In just 60 seconds, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) graduate student Hariharan Shankar Rahul made the case for MegaMIMO, a new Wi-Fi optimization system that solves the problem of overcrowded and overloaded wireless networks. As the first finalist asked to pitch his business plan during the final round of MIT’s $100K Competition Elevator Pitch Contest, Rahul had to wait for almost an hour after his presentation, wondering about the ultimate outcome. At the end of the night Rahul, who worked with CSAIL principal investigator Dina Katabi and CSAIL graduate student Swarun Kumar for two years to develop MegaMIMO, was crowned the grand-prize winner and awarded $5,000.
“It felt really good,” Rahul said on winning the contest. “This is good validation that this is a real business, and that we’re solving a real problem.”
In his short but compelling pitch, Rahul explained the problems presented by today’s limited wireless spectrum by referring to Steve Jobs’ infamous iPhone 4 keynote last year, where the Apple co-founder was forced to ask audience members to shut off their wireless so that he could demonstrate the new system. To solve the problem of overcrowded and crashing networks, Rahul proposed MegaMIMO, a new Wi-Fi optimization system that draws on the collaborative strength of multiple wireless access points to provide users strong signals even in areas of weak connectivity.
The name MegaMIMO comes from the concept of MIMO, or multiple input and multiple output points for wireless communications, and mega, which stands for the grand scale at which MIMO will be enacted through this system.
“MegaMIMO tackles overcrowded networks,” Rahul said during the final round of the Elevator Pitch Contest. “MegaMIMO is a patent-pending technology for wireless access points and wireless routers that provides the same high download speeds of today’s technology, but for 10 times as many users, and it works with today’s laptops and tablets.”
The Elevator Pitch Contest is one of three contests in MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, a yearlong series of competitions that allows MIT students and researchers to test their business ideas in a nonacademic setting. The Elevator Pitch Contest provides participants just one minute to successfully pitch their business plans; they then receive feedback from a panel of judges on their work.
Rahul explained that he was inspired to enter the competition by his desire to receive exposure and feedback on his business plan from industry insiders, as the contest tends to be well-attended by venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. As Rahul explained in his pitch, he already has a working prototype for MegaMIMO built, and is planning on creating wireless access points for the $5 billion enterprise market shortly.
The competition is “very rewarding,” according to Rahul. “It makes you think harder about the business side of things," he says. "Here at MIT, we think about the research side, and a lot of research is practically applicable. Going from research to product development gets you thinking about what you need to build, how you can make money, what is interesting to customers. It’s a different focus, and I found this very interesting.”
Inspired by his recent success, Rahul plans to enter other competitions in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, and hopes to launch MegaMIMO as a company shortly.
Check out Rahul’s contest-winning pitch here (Rahul's pitch starts about 23 minutes into the video, and the prizes are announced starting at 1:23:45).