Health Care Dominates HBS Startup Comp

Getaway took second in the student business track

Getaway took second in the student business track


In the ultimate industry span, second-place went to the stressed out and overworked yuppie-focused, Getaway. The four-member team, led by second year MBA, Jon Staff places tiny houses in rural land around Boston and rents them out to city slickers for $99 a night.

“In this connected age of phones buzzing off the hook, and bosses emailing you at 10 p.m., it is absolutely necessary to find ways to disconnect and recharge,” Staff said during his 90-second pitch. “The way we’ve been doing this forever is called the vacation. But the vacation is broken. It takes too much time to get there. It takes too much energy to do these shitty tourist activities you have to do on vacation.”

Garnering many laughs during the 90 seconds, Staff and team might be getting the last laugh. Since launching in July, Staff says Getaway has seen more than 13,000 renters and upwards of $140,000 in revenue. They now also have an $25,000 in the back pocket.


Gaining the most crowd votes and earning $2,000 was health care-focused BrainSpec. “We’re Brainspec and our goal is to make the virtual biopsy a reality,” second year MBA, Alexandra Zimmerman said during her final pitch. “It’s safer, it’s more effective and you get the results in 30 seconds instead of three days.”

Zimmerman put together a crack team including a PhD in quantum physics and professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and has a non-invasive alternative to the traditional biopsy. Dubbed the MR Spectroscopy, the team claims it has “applications in brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and many other conditions.”

In the student social enterprise track, UrSure, Inc. took home the $50,000 grand prize. Founded by Helen Koenig, a practicing physician in Philadelphia and Giffin Daughtridge, a dual MD-public policy student at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s Kennedy School, UrSure is a non-invasive way of encouraging adherence to the HIV preventive drug, PrEP. Instead of shots in the arm, Koenig and Daughtridge have created a way to measure usage through a urine test. “It’s as easy as one, two, pee,” Daughtridge closed his pitch to laughs.

Winning the runner-up cash pot of $25,000 was crowd favorite, Confi. The platform, focused on “crowdsourcing big sister advice” around women’s and sexual health was founded by second year MBAs, Tess Brooks and Polina Dekhtyar and Harvard undergrads, Montita Sowapark and Nyla Fuller.


Such important and life-altering solutions were right on par to an incredibly inspirational keynote address from Jeff Sandefer. The serial entrepreneur earned his MBA from HBS in 1986 and is regarded as one of the best professors in entrepreneurship in the United States. Sandefer started his first company as a high school student and is currently teaching entrepreneurship at the alternative B-school he founded, Action School of Business and it’s K-12 spinoff, Action Academy.

“This morning I missed teaching my MBA class for the second time in 26 years,” Sandefer began. “And I left my middle and high school schools with no adults in the classroom. All so I could come to Boston and deliver the following message: Simple ideas alone do not change the future.

“But if you’re willing to commit to a hero’s journey in entrepreneurship, you can change the world. I’m here today because I believe a few of you are going to do exactly that.”


And then Sandefer proceeded to outline what it means to live a hero’s journey in entrepreneurship. “When your time on earth reaches its natural end, I predict you won’t be concerned about money or power or fame,” Sandefer said. “But simply, have I contributed something meaningful? Was I a good person? And who did I love and who loved me?”

In a speech closely resembling a religious sermon, Sandefer stuck with a love conquers all theme.

“Yes, winning the New Venture Challenge matters and it should be celebrated,” said Sandefer. “And so does earning a Harvard degree and launching an IPO. But in the long run, who you love and who loves you trumps everything.

“I promised at the start to answer the question, do you have what it takes. You will be successful. You’ll make more money than you need. And you’ll soon learn that being rich is not about what you have, but spending less than you make so that your free time belongs to you. You’ll find—as Bill (Sahlman) said—that failure isn’t about setbacks or making mistakes, because those are going to make you strong. And increasingly—and especially—if you ignore the hero’s call, you will learn not to fear failure, but the horror of waking up at age 55 or 60 and realize you wasted your life.”


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