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Top entrepreneurs to share $50K in prizes

The three winners of the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition will be announced tonight at 7:30pm in Kresge Auditorium. On stage presenting their business plans will be the seven finalist teams in what Newsweek called the "I Wanna Be a Gazillionaire Geek" contest.

The three winners of the 10th annual student-organized competition will be chosen from the seven finalists --, Crosskate,, Just-in-Zyme, MolecularWare, Inc., VectraSense Technologies, and 22 Corp. -- to share $50,000 in seed money.

Similar competitions have been organized at top business schools across the country. But MIT's contest is the oldest and best known, Newsweek noted in its April 19 issue. Inc. magazine described the business plan competition as "more equal than the others." In its 10-year history, the contest has facilitated the birth of more than 40 companies with more than $700 million in aggregate market value, creating more than 500 jobs.

Among past entrants are Firefly, which was sold to Microsoft for $40 million; Stylus Innovation, the 1991 winner, which was bought for $12.9 million; and the 1998 co-winner, DirectHit, which raised $1.4 million from Silicon Valley venture capitalists even before it reached the finals, Newsweek reported.

Venture capitalist Mark Gorenberg of Hummer Winblad in San Francisco calls the competition "May Madness," the techie response to basketball's "March Madness." He is on the 24-person judging panel which includes other venture capitalists, MIT faculty and entrepreneurs. Among them are Stan Fung of Zero Stage Capital; Duncan McCallum of One Liberty Ventures; Dan Roach of Pricewater-houseCoopers; Omar Khadari, chairman of Viaweb Inc.; and Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus.

Event sponsors are the Sloan School of Management, Motorola, the Boston law firm of Testa, Hurwitz and Thibeault, and Fidelity Capital. Highlights of the awards ceremony include a keynote by Kenan Sahin (SB 1963, PhD) founder of Kenan Systems, the Cambridge software company that is now a subsidiary of Lucent Technologies.

A version of this article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 29).

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