Most Promising Startup Ideas From Harvard

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 10.05.32 PMA website to plan bachelorette parties? A new way to help small businesses find and land federal contracts? And anScreen Shot 2013-10-22 at 10.06.41 PM online network for mental health, allowing physicians, case managers, and counselors to coordinate patient care?

Those are just three of the nine new startup ideas from Harvard Business School MBA students that have won $5,000 each in funding from the annual Rock Accelerator Award Program, giving $5,000 to each team of student entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2010, the Rock Accelerator Award is designed to help students who are using the lean startup methodology to develop a minimum viable product. This methodology, advanced and popularized by Eric Ries (formerly an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at HBS), focuses on rapid prototyping, a process that brings products to market as quickly as possible.

The Rock Center offers two rounds of Accelerator Awards during the academic year. Forty-eight teams submitted entries for the first round, which was open to second-year MBA students only (at least one member of each team must be a Harvard MBA student). The winners are selected by a panel of three faculty members and three students.

The winning teams are required to meet with a mentor from the program on a monthly basis, attend a monthly gathering of all Rock Accelerator teams, and present lessons learned from the Rock Accelerator program.

“Interest in entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School is at an all-time high,” said Meredith McPherron (MBA 1993), D\director of the Rock Center, in a statement. “The Rock Accelerator program is one of the many resources and opportunities available to student entrepreneurs at HBS.”

The nine first-round winning entries (with their founders) are:

  • 23 Percent (Christina Pawlikowski, MBA 2014, and Josh Hawn) helps small businesses find and pursue federal contracts more effectively. Pawlikowski, who earned her undergraduate degree at Penn State in international politics, had worked as an associate for Toffler Associates, a strategic consultancy, before going to Harvard.
  • Bachelorettey (Romy Drucker, Claire Friedman, Meera Shah, all MBA 2014) is a premier online destination for planning bachelorette parties. Drucker, a Yale undergraduate with a degree in literature and Spanish language, had worked for New York City’s Department of Education as chief of staff for the division of portfolio planning. Friedman, who has a B.A. from Harvard in economics, had worked for Goldman Sachs as an associate in structured finance investment banking.
  • Chefstro (Rohan Pradhan and Dipish Rai, both MBA 2014) brings professional chefs from top restaurants to craft a fine dining experience in your home for a price that is cheaper than dinner at a restaurant. A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, Pradhan had been an private equity analyst at The Blackstone Group and a business analyst for McKinsey & Co. before going to Harvard Business School. Rai, who has his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras and a master’s from Columbia University, had worked for both Booz & Co and Providence Equity Partners before going to HBS>
  • Cobalt (Diane Chang, MBA 2014) offers easier access to customized women’s flats using specific measurements, high-quality materials, and thoughtful design. Chang, who has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, had worked for Google as a strategic partner manager in London before going for her MBA.
  • Easily (Heidi Kim and Kelly Schaefer, both MBA 2014) partners with companies to offer employees fresh and healthy meal kits for easy home cooking. Kim, who earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard in social studies, had been a consultant with Oliver Wyman and a program manager for before starting at Harvard Business School. A former Bain & Co. consultant, Schaefer had worked for the African Leadership Foundation before starting her MBA at Harvard. Her undergraduate degree is from Wharton.
  • Healo (Nathan Le, MBA 2014 and Gino Inverso and Peter Jackson, both students at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine) enables a mobile solution for doctors to remotely monitor and manage chronic wound care.
  • openmind (Andrew Dubowec, MBA 2014) is an online network for mental health, allowing physicians, case managers, and counselors to coordinate patient care. Dubowec, who earned his undergraduate degree at Queen’s University, had worked for Wildfire, a division of Google.
  • StudyHippo (Alexander Harding and Rena Xu, both MBA 2014) matches people to research studies that fit their needs and make it easier for researchers to recruit study participants.Harding, a Yale history major, is also pursuing an MD from Johns Hopkins University. Xu, who earned her undergraduate degree in bioscience at Harvard, had been an associate with the Boston Consulting Group. She is also pursuing a dual MBA/MD degree, both at Harvard.
  • Trendly (Charles-Albert Gorra, MBA 2014) is an online and mobile retailer of women’s pre-owned quality clothes in the United Kingdom. Gorra, who earned his undergraduate degree from HEC School of Management, had worked for Goldman Sachs and TPG Capital, before going to HBS.


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