Student Entrepreneurs Compete at HBS

Students from Harvard Business School and nearby schools competed yesterday in the 15th annual HBS Business Plan Contest, which provided contest awards of over $150,000 in cash and in-kind services to the winners and runners-up.

The contest, hosted by the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and the Social Enterprise Initiative, is intended to prepare students for the entrepreneurial world and give them the opportunity to take advantage of the resources at HBS, organizers said.

The event included both a business venture track and a social venture track in which participants competed.

Throughout the event, finalists from the business venture and social venture tracks presented their entrepreneurial projects to a panel of judges and the audience gathered in Burden Hall.

Two winners were declared for the business venture track: baby.com.br, a company that provides baby care needs to mothers in Brazil via an online warehouse; and BOSS Medical, a medical company that has developed a new device to assist spinal fusion procedures.

The social venture track, a mainstay of the Business Plan Contest since 2001, focuses more specifically on creating nonprofit and for-profit enterprises that possess some social value.

This year’s winner in social venture was SANA Care, an enterprise that will allow medical providers in impoverished areas of India to diagnose cardiovascular conditions in their patients using smartphones.

Laura U. Moon, director of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, introduced the social venture track as a means of encouraging social enterprise amongst a student population that might otherwise be interested in traditional for-profit companies.

“Since 2001, there have been more than 550 participants who have created projects in the social venture track,” she said. “Our goal in this track is to educate students in the process of creating and sustaining social enterprises.”

One of the teams in competition for the social venture track award, AppSuccess, was developed to help bright, low-income students get into the college.

“Many low-income students are ready for college but lack support to navigate the process,” said founder Miki Litmanovitz, a joint student at HBS and Harvard Kennedy School.

Past participants in the Business Plan Contest have gone on to develop successful local enterprises, including Finale, the Harvard Square fine dessert bakery.

HBS Dean Nitin Nohria also spoke to the potential of new social enterprise given the ever-changing needs of today’s society.

“This really is an extraordinary thing,” Nohria said. “It is a remarkable example of the talent that exists at this school in our students and faculty. If half of these projects become real companies, it will be remarkable thing.”

—Staff writer Matthew M. Beck can be reached at mbeck@college.harvard.edu

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