01 Sep 2009
Ready for LaunchTopics:
A daily apartment cleaning service (Fresh Maid). An organizer of one-day extreme endurance events for men (Tough Mudder). A market-based solution to increase the milk production of cattle in rural India (Doodh Bhandar). These are just a few of the semifinalists winnowed from a record-breaking field of 93 teams that competed in the 13th annual HBS Business Plan Contest. Final presentations were held in Burden Auditorium in late April. A number of competitors from years past (Endeca, Finale, New Leaders for New Schools, and SupplierMarket.com, among others) successfully implemented their plans after leaving HBS and have continued their entrepreneurial journey in the marketplace. Will this year’s new ventures follow in their footsteps? You be the judge. Here’s a quick look at the traditional and social enterprise business plan winners for 2009. Each team received $25,000 in cash and $25,000 of in-kind accounting and legal services.
Business: CloudFlare, a Web security venture that will help Web sites protect themselves from online attacks.
Team: Matthew Prince (MBA ’09): Practiced law for “38 seconds” before starting two other tech companies. Michelle Zatlyn (MBA ’09): Saskatchewan native with experience in product marketing and product management. The pair hatched the idea for what would become CloudFlare during the 2009 Silicon Valley Immersion Experience Program.
Faculty adviser: Professor Tom Eisenmann. His best advice: Figure out how to explain a complicated business in a straightforward way.
What’s in a name? “One aspect of our service is providing firewall-like security in the ‘cloud’ of the Internet. We considered FireCloud and CloudWall. Then a friend suggested CloudFlare.”
Good deal: Matthew “It really pays to keep old business cards. Years ago I met Lindon Leader at a Chamber of Commerce event in my hometown of Park City, Utah. He’s designed logos for FedEx, Ryder trucks, Double-Tree Hotels, and many others. I dug out his card and called him. He agreed to do ours as a favor and at a price we could afford.”
What comes next: “We have our system up and running and are working on making it more robust so it can scale. We were invited to work as entrepreneurs in residence at Highland Capital Partners’ Menlo Park office this past summer and expect to have our first customers and revenue by early fall, when we plan to start actively raising our first round of financing.”
Family support: Michelle “My entire family is supportive. My sister came to the final presentation. Her son, who is three years old, now uses CloudFlare as his nickname. So the first T-shirt is reserved for him.” Matthew “My family has a restaurant business throughout the Pacific Northwest. Initially, my father wanted me to come home to help run that after graduation, but since I described the business to him, he’s been very encouraging. Also, my grandmother’s bridge partners want to invest!”
Social Enterprise Track
Business: EGG-Tech, a for-profit enterprise that will provide a battery charging and swapping subscription service to households in Tanzania, where 35 million people live without electricity.
Team: Emmanuel Cassimatis, Alla Jezmir, and Benjamin Lambert (all MBA ’09, all have worked in Africa), with Jamie Yang, Jukka Valimaki, and Blandine Antoine, all of MIT.
Org chart: A Tanzania-based management team (Emmanuel, Jukka, Jamie) and U.S.-based advisory team (Alla, Benjamin, Blandine).
Best preparation: International Entrepreneurship, a second-year elective taught by faculty adviser and senior lecturer Daniel Isenberg.
EGG: Engineering Global Growth.
Why Africa? Alla “So many people see Africa as a place of violence and corruption. Having lived there, I see it as a market like any other, and the best way to enter is through a private-sector entity that provides incentives to employees while generating profits and growth.”
The plan: Rechargeable batteries are a safe, clean, affordable energy source. Each battery has the size and weight of a brick and can be delivered directly to customers via motorbike. A single battery can power a family’s lights and other electrical devices for three days before it’s swapped out for one that has been recharged. Customers pay a yearly subscription fee per battery and a small fee for each recharge.
What comes next: On-the-ground research in villages in Tanzania to identify potential charging sites. Implement a pilot within eight months, achieve profitability within two years, and grow sustainably after five years, expanding throughout Africa.