01 Aug 2002

HBS Business Plan Contest Keeps Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive


On April 29, the HBS community gathered in Burden Auditorium for the final presentations and judging of the School's sixth annual Business Plan Contest. At the end of the afternoon, two winners were announced: FishLogic in the traditional track and BEST Education Partners in the social enterprise track, defined as any organization whose core activities address social issues.

Each winning team received $10,000 in cash as well as $10,000 in in-kind accounting and legal services to get its venture up and running. For the fourth year, the winner of the traditional track was also awarded the Dubilier Prize, established in honor of the late Martin Dubilier (MBA '52), cofounder of the LBO firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.

The HBS Business Plan Contest was developed by students in 1996 with the cooperation of faculty and MBA Career Services to educate students in the process of creating and evaluating new business ventures. This year, thirty teams submitted business plans to be judged by a distinguished panel of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. In a semifinal round of judging on April 5, also known as “Super Friday,” ten traditional track teams and four social enterprise teams advanced to the final round. From there, four traditional track and two social enterprise teams made the cut.

Traditional track winner FishLogic plans to produce programmable signal processing chips that would eventually be used in everything from cell phones to ultrasound image processing. Founders Patrick George, Gonçal Pagan, Javier Segovia (all MBA '02), and Benjamin Vigoda, a Ph.D. student at MIT, hope to produce faster, more powerful chips at a lower cost than those currently on the market.
Three traditional track runners-up shared awards of cash and in-kind services. These included Aprendo, a service that verifies education and employment data; Empower, a specialty merchandiser of innovative “lifestyle” products for people with disabilities; and Music Games International, a company developing high-quality interactive and educational games based on music.

BEST Education Partners, the social enterprise track winner, plans to create a for-profit education management company operating charter and contract K–12 public schools. “Winning was very affirming and gave us a renewed energy to carry out our plan,” explained Matthew Mugo Fields (MBA '02), a member of the team along with classmate Lucas Klein and Jason Green, a 2002 graduate of Penn's Wharton School of Business. The runner-up in the social enterprise track was The Unison Project, a group designed to mobilize the talents of artists and music industry professionals to assist battered women and their children.

Previous Business Plan Contests have produced successful companies such as Bang Networks, a leading provider of technologies and services enabling the real-time Internet; Finale, an upscale restaurant that serves desserts and beverages; and Low Cost Eyeglasses, a nonprofit organization that makes inexpensive and easy-to-purchase eyeglasses available to the one billion people in the world in need.

In his remarks to the students and attendees, judge Michael Cronin (MBA '77), cofounder and managing partner of Weston Presidio Capital, noted that “today's emerging companies will be the winners of the future.” In a less-than-stellar economic climate, he continued, exceptional entrepreneurs will emerge, because “it will take greater amounts of patience, perseverance, and passion for each of these ventures to be a success.”

— Lee-Ann Landis

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