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Name-checks and winners: MIT $100K Business Plan Competition

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 12, 2010 10:40 PM

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"Part of the reason MIT is so awesome," Jonathan Seelig just wrote in a tweet, is that "we just voted for a team with a founder with a PhD in concrete as the winner" of the MIT $100K business plan competition.

That winning idea would be Rouzbeh Shahsavari's C-Crete, which is working on a new kind of nano-engineered concrete that's stronger, more durable, and easier on the environment than traditional concrete.

(Seelig, now a venture capitalist, was part of a team in the very same competition a dozen years ago that didn't win, but was a runner up: Akamai Technologies, now part of the NASDAQ 100 Index.)

The audience prize went to Aukera Therapeutics, a company developing a new drug to slow down the progression of Lou Gehrig's disease. Aukera will take home $10,000 in cash; C-Crete $100,000.

Here's who I saw at the event (and the chilly pre-event VIP party, held in a tent outside of Kresge Auditorium):

In the photo above are $100K team members (and Sloan students) Brian Cantwell and Carrie Stalder. Cantwell told me that for the first time this year, the organizing team got some fancy silver $100K lapel pins (below left)...and competition alums got gold ones.

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Also there: Ambient Devices chief operating officer Pritesh Gandhi and Gregg Favalora of Optics For Hire (Favalora's prior start-up, the now-defunct display maker Actuality Systems, won the competition a year before Akamai, in 1997)...Greg Bialecki, the Commonwealth's secretary of housing and economic development...Eric Paley of Founder Collective, who with Brontes Technologies was a competition finalist in 2003...Mass. Medical Angels co-founder Richard Anders, who told me the group has now invested in four start-ups...Luis Barros of the Mass. Life Sciences Center...Alex Goldberg of Canary Ventures and his mother Judith (their family endows the competition's top prize)...Sachin Agarwal, the early Oneforty team member who is now an interim marketing executive at Blueleaf, before he heads off to business school in the fall...Joost Bonsen, an MIT Media Lab prof who has been on a competition team eight different times, and who starred in one of several satirical videos shown this evening... and competition judge Bob Metcalfe of Polaris Venture Partners.

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At right is MIT Sloan student and competition organizer Carter Dunn with Rich Kivel of Rhapsody Biologics, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the MIT Enterprise Forum.









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Diagnostics for All CEO Una Ryan was another of the competition judges.


















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Rick Grinnell of Fairhaven Capital with David Barrett of Polaris Venture Partners.












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Here's the team from SolSource, showing off a device that can be used to heat a home, cook food, or generate power in developing countries. (I am sure E.T. could also use it to phone home, if necessary.)









The evening's keynote speaker was former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman, who had also served as a competition judge this year. He showed many fuzzy Reebok television ads from the 1980s and 1990s to emphasize his point that the ability to communicate, not just develop a great product, is important for small companies that hope to get big.  But the actual message it sent to the tech-savvy, Twittering crowd? Spending millions of dollars to hire athletes to star in Super Bowl commercials is a pretty old-school way to get consumers' attention.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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