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Aspiring Entrepreneurs Gather for Intercollegiate Pitch Off

By Kathleen G. Barrow, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: May 2, 2016, at 12:17 p.m.

Dozens of entrepreneurial teams from six schools descended upon Yenching auditorium Saturday for the Intercollegiate Pitch Off as a part of an undergraduate-run accelerator demo.

Each team had to pitch their startup idea to an audience of around 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and investors. Entrepreneur teams from Harvard, Northeastern, MIT, Columbia, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania presented their business ideas, ranging from property management apps to healthcare insurance selection tools.

This is the second iteration of the event; organizers hosted last year's venue in New York. Harvard organizer Benjamin I. Pleat ’17 said based on last year’s success, the Pitch Off will now become an annual event. Alexandra Sukin '19 was another Harvard organizer.

Aleeza H. Hashmi ’16, who is a member of the Harvard Ventures club, said the event was also an opportunity to meet aspiring investors from other schools.

“IPO might be the only thing that brings all these schools together in a way that’s not competitive,” she said. “This is not a competition and we’ve really fostered a community.”

The startup services varied, but many attendants said they came up with their idea through a similar process: identifying a need and finding a way to fix it.

“We solved our problem, we built an app,” said Sam Marley of Northeastern University who is one of the founders of Blurr, a photo-sharing app. “But more importantly, we realized people loved it.”

Harvard VentureWorks, a subdivision of Harvard Ventures that provides resources for campus startups, helped organize the event.

“VentureWorks serves as the bridge between you working with an idea, your dorm, and the iLab,” Pleat said.

Others school that participated in the event host similar accelerators and resource groups for student startups. MIT organizer Lisette Tellez said even though this was the first time StartLabs, an MIT group, participated in the Pitch Off, students had pitched their ideas at similar events.

“The joke is that there’s so much going on it’s impossible for you to do everything,” Tellez said. “But we’ve never done anything with this many other schools like this, so this is super exciting.”

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