HARVARD IMPOSED AN APRIL 18TH DEADLINE FOR TEAMS TO LAUNCH THEIR BUSINESSES
The goal for Saskin’s team and all the others was to launch an actual business by April 18th. On that day, each team had to do another ten-minute presentation before investors began trading yet again. Saskin, who acts as chief financial officer in charge of contracts and accounting, along with teammates Pat Griffin and Maxine Botesazan, presented to investors. They showed screenshots of their website and a slick marketing video to further explain the concept.
At Yenta, users can sign up as either a “Yenta,” a matchmaker, or a “Catch”, a friend who’s ready to be set up. Yentas can log in using Facebook, quickly discover which of their friends are on the site as either Yentas or Catches, and then start setting up their single friends. The team has a three-tier “freemium” business model. Anyone can use the site for free, but if Yentas want to match more than five friends, they have to fork over $1. Mostly, though, the team hopes make money by offering “strategic advertising” targeted to the matching and dating experience.
During the ensuring two-hour trading session, students made more than 14,000 trades. Yenta stock shot up by some 50% to trade in the $60 range. But the day’s highest closing price went to IvyKids, a startup that is launching an educational iPad application that bridges the virtual and physical worlds. IvyKids, which closed at nearly $360 a share, has already secured funding from outside Harvard and recruited an advisory board member from Disney.
AMERICAN IDOL-LIKE VOTING EXPECTED DURING ‘IPO’ DAY
The best of the concepts will be presented to external judges who will come to campus on May 14th for what Harvard is calling “IPO Day.” One winner will be selected from each of the ten HBS sections that make up the Class of 2013. “We’ll have text voting like American Idol,” says Phoebe Anderson, a FIELD coordinator.
So far, students seem to be fairly positive a about the process. “It’s been a great experience,” says Saskin. “There have been a lot of ups and downs. We’re the guinea pigs.”
Obviously, not all of the ideas will make it. Those that don’t enter what Harvard calls a “failed business track,” where the rest of the term is spent on autopsies to reflect on why the ideas didn’t quite work. “It’s impossible to imagine that 150 businesses based on teams that had never worked together would create 150 successes,” adds Professor MacCormack. “The going-to-market track is about selling and going to customers and proving your idea. And the other is understanding that failure is a very natural outcome in entrepreneurship.”
At Launch Day on April 18th, nine out of the 150 teams went to “failed business track,” though more teams are expected to fold over the next week or so. “It’s probably better for their learning to step back and reflect at this time rather than push forward,” says MacCormack.
And for one enterprising team, failure became an opportunity: the group is launching a business called “failed business track” that sells t-shirts to the losing teams. As the group explains on its e-commerce website, “A lot of funny things happen to you at business college. We’re here to make those moments of hilarity, joy, and, well, embarrassment, permanent.”