Wharton & HBS Showcase MBA Startups in Competition Finals | TopMBA.com

Wharton & HBS Showcase MBA Startups in Competition Finals

By Seb Murray

Updated April 28, 2017 Updated April 28, 2017

MBAs at top business schools in North America stood to win a combined US$435,000 in cash and prizes for their startups this week.

At Harvard Business School (HBS), students pitched to a room full of investors hungry for fresh and disruptive startups across a myriad of industries. Up to US$300,000 in venture capital funding was up for grabs, as part of Tuesday’s New Venture Competition (NVC).

Meanwhile, at the Wharton School, eight teams of entrepreneurs will fight it out for over US$135,000 in cash and other prizes today, in the final of the Startup Challenge — version 2.0 of the Wharton Business Plan Competition.

Warby Parker among past winners at Wharton

The showcases highlight the explosion of entrepreneurship at business schools globally, with schools striving to provide support and funding in their MBA programs for those who hope to found the next unicorn — a venture valued at or above US$1 billion.

Winners of past competitions at the two Ivy League business schools have gone on to achieve huge success. Previous participants of the Wharton Business Plan Competition include ventures such as eyeglass startup, Warby Parker, which was founded seven years ago by Wharton MBA alumni, Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, and was valued at US$1.2 billion in 2015, as well as Brazilian e-commerce site, Baby.com.br. (Read more about Warby Parker’s founders and their interest in social entrepreneurship.)

Veho triumphs in HBS’s latest business plan competition

A principal winner of HBS’s New Venture Competition this year is Veho, which aims to replace large delivery trucks with a platform that enables anyone to deliver packages in his or her car. Past winners of an HBS business plan competition include MBA graduates Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn, two of the three founders of cybersecurity company, Cloudflare, which is reportedly valued at US$3.2 billion.

Among the most exciting startups (we think) at this year’s Wharton competition finals is Slice Capital, which aims to democratize venture capital by allowing everyday individuals to invest in pre-vetted startups at the tap of a button – a venture established by several Wharton MBAs.

MBA programs can offer useful connections and access to funding

The startup community has been wary of MBA programs and their high price-tags, but entrepreneurs say the networks accrued at business school, in addition to the solid grounding in business management, are beneficial to anyone hoping to launch and scale a startup.

“Through connections I made via the Rock Center and the Rock Accelerator, my company has hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding it would not otherwise have. Not to say that it’s all about money, either — the Rock Accelerator connected us to world-class mentors that have generously provided their sage advice time and time again,” said Jon Staff, founder and CEO of house rental business, Getaway, which was a 2016 Rock Accelerator team.

The Rock Accelerator program at HBS is aimed at early-stage startups led by high-potential HBS student founders. Some 26 Rock Accelerator Teams were selected this year to take part in the program, which includes workshops, check-ins to support progress, and opportunities to pitch for seed funding to build, validate and launch businesses.

The initiative, along with the continued success of participants, shows that MBA programs can be valuable to anyone hoping to launch a business. 

This article was originally published in April 2017 .

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