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Weld to speak tonight at $50K awards ceremony

Former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld will speak about trends in venture capital at 7:30pm tonight (May 10) during the $50K Competition final awards ceremony in Kresge Auditorium.

Three winning teams will be selected from the seven finalists announced last Friday -- Amtek, Centrata, EyeGen, Mazu Networks, microEngine, OptiCOMP Networks and Strong Numbers.

More than 200 teams entered the business plan competition this year, which began in 1990 as the $10K Competition with 54 entrants. Born of an initiative by the MIT Entrepreneurs Club and the Sloan New Ventures Association to combine MIT's engineering and business students' skills, it quickly caught on. In 1996, it became the $50K Competition, awarding $30,000 to the winning team and $10,000 to each of the two runners-up.

Today it is the acknowledged leader in university business plan competitions. Last year Newsweek ran an article on the contest, calling it the "I Wanna Be a Gazillionaire Geek" contest.

The competition has helped bring into existence more than 50 companies worth more than $15 billion and generating more than 600 jobs, according to the competition's organizing committee.

A history of the contest can be found on the contest web site.

Below are descriptions of the semifinalist teams' products, written by the teams.


Amtek designs and develops innovative laboratory and medical equipment that expands the capabilities of health workers in developing countries. We develop hardware to meet the unique demands of remote clinics and field laboratories in these countries. With our products, health care workers can perform laboratory tests that are currently impossible to conduct under existing conditions.


What if PC computing resources such as processor cycles, network bandwidth, and disk space could be pooled across the Internet? Centrata has developed a patent-pending software infrastructure that enables 350 million computer owners to sell their unused resources over the Web. By creating a multi-million machine network, Centrata will become the world's fastest computer and largest hard-drive.


EyeGenRed is a dye that makes DNA visible to the naked eye. Because it doesn't require expensive equipment for detection and still offers high sensitivity measurements, EyeGenRed is a safer, cost-reducing and time-saving alternative to the currently used radioactive and fluorescent probes for diagnostic and biological imaging. Since DNA manipulation is at the core of most genomic, medical and biotech research, EyeGenRed has broad applications.

Mazu Networks

Mazu Networks will help Application Service Providers (ASPs) offer their customers better service and robustness through a network connection management device that flexibly manages, manipulates, and bills for their customers' connections. Customers of an ASP using Mazu will see guaranteed responsiveness, proportional to their service contract.


The microEngine Corporation will revolutionize portable power. MicroEngine-powered portable electronics such as laptops and cell phones will be more powerful and last up to 10 times longer than those powered by heavy traditional batteries. As the market for small information appliances continues to grow, the limitations of batteries will become ever more apparent, leading to the rapid growth of a microengine industry.

Opticomp Networks

Bandwidth providers are upgrading their networks with next-generation telecommunications equipment based on optical technology. OptiCOMP aims to capitalize on the large and rapidly growing market for optical networking components. Using patented technology, OptiCOMP is developing a suite of dynamically re-configurable optical networking components that are significantly less expensive than current designs and improve the cost and functionality of fiber optic networks.

Strong Numbers

Strong Numbers is "The Blue Book for Everything." We offer the definitive source of transaction price information. Based on a patented (pending) business process, proprietary technology and the world's largest pricing database, we enable people to become informed before they buy or sell. As prices become increasingly dynamic (on-line auctions, etc.), we provide access to accurate, reputable and current information.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 2000.

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