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Harvard’s Lean Start-Up Winners Get $50K

Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship has announced nine winners of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Funding, a new pilot program offering $50,000 in total awards to student entrepreneurs working on projects during the School’s winter term.

Eighty-eight teams, each with at least one current Harvard MBA student, submitted entries. Written proposals were due at the end of January, and finalists presented their ideas to the MVP selection committee in mid-February.

Funded teams are required to meet with a mentor on a monthly basis, attend a monthly gathering of other MVP teams, and present lessons learned from the MVP program and process at the end of the semester.

“The number and quality of the business and product ideas submitted for consideration were outstanding. Equally impressive has been the intense support we have received from HBS alumni and other individuals in the entrepreneurial and technology communities who have stepped forward to serve as advisors and mentors to the winning teams,” said Rumennik, a first-year student.

He had proposed the MVP Fund with two other classmates, Jess Bloomgarden and Andrew Rosenthal. Funded by the school’s Rock Center, the fundis based on the premise of the Lean Startup methodology, which focuses on rapid prototyping, a process that brings products to market as quickly as possible. This methodology has been advanced and popularized by Eric Ries, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at HBS this academic year advising students and collaborating with faculty members on research and course development.

“This response, in addition to that of the recently admitted MBA students who are already expressing interest in the program, shows there is a major appetite for entrepreneurship at HBS. We hope this program can grow in the years ahead to support more students as they strive to get their business ideas off the ground.”

“The enthusiastic response to this competition from the HBS community shows the magnitude of the entrepreneurial spirit at the School,” said Tom Eisenmann, the William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration in the HBS Entrepreneurial Management Unit. “We were thoroughly impressed by the nine winning business ideas and look forward to watching these businesses develop with assistance from the MVP Fund.”

The nine winning entries (with their founders) are:

  • Adiply (Omar Restom, HBS 2012): An automated self-serve tool that executes online advertising direct deals.
  • AfterSteps (Jessica Bloomgarden, Alex Stratoudakis, and Emma Taylor, all HBS 2012): An online end-of-life planning platform with educational resources and tools to create a plan, store it, and transfer it to designated beneficiaries.
  • Children’s Stories for American Muslims (Mohammed Aaser, HBS 2012): A children’s entertainment and education brand for the underserved North American Muslim population. The business will start as a subscription service delivering monthly stories and will later expand into toys, books, games, videos, and licensing.
  • MatchLend (Jeffrey Engler, HBS 2011, and Charles Deutsch): A tool to improve loan underwriting accuracy by incorporating data often missed by traditional methods.
  • MyDayz (Vasile Tofan, HBS 2012, Ecaterina Demcencov and Alex Rishoj): A web application that allows women to keep track of their health data, focusing on period and fertility monitoring.
  • Rewardly (Aleem Mawani, HBS 2011, and Jasen Kim): A rewards program that works with the customers’ existing credit cards wherever they make purchases.
  • UpStart (Sarah Dillard, Jevan Soo, and Shiyan Koh, all HBS 2011): A program that seeks to do for entrepreneurship what Teach for America did for teaching by creating a well-branded path for young talent to work at promising startups and learn entrepreneurial skills.
  • Vinamea (Gurvan Rallon and Cornelius Frey, both HBS 2012): A platform that allows people to rent a portion of a vineyard, follow an online wine production process from grape to bottle, and ultimately receive their share of the year’s vintage in a customized package.
  • Zumper (Anthemos Georgiades, Tom Dye, and Ken Sim, all HBS 2012): An online real estate market in which students and others can bid on and secure properties in a more efficient and transparent manner.

Among the many HBS graduates who have founded successful business ventures are Marla Malcolm Beck (MBA 1998), founder of bluemercury; Michael Bloomberg (MBA 1963), founder of Bloomberg L.P.; Marc C. Cenedella (MBA 1998), founder, president, and CEO of TheLadders.com; Scott Cook (MBA 1976), chairman and cofounder of Intuit; Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss (both MBA 2009), cofounders of Rent the Runway; Rajil Kapoor (MBA 1996), cofounder and former chairman and CEO of Snapfish; Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson (both MBA 2004), cofounders of Gilt Groupe; Christopher Michel (MBA 1998), founder of Military.com; Tom Stemberg (MBA 1973), founder of Staples; and Jeremy Stoppelman (MBA 2005), CEO and cofounder of Yelp.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.