Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 3pm

Winners of HBS’s Annual Startup Competition: MBA News

Emergency response mobile app wins in HBS startup competition

An emergency response app was one of the winners of a startup competition held at Harvard Business School (HBS) yesterday (April 22).

Founded and run by a team that includes MBA students at both Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan, RapidSOS has the power to communicate key information, such as location and medical information, to the appropriate emergency service at the touch of a smartphone button. It does this by offering a combination of products, such as 911 platforms and accident notification technology.

The RapidSOS app triumphed in the ‘business track’ - one of two main categories of Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition – an annual startup competition organized by HBS’s entrepreneurship center. The team picks up a check for US$50,000 for winning over a panel of judges that included Diane Hessan, an MBA alumna of Harvard Business School, now CEO of Startup Institute, a company that offers programs for those looking to get business ventures off the ground.

Fish first in Harvard Business School’s social impact category

The annual startup competition at HBS also represents part of its social enterprise initiative, and for this reason a second category and award is made in this area. A startup scheme to bring sustainable fish farming (as well as vegetable produce) to the rooftops of urban grocery stores (supermarkets), starting with Philadelphia, is the vision of this year’s winner, FOCUS Foods Inc. Its two cofounders - one of whom is now pursuing a Wharton MBA alongside a master’s in public administration at Harvard - met while studying at MIT.  

In crowd votes across the startup competition’s two categories, RapidSOS topped the business category, but there was recognition in the social enterprise category for Barakat Bundle – a venture which aims to lower infant mortality in developing countries. The ‘bundle’ itself is a box containing essential health information and maternity items, and is based on a Finnish model said to have greatly reduced the country’s own infant mortality rate.

Last year’s winner in the business category was another app – this time for performing services which might once upon a time have been carried out by a personal butler, such as dry-cleaning and meeting day-to-day shopping needs. The Alfred app has since raised upwards of US$10 million and is now working on an app for Apple’s latest creation, the Apple Watch. Saathi - a venture looking to use waste banana tree fiber to provide women in rural India with sanitary pads - cofounded by a graduate of last year’s HBS MBA class - claimed first place in last year’s social impact track.

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Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).