How An Unlikely Foursome Competed In Harvard’s Top Business Plan Contest

The New Venture Competition finale resembles a nerdy pep rally – Kanye West blares from the speakers, while a local dance troupe performs a frenzied routine in front of a movie screen. Catching the buzz, Meredith McPherron, director of Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, sashays on stage. She opens the occasion with an ode to entrepreneurship: “You must admit entrepreneurs are an unusual and quirky bunch, and yes I’m talking about all of you, you know who you are….you are passionate, stubborn, full of conviction about just about everything, absolutely energizing and at times exhausting, and almost always, always quite irrational and unreasonable. And for that we are entirely grateful because unlike reasonable and rational people, it’s unreasonable and irrational ones that change the world.” The audience applauds.

Finalists in Harvard Business School's New Venture Competition

Finalists in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition

One after another these irrational students take the stage, each touting an idea they promise will change the world, whether it’s keeping busy professionals fit on the road with workout videos or employing Nigerian farmers to make tomato paste. They’ve got 90 seconds to sell the audience on their dream.

Pritchett approaches the stage, and delivers a confident and compelling pitch, finishing just as the giant digital clock on the screen behind her switches to zero. But the competition is stiff. The SplitNGo team pitches their mobile payment app with an awkward date sketch  – complete with a table, chairs, and an uncomfortable couple. The dating duo enthusiastically part ways after SplitNGo separates the bill in seconds. “What you just witnessed is the future of restaurants,” the team’s spokesman announces.

Finally, the big moment arrives. EasyBiodata has high hopes. Agarwal’s cricket team won – a positive omen. Plus, they’ve been on this stage before, surely it’s their time. With bated breath they wait for the winner, and the award goes to … Alfred, a virtual butler service. Booya Fitness, the workout video platform, claims runner up, while SplitNGo steals the Audience Favorite Award.

The easyBiodata team maintains their smiles and climbs on stage to join their fellow finalists for a photo opportunity. The disappointment is evident, but it’s clear that this won’t be the end of the business. The competition was not a conditional statement: if we win, then we keep going. The team would forge ahead with or without the $50,000. “We have a history of coming in fourth and we’ve been able to get it up to here, so this gives us motivation to keep working on it,” Kakitsubo says. The team plans to continue the business after graduation and is currently recruiting engineers and designers. They’ve even toyed with the idea of moving to Slovakia to be closer to their head developer. Their eyes are on the future and not failure. Then again, that’s the essence of an entrepreneur – a little delusion, a lot of dedication, and a dream.

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