2013 marks the 17th year of the newly rebranded New Venture Competition (formerly comprising the student Business Plan and alumni New Venture contests). The NVC includes both business and social enterprise tracks and awards more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind support to winning student and alumni teams. Both competitions will conclude with a celebratory finals event on the HBS campus on Tuesday April 30th.
This article includes an interview with Meredith McPherron (MBA 1993) – Director, Rock Center for Entrepreneurship – along with descriptions of the outstanding teams that will vie for victory in the NVC finals event next Tuesday. To learn more about the NVC and meet the teams, head to YouTube.
As a vehicle for nurturing entrepreneurship and launching exciting new businesses, the NVC has an impressive track record. Since its inception, more than 1,600 teams have participated in this competition, and many have gone on to become notable market successes, including Birchbox, CloudFlare, Diagnostic-for-All, Endeca, Global Citizen Year, RelayRides, and Rent the Runway.
The Competition represents an inventive and disciplined journey through the early stages of development for a new enterprise. It is anchored in a robust learning model in which participants are encouraged to leverage a rich and unique array of educational resources, mentorship, and feedback opportunities – as well as faculty relationships and in-class learnings – to further catalyze their development.
Interview with Meredith McPherron
Participants who enter the NVC join a community of like-minded game changers with the energy and courage to make a difference. We spoke to Meredith McPherron, Director of the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, about the impact and excitement of the New Venture Competition.
Harbus: What do you see as the role of the NVC in fostering entrepreneurship at HBS?
MM: The Competition serves entrepreneurship at HBS in several important ways. First, it’s a glide path for students and alumni engaged in any sector to articulate their entrepreneurial inspiration and focus their experimentation and development within a highly supported and celebrated program within HBS. Second, it’s a launching pad for those alumni and students with high potential new ventures to continue development. And finally, it’s a platform to build awareness for the HBS approach to entrepreneurship and its role in the creation of significant new economic and social value within a global community.
Harbus: How has the NVC evolved since its inception?
MM: The NVC has become more focused on the active journey of building new ventures versus the presentation of a business plan. It has evolved to include a rich array of programming and support earlier in the year to support this journey, including such things as the Rock Accelerator, a dedicated experimentation and expense reimbursement fund, a documentary video series, pitch days, early stage feedback rounds, workshops, mixers, countless available office hours from faculty, Rock Center Entrepreneurs-in- Residence, partner law firms, and outside experts from both social enterprise and business sectors. In addition, we have increased the benefits of participation to include a $50,000 grand prize, $25,000 runner-up prize, greater levels of in-kind support, and a crowd favorite award that enables our community to get in on the action.
Harbus: Who will be judging this year’s competition?
MM: Leading up to the finals, there have been approximately 140 judges involved on campus, offering their feedback and insight to students and alumni and helping to winnow down the pool to a final four for both social enterprise and business tracks. Judges include funders, founders, and outside experts from a variety of sectors and professions.
Harbus: What do you think this year’s diverse finalist teams have in common?
MM: They are committed, courageous, and have the conviction to persevere through the daunting early stages of building a new venture. They are mission focused, and many are quite singular in their purpose and plans. They have worked hard to articulate and collaborate with others around their vision, assess the market opportunity and potential impact for what they have planned, and taken the necessary steps to validate core assumptions with partners and customers.
Harbus: What makes this year’s NVC particularly exciting?
MM: There has been a rising tide of interest in entrepreneurship on campus. The New Venture Competition is custom made to both fuel and support it. We have redesigned the look and feel of NVC with a new name, identity, and event focus, leading to a grand finale complete with music, lights, and video — elements that will make it more exciting and fun to attend than ever before. Beyond all this, we’re excited about introducing a crowd vote that will engage the audience and allow them to support their favorite teams. We look forward to seeing everybody in Burden next Tuesday afternoon.
Meet the Teams
- Astoria Road (Daniel Bertoli, MBA ’13; Miki Heller, MBA ’13; Muse Bertoli, Jake Heller): The first social wedding registry
- Quickstor (Rebecca Greene, MBA ’13; Todd Rudnianyn, MBA ’13): A mobile platform for self-storage rental that increases lead conversion and value
- Sensible Baby (Xiaozhou Ju, MBA ’14; Jeffrey Tagen; Jack Sivak; Benjamin Cooper; Tristan Cox; Michael Amaru): Safe and accurate sensor-based technology to monitor babies’ sleeping safety
- Tauros Engineering (Adrian Ross, MBA ’14; Alison Flatau; David Flatau; Tyler Flatau): Commercializing a revolutionary technology for the detection of bridge scour
- Bluelight (John Ikeda, HKS; Manoah Koletty, HKS; Mustafa Khalifeh): Innovative consumer finance for the base of the pyramid
- Good Benefits (Ryan Selkis; Rudmila Rahman, MBA ’13; Alexandra Minnis, MBA ’14; Lauren Penneys, MBA ’14): Helping companies run simple, engaging, high-impact workplace giving programs
- myProxy (Azalea Kim, MBA ’13; Margaret Terry, MBA ’13; Amy Flaster, MBA 13):A web-based platform to digitally record patient’s end-of-life care wishes and make them available
- WAVE Hospitality Academy (Misan Rewane, MBA ’13; Karan Chopra, MBA ’13; Navid Rahimi, MBA ’13): Empowering youth in West Africa to access employment opportunities through vocational training