FOCUS Foods Inc. and RapidSOS each won grand prizes of $50,000 at the Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition on Wednesday, an annual competition that financially supports University students and alumni launching new businesses.
According to their presentations, RapidSOS seeks to commercialize technologies to improve emergency response and communication, and FOCUS Foods Inc. aims to create a prototype for self-sustaining aquaponics farms—a food production system that grows fish and plants together—to be built on supermarket roofs.
With cash prizes and in-kind services totalling more than $300,000, the NVC granted awards to competitors divided into a social enterprise group and a business track group. While the grand prize winning team in each category received $50,000, runner ups were awarded $25,000.
“We are in the business of educating leaders that will change the world,” Business School Dean Nitin Nohria said at the event. “Entrepreneurship is something that you inspire.”
Alluding to ABC show “Shark Tank,” a reality television competition that similarly awards investments to promising business ventures, and “Saturday Night Live,” the NVC opened with a comedic theme that continued throughout the show of a female protagonist presenting unsound business ideas, such as a bed for your iPhone to sleep in.
Peggy Yu, associate director for the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, which co-sponsored the event along with the Social Enterprise Initiative, said that 122 judges whittled the list of 300 teams down to 11 teams present at the event.
“Today is a celebration of taking a simple idea and making it into a big venture,” Yu said.
In addition to the competition for students, the Business School encouraged alumni to participate in one of the 14 NVCs hosted by 17 HBS alumni “hub” locations. The winners of each regional competition are then invited to attend the NVC finale event on the Business School’s campus. Alumni groups StreetShares, a financial technology project, Eve & Tribe, a clothing company, and BollyX Fitness, a Bollywood-dance inspired fitness program, received awards.
Attendee and Boston resident Amanda Linn said she attends the NVC every year.
“It’s refreshing to see young people coming up with creative ideas to solve important problems,” Linn said.
—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @TheIggySabate.