IDEAS for Business START UPS
Flashing blue lights and blaring music set an energetic tone for the 20th Annual Harvard Business School New Venture Competition held Tuesday in a nearly packed Burden Hall.
Hundreds of Harvard affiliates, as well as students from four local high schools, attended the event to watch the finalists of the New Venture Competition—in which this year over 280 teams competed for funding for their startup ideas—pitch their projects and vie for “crowd favorite” awards.
This year’s 12 finalists included Freeflow, a medical device to prevent hospital-acquired infections, Apli, a chatbot designed to connect employers with qualified employees, and CozyKin, an app to help parents find and share childcare providers in their communities. The three $75, 000 prize winners were Flare, a wearable device that can place phone calls to users hoping to escape an awkward date, Veho, an app that connects freelance package deliverers, and Apli.
For the first time this year, the competition included “crowd favorite” awards, which were decided by an online vote at the end of each of the competition’s three categories. Winners of the crowd favorite award took home a $5, 000 prize. Apli won one of the three crowd favorite awards. Juva Therapy, an app that aims to help patients build relationship with their therapists, and CozyKin took home the other crowd favorite awards. Both projects also earned the $25, 000 runner-up prize in their respective categories. Vention, a custom machine design service, won the third runner-up prize.
“The New Venture Competition has always been an inspiration for almost all the startups at HBS and Harvard campus so this is an opportunity for us to follow our heroes and get to share… our vision for childcare, ” said Jeremy Au, a member of the CozyKin team.
Though teams had had 30 minutes for their initial pitches to the competition’s judges on April 1, they were given just 90 seconds to present to the crowd at Tuesday’s event. Though some teams were forced to stop abruptly at the 90 second mark, others precisely timed their closing statements.
“Juva has the potential to help the over 44 million Americans suffering from mental health to get better faster, ” Qian Qian S. Tang said at the end of her team’s presentation.
Some chose to end with memorable slogans.
“It’s a buzzkill, ” said Andrew Rothaus at the end of their pitch for Hour 72, a long-lasting bug spray.
Early in the event, host and comedian Norm Laviolette poked fun at the Business School, joking that the school churns out consultants and financiers, not startups.