Imagen, a three-person team that invented and hopes to market an image-retrieval software system, won the $30,000 grand prize in the annual MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition.
The Imagen team--consisting of graduate student Sajit Rao and postdoctoral associate Pamela Lipson of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and postdoctoral fellow Pawan Sinha of brain and cognitive sciences--competed against more than 80 other student teams. Advisors to the team were Chris Daly, an attorney at Nutter McClennen & Fish; Professor Tomaso Poggio of brain and cognitive sciences, and Professor of Computer and Science and Engineering Eric Grimson of AI Lab.
The $30,000 prize will go toward launching the proposed Imagen business. The team plans to bring its system, which offers efficient image-storing and searching, to customers by late 1997.
The two runner-up teams, which each won $10,000, were e-pen, which proposes to market a low-cost white-board transcription software, and Eastern Delta, which aims to develop and sell a 3-D image display monitor.
The $50K competition is designed to encourage students and researchers in the MIT community to act on their talent, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading firms. In its eight-year history, the contest has awarded more than $100,000 in cash and business startup services to student entrepreneur teams that submitted compelling and viable business plans. The competition also develops and maintains a network of mentors, investors and potential partners to help teams act on their plans.
Among the 25 companies that have emerged from the competition are Firefly Network (finalist, 1995), SensAble Technologies (winner, 1995), Webline Communications (winner 1996), net.Genesis (finalist, 1995), Diva (entrant, 1992), Stylus Innovation (winner, 1991).
The teams accepted their prizes before a record crowd of 900 in Kresge Auditorium on May 14. Keynote speaker Kevin Kinsella (SB '67), president and CEO of California-based Sequana Therapeutics, opened the event, after which each of the seven $50K finalist teams presented its plan to the audience.
The three prize-winning teams receive their monetary awards in three installments: one-third immediately, one-third upon incorporation and the final third next fall after proving their viability as a business.
The other finalists' team names and proposed products were:
- InfraScan--infrared technology to diagnosis cancer, particularly breast cancer.
- Io Corp.--integrated, open-architecture bio-informatics technology and software tools to enable bio/pharmaceutical companies to discover and develop products more efficiently.
- Perfect Underwear--applying the concept of mass customization to the world of intimate apparel using 3-D scanner technology combined with a trademarked measurement system.
- Sensoria Inc.--portable vapor detection systems for explosives detection, illicit drug detection, medical diagnostics, and food quality control.
This year's $50K judges were Steve Brown and Jack Turner of the Technology Licensing Office; Brad Feld, entrepreneur and VC, Intensity Ventures; Joe Hadzima, general counsel, Quantum Energy; Stephen Henkenmeier, Price Waterhouse; Steve Henry, patent attorney, Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks; David Morgenthaler, Morgenthaler Ventures; Jean Notis-McConarty, partner, Coopers & Lybrand; John Piccione, attorney, Sullivan & Worcester; and Dan Schwinn, founder, Shiva, Avidyne.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 1997.