve built a tool that will help law enforcement professionals better serve and protect communities across the country, and their inspiring work is something I will follow with great interest in the months and years ahead.”
Through Nucleik, officers will be given instantaneous access to accurate and organized data, enabling them to more effectively tackle gang violence, murders and violent crime. The Special Projects Team of the Massachusetts State Police in Springfield has already used the technology, minimizing the time spent on office paperwork by 90 percent.
The three other teams listed below, courtesy of the Harvard Gazette, were also awarded $10,000 to help grow their business.
- Flume — Flume is building a comprehensive and up-to-date map of the human genome through a crowdsourced webtool. Members hope access to their map will give researchers and clinicians information that provides comprehensive understanding of human biology, helping experts better understand diseases and supporting their efforts to fight them.
- PlenOptika — PlenOptika aims to distribute a device that can quickly test a person’s vision and provide the best off-the-shelf prescription. The project promises to bring adequate vision care to areas where professionals are in low supply. More than 1 billion people have poor vision because they don’t have the eyeglasses they need.
- TerraTek — TerraTek is developing a two-sided platform that allows individuals to more easily secure property rights so they can obtain credit and other social benefits, and that assists governments of developing countries to expand their property rights databases to expand their revenue and plan more effectively. The team is launching the TerraTek platform this summer in Medellín, Colombia.
“The members of the teams that split this year’s prize brought fresh perspectives and diverse backgrounds to tackle challenges related to crisis management, the environment, health and learning,” said Harvard Provost Alan Garber in a statement. “The range of issues they are addressing through their projects is a testament to the creativity and skills of students across the University—and to the success that follows when they connect with one another to identify and pursue common goals.”