For the fourth year in a row, a medical device company has won the Robert P. Goldberg Grand Prize in the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition held Monday, May 9, at MIT. Balico, which has designed a wearable balance aid that will benefit aging adults and individuals whose primary sensing systems are affected by disease, was awarded $30,000 in startup money.
First runner-up was Nanocell Power, whose patented technology will enable the viability of fuel cells for portable electronics. Vacuum Excavation Technology, which has created a new, patented excavation device, was named second runner-up. Each runner-up team received $10,000.
The oldest and best known among university business plan competitions, the MIT $50K has launched more than 80 companies from teams that have competed. These companies--which include Akamai Technologies and others acquired by Microsoft, Motorola and Broadcom--have, in turn, employed more than 1,600 people and have a valuation of over $4 billion.
Seven finalists were chosen from 86 entrants with 250 team members participating. Judges, including noted venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and patent lawyers, selected the winning teams based on their potential of becoming leading firms. This year's other finalists were HealRight, Previva Inc., Renal Diagnostics and TissueVision.
"As a founding judge of the $50K, I have witnessed firsthand the development of a powerful entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Joe Hadzima, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and managing director of Main Street Partners, a venture development and technology commercialization firm. "Now, as the new chairman of the MIT Enterprise Forum Global organization, I am working to translate the lessons learned from the $50K and its MIT entrepreneurial ecosystem to help the 23 MIT Enterprise Forums in the U.S. and the around the world to grow and enhance their own unique entrepreneurial ecosystems to enable innovation and entrepreneurship--this is the important and lasting legacy of the $50K."
Each finalist team presented its plan at the final awards ceremony in MIT's Kresge Auditorium. Newly inaugurated MIT President Susan Hockfield offered opening remarks. The keynote speaker was David Edwards, the scientific founder of Advanced Inhalation Research, and co-founder of AIR/Alkermes, Pulmatrix and MEND. The event reached a global audience through a live Internet broadcast.
"The MIT $50K's value is in the learning how to become an entrepreneur," said Lawrence Walmsley, a co-lead organizer and student at MIT Sloan. "Participants take a new business idea, build a team around it, formulate a strategic mission, and develop and articulate it into a business plan. With mentoring available through the $50K, they hone their pitching skills and have an opportunity to present to industry specialists, which often results in the launch of a real business." Along with the winners, the majority of the finalists and other entrants report that they are planning to launch businesses built around their business plans.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 18, 2005 (download PDF).