Harvard B-School Awards Top Startups


Finalists in Harvard Business School's New Venture Competition, where Saathi's biodegradable sanitary pads won the prize.

Finalists in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition

Harvard Business School today (April 29) announced the winners of its annual New Venture Competition (NVC) after a three-round series that left eight teams in the final round to compete for $150,000 and in-kind services.

The NVC is divided into Business and Social Enterprise Tracks with four teams vying for a $50,000 grand prize in each category. Alfred, a virtual butler service that promises “a world where you never have to do chores again”  won the Business Track. While Saathi, which provides biodegradable sanitary pads to women in rural India, claimed the top prize in the Social Enterprise division.

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria also announced the winners of the alumni competition, which is decided by a worldwide vote. York Street Partners, a Sri Lanka-based investment banking firm, swept the Most Innovative and Greatest Impact awards. Meanwhile, Busbud, “an Expedia for buses,” won the Best Investment category. 


The competition, formerly known as the Business Plan Contest, is now in its 18th year and has given rise to startup success such as Birchbox and car-sharing marketplace RelayRides.


Attendees used virtual devices to vote for the Audience Favorite winners

Attendees used hand-held devices to vote for the Audience Favorite winners

The results of this year’s contest were determined earlier in the day as the teams pitched their presentations before a panel of judges in private sessions. The winners were announced during the Grand Finale in the B-school’s Burden Auditorium before a full-capacity crowd of students, faculty, entrepreneurs, investors, and alumni.

A virtual butler service with the name of Alfred claimed top honors in business for its shared butler service that offers weekly help with household chores for $99 per month. Booya Fitness finished second with an on-demand workout video platform.

In social enterprise, Saathi bested the field for making more affordable sanitary pads out of banana tree fiber for women in rural India. The runner-up was Tomato Jos, which partners with tomato farmers in Nigeria to produce tomato paste.

During the finale, each team presented a 90-second elevator pitch to the audience for the Crowd Favorite award. Casting their votes through hand-held devices in American Idol style, attendees awarded the Business Track prize to SplitNGo, an app that seamlessly splits restaurant bills, and the Social Enterprise honor to Saathi.

The finale was followed by a reception where HBS’ elite entrepreneurial alumni mingled with the newly crowned NVC champions. Attendees included ThredUp co-founders James Reinhart and Christopher Homer, CloudFlare co-founder Michelle Zatlyn, Gilt Groupe co-founders Alexandra Wilson and Alexis Maybank, and Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.

In order to compete in the NVC, Harvard University graduate students must comprise the majority of social enterprise teams. In the Business Track, an HBS student must play a primary role in the business, and the startup cannot have raised more than $1.5 million in seed funding and $2 million revenue.

**See the next page for all the finalists**

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.