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Groundbreaking Startups Lead the Charge at HBS's New Venture Competition


Benjamin Hughes

March 29, 2024 - 19:37 pm


Trailblazing Innovations Triumph at Harvard Business School's New Venture Competition

BOSTON, March 29, 2024 – Harvard Business School’s Klarman Hall was a hive of activity and excitement, as a full audience gathered to witness the climax of the New Venture Competition (NVC), now in its 27th year. With the futures of twelve finalist teams hanging in the balance, the stakes were high. They competed for a lucrative prize pool of $225,000 in cash along with invaluable in-kind prizes, all designed to propel their innovative startups to the next stage of development.

The NVC stands as a prestigious event for students and alumni striving to launch their business and social impact ventures. Organized by the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI), in collaboration with HBS Alumni Clubs & Associations, the competition has become a cornerstone of entrepreneurial spirit at the School.

This year, a record 262 teams participated—88 in the Student Business Track, 31 in the Student Social Enterprise Track, and 143 in the Alumni Track. This vast pool of talent competed across eight regional competitions worldwide. Since its inception in 1997, the competition has seen over 6,300 participants and has distributed a staggering $3 million to alumni and students shaping the future with their pioneering business and social ventures.

A Rigorous Platform for Future Change Makers

NVC isn’t merely a competition; it’s a crucible for growth and learning where students transform their business ideas into a force for good. Elise Bates, MBA 2000 and the newly appointed director of the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, shared that the NVC is a profound educational opportunity as much as it is a formidable challenge. Student teams collaborate, network, and absorb essential lessons to apply to their ventures that aspire to make a real-world impact.

Similarly, Amelia Angella, MBA 2001 and director of the Social Enterprise Initiative, emphasized the importance of innovative, collaborative, and humble approaches to societal challenges. She heralded this year's entries as epitomes of using business as a vehicle for social change.

Senior Lecturer Julia Austin, co-chair of the competition, highlighted that the New Venture Competition is not only a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs but also an extension of the School's suite of programs that support the entrepreneurial journey of HBS students and alumni.

Embracing the Startup Journey

Professor Shikhar Ghosh, the other faculty co-chair of the Rock Center, encouraged competitors, stressing the NVC provides the structure, mentorship, and support needed to navigate the turbulent journey of being a startup. The competition enables participants to approach some of the most pressing issues of our time with ingenuity, from tackling climate change to addressing healthcare equities and harnessing new technologies like AI.

The cash prizes, a substantial incentive for the competition, was not the only support the startups stood to gain. Sponsors also provided vital in-kind services and tools necessary for launching and growing their new ventures. Generous donations came from organizations like All Stage, Harvard Innovation Labs, HubSpot for Startups, MassChallenge, and Wix, among others.

Celebrating the Victors of Innovation

Student Business Track

The contest honored the entrants in two main divisions: Student Business Track and Student Social Enterprise Track. The Student Business Track awarded the Dubilier Grand Prize—a tribute to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice founder Martin Dubilier (MBA 1952)—and the Satchu-Burgstone Runner Up Prize, named after alumni Jon Burgstone (MBA 1999), Asif Satchu (MBA 1999), and Reza Satchu (MBA 1996).

The Dubilier $75,000 Grand Prize:

The grand prize of $75,000 went to Crop Diagnostix, an enterprise focused on redefining precision agriculture through their AI-driven genetic insights.

Team: Brandon Chi (MBA 2024), Joseph Swift, Amitesh Pratap, Leonie Luginbuehl

Satchu-Burgstone $25,000 Runner Up Prize:

Claiming the runner up prize, Sanso impressed with its mission to assist drug manufacturers in enhancing the efficiency of life-saving biologics production to reduce costs for patients globally.

Team: Narek Dshkhunyan (MBA 2024), Daniel Erdosy

Crowd Favorite Prize:

BEAM shone brightly as the crowd favorite, introducing its novel concept of ensuring continuous, high-bandwidth access to satellite data.

Team: Nathan Dass (MBA 2025), Sara Ballantyne (MBA 2025)

Student Social Enterprise Track

The competition's social impact arm—The Student Social Enterprise Track—awarded the Peter M. Sacerdote prizes, established in 2003 to stimulate HBS graduates' involvement in social enterprises.

Peter M. Sacerdote $75,000 Grand Prize:

Solara, a venture providing accessible, reliable, and clean solar-powered irrigation services to Indian farmers clinched the grand prize.

Team: Rea Savla (MBA 2024), Vishesh Mehta

Peter M. Sacerdote $25,000 Runner Up Prize:

Trans Health HQ, a resource designed by and for the trans community to educate and advocate, nabbed the runner-up spot.

Team: Ivan Hsiao, MPH 2024

Crowd Favorite Prize:

SeaCycle, praised for its pioneering work in sustainable biopolymer production, became another crowd favorite.

Team: Hande Ilhan (MBA 2025), Jakob Spiess (MBA 2025)

Alumni Track: Global Leaders Paving the Way

Outside of the student categories, the Alumni New Venture Competition (aNVC) offered HBS alumni a platform to showcase their entrepreneurial efforts on a global stage. Competing across eight regions, 143 alumni teams vied for the opportunity to progress to the Global Finals and a chance at over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

First Place Winner

Elisa, a venture aiming to transform child nutrition in Latin America with fresh and additive-free meals, won the accolades in the International Track.

Team: Rosalino Molina (MBA 2022), Founder & CEO

Runner Up and Crowd Favorite

Harken Sweets, envisioning a revival of iconic treats infused with superfoods, became the runner-up and simultaneously the crowd's choice.

Team: Katie Lefkowitz (MBA 2016), Founder & CEO

Envisioning a Future Crafted by Bold Thinkers

The New Venture Competition at Harvard Business School represents much more than an annual event—it is a testament to the innovative spirit, the drive for social impact, and the entrepreneurial zeal that the School fosters. As the victors and participants of this year carry their projects forward, they embody the critical thinking, adaptability, and leadership that HBS aims to instill in its students.

The competition not only showcases groundbreaking ventures but also builds a community—a network of passionate individuals who believe in the power of business to bring about positive change. In the hands of these emerging leaders, the future of business and social enterprise shines with promise.

With such groundbreaking initiatives taking center stage and the wealth of entrepreneurial talent that the School nurtures year after year, the New Venture Competition stands as a beacon of what business schools can contribute to society—a ripple effect of innovation and progress that extends far beyond classroom walls.

For more information about the competition and the groundbreaking winners, visit the New Venture Competition website.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908, Harvard Business School operates within Harvard University and is situated on a picturesque 40-acre campus in Boston. Its esteemed faculty offers an array of programs including full-time MBA and Ph.D. programs, in addition to more than 175 Executive Education offerings.

Harvard Business School Online extends the School's reach, while the main campus continues to foster an environment where leaders learn to make a substantive difference in the world. The School’s curriculum draws in the most dynamic thinkers, the most collaborative learners, and those destined to redefine the boundaries of business and entrepreneurship across the globe.

To learn more about Harvard Business School and its commitment to shaping the leaders of tomorrow, please visit Harvard Business School's website.

As the School looks ahead, it remains committed to its mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world, celebrating achievements such as those seen in the New Venture Competition as milestones on the journey towards a more innovative and equitable society.

For any inquiries, please contact: Mark Cautela Email: [email protected] Phone: 617-495-5143

Source: Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School New Venture Competition Logo

The captivating journey of the New Venture Competition continues to inspire and empower the next wave of entrepreneurs, equipping them with the tools, experience, and network necessary to transform their visions into ventures that will challenge the status quo and drive progress. With each passing year, it becomes ever more apparent that these students and alumni are not just creating businesses—they are actively crafting a better future.

This news article was brought to you by @Harvard Business School