Student Finalists To Face Off in Entrepreneurship Contest

Eight teams of finalists for the New Venture Competition will face off Tuesday for the final round of the student track of the Harvard Business School entrepreneurship contest.

The competition, which features separate tracks for students and alumni and for business and social enterprise, will grant more than $300,000 in cash prizes and in-kind support to winners.

The recently rebranded competition is sponsored by the Business School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, the Social Enterprise Initiative, and Alumni Relations. Formerly divided into the student Business Plan contest and the alumni New Venture competitions, it is now in its 17th year.

At an event beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the Burden Auditorium on Tuesday, each of the eight finalist teams will deliver a business pitch to a panel of judges, and will have the opportunity to give an in-depth presentation about their ventures at the Spangler Center.

This year’s student business track finalists include Sensible Baby, a venture developing sensor-based technology that monitors babies while they sleep, and Astoria Road, a social wedding registry.

Muslimah “Muse” Bertoli, a member of the Astoria Road team, said that she appreciates the feedback loop that the competition provides.

“What the competition has given us is a support network,” Bertoli said, “We have been exposed to people that we otherwise wouldn’t talk to.”

Finalists in the student social enterprise track include Bluelight, which provides credit alternatives to households in the developing world, and Good Benefits, which helps companies conduct a workplace “401k for charity.”

Michael Schrader, co-founder and CEO of global health start-up Vaxess Technologies, won the 2012 student business track with his team by developing thermo-stable vaccine technology. According to Schrader, who returned this year to participate in the alumni track, the caliber of the competition and the judging standards are much higher on the alumni level than on the student level.

“The student competition is about a well-thought out plan, but the alumni competition is about a well-executed plan,” said Schrader.

James E. Aisner ’68, director of media relations at the Business School, emphasized the relationship-building component of the competition, saying that it allows students to form a cohesive team that transcends boundaries both within and outside of the University.

“The competition is a vehicle for accelerating innovation in business and society. It’s a journey that serves as a catalyst in many ways for students and alumni,” Aisner said.

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