HBS Holds Business Plan Contest

Eight teams of students pitched their business and social venture proposals

HBS Business Plan
Courtesy of Evgenia Eliseeva

The HBS Business Plan Contest Social Venture Track winners from Urban Water Partners make their presentation. Courtesy of Evgenia Eliseeva.

—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at tmerrigan@college.harvard.edu.

Under the spotlights of the Harvard Business School’s Burden Auditorium, the eight finalist teams of the 14th annual Business Plan Contest showed off their aptitude for entrepreneurship.

The eight teams—competing in either the Business Venture track of the competition or the Social Venture track—pitched their business models to an audience of peers, faculty, and family.

The contest is representative of the Business’s School focus on entrepreneurship, wrote Business School spokesman James E. Aisner ’68 in an e-mail.

"A lot of students in the past thought long and hard about whether they should go to Wall Street or consulting—where the dollars, frankly, are attractive—versus take the risk of starting their own venture," Business School Lecturer Michael J. Roberts ’79 said. "Today the fact that a lot of those jobs aren’t there, the opportunity cost of choosing this route is lower...it’s a lot more appealing for students to seize control of their own destiny."

The winning team in the Social Venture Track—Urban Water Planners—plans to lease slow sand filters to water vendors in Dar es Salaam to improve the quality of the city’s drinking water.

For the team members of Urban Water Partners, two of whom live in Utah, one of the major difficulties in formulating their plan was coordinating their efforts across the country.

Oscomp Systems, which plans to commercialize a natural gas compressor that they claim will revolutionize the energy market, won in the competition’s Business Venture Track.

"I feel completely exhilarated. Everything is finally coming together," said team member and second year HBS student Shantanu Agarwal.

This year, the competition also included an Alumni Venture Contest in which seven Harvard Clubs from around the world selected business plans submitted by regional alumni. The winning alumni plan, Sundaram Medical Devices, will market inexpensive and more technologically advanced hospital beds to Indian medical facilities.

The competition generates a significant amount of excitement on campus every year, according to both Roberts and Agarwal.

"Entrepreneurship is the best form of business, I think all the students want to own our own business," Agarwal said. "The people who are actually doing entrepreneurship are considered the cowboys, because they’re jumping off the cliff instead of taking a more secure job."

The Business School divides its first-years into ten groups called sections, and the Business Plan Contest gave students a chance to show off their section pride. When Business Venture track contestants Hayley Barna and Katia Ververis took the stage, their section mates roared and waved hot pink tissue paper, in reference to the pink tissue paper used in their product.

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