Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to become an entrepreneur, but now aspiring undergraduate capitalists can stay in school and still pull in the dough.
Harvard Student Agencies (HSA) is tantalizing budding student entrepreneurs with a new, $5,000 prize for the business proposal that is judged to have the greatest potential for commercial success.
"The point of the contest is to let students' ideas run wild," said HSA President Amit Tiwari '98. "We're not looking for a very professional business plan-what we're mostly looking for is the spark that could be the impetus for getting a full-fledged business going in the future."
The winner will have the opportunity to spend spring break 1998 developing a formal business plan and may receive an additional $10,000 in startup capital, at the discretion of a collection of companies, which are both covering the cost of and judging the competition.
The second-and third-place winners will receive prizes of $1,000 and $500, respectively.
"I noticed that there was a great experience for students to get hands on experience [in business], but one thing I felt we needed as an organization was to revive that entrepreneurial spirit on campus," Tiwari said.
HSA officials stressed that they have no hidden agenda in running the competition.
Many on campus have assumed that HSA, a $4.3 million corporation than manages 11 agencies plus Let's Go Inc., is simply looking for the next great idea for a new, student-run agency, an assumption HSA has said is false.
"Originally," said Tiwari, "We
"Students don't have to worry about losing the rights to their ideas-the point of the contest is just to give them the opportunity to get their idea out."
According to Tiwari, the winners of the contest will be under no obligation to implement their ideas. They have the option to use their idea and winnings to start companies independent of HSA.
Undergraduates can enter HSA's contest, aptly named "Let's Grow," in teams of up to three. Each team must submit a proposal of five pages or less, summarizing the idea and the potential market and competition.
Although other schools-such as Stanford, MIT and the University of Texas at Austin-have organized similar competitions that were sometimes open to Harvard students, this is the first time an entrepreneurship contest has been offered specifically for Harvard undergraduates.
The Harvard Business School (HBS) launched a similar contest last year, but limited participation to its own second-year students, Tiwari said.