Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You Heard It Here First: $300K in Prizes for MIT Entrepreneurs

As this blog suggested back in September, the prize money at MIT's entrepreneurship competitions has leapt from $100,000 to $300,000, with the addition of a $200,000 prize for "Clean Energy Entrepreneurship".

Money comes from NStar and the US Dept. of Energy. Prize, according to Robert Gavin of the Globe, "will go to the team that develops and presents the best plan for commercializing alternative energy products and services."

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MIT's Business Plan Competition: From $10K to $300K?

MIT's annual Entrepreneurship Competition started in 1990, with $10,000 of prize money... so for a long while, it was known as the $10K competition. In 1996, the purse grew to $50,000, and then to $100,000 last year.

The competition has a pretty good track record for spawning companies. While some never make it past the embryonic stage, Akamai Technologies was a finalist in 1998. Direct Hit won the competition in 1998, and then was acquired two years later for half a billion dollars. In 1995, Harmonix (makers of the hit videogame "Guitar Hero," now owned by MTV Networks) was a finalist.

This week, I've bumped into a few Sloan students who've suggested to me that the prize money is heading north again this as much as $300,000. One judge I spoke to said he has been hearing rumblings, too.

Bill Aulet, one of the Sloan school lecturers involved in supporting the competition, said yesterday he wasn't ready to confirm any numbers, and several other people connected to the competition didn't return my calls. Given that the most recent change to the competition was adding a new $50,000 "Development" category, which focuses on businesses that can improve low-income communities or developing countries, I'd expect the additional prize money to focus on a new category -- like energy or the environment.

Increasing the prize money three-fold wouldn't be about convincing more students to enter the competition -- just about anyone with an entrepreneurial inkling at MIT knows about it already, and has plenty of motivation to get involved. I think the increase would have three benefits:

    1. Marketing: Ensure that the competition remains prominent on the national scene...attracts more media attention...makes more prospective B-school students aware of Sloan...and brings in more venture capitalists to look at the finalists and winning companies as prospective investments.

    2. Pocket change: Give the winning companies a bit more prize money to use in their start-up stage, assuming they don't find funding quickly from VCs.

    3. Spark more entries in a particular sector, like cleantech.

With $250,000 or $300,000 in prizes, it seems like the MIT competition would be the country's biggest.... the state of New Hampshire ran a competition with $250,000 in cash prizes from 2003 to 2005, but they haven't repeated it since. Across the pond, the London Business School has a $500K competition, focused on homeland security.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Top Innovators Under 35: From Technology Review

Technology Review, MIT's alumni newsletter, put out its annual list of the most interesting innovators under 35 today.

Who's on the list from New England?

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