The MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition is a year-long learning experience for MIT students to realize their innovations. Over $350K in prizes are given to aspiring entrepreneurs each year through participation in a series of three contests: the Pitch Contest, the Accelerate Contest, and the Launch Contest. In terms of cash prizes, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition was the fourth richest student business plan competition in the nation (source: The 10 Richest Business Plan Competitions).
The competition is more than an educational experience for the student entrepreneurs. The competition is managed and run by MIT students, including Perihan Abou-Zeid. She serves as the Managing Director for this year’s competition. Fit Small Business had a chance to interview her about the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
Our most recent competition was Accelerate, which came to a close on February 22nd. Disease Diagnostic Group was awarded as the winner. Disease Diagnostic Group stood out because they developed a technology that detected malaria cells much more accurately.
2) Do you think the competition is good practice for pitching the idea to potential investors? How is pitching to judges different than pitching to angel investors or VCs?
We believe the $100K is one of the first steps in realizing innovation that happens at MIT. What makes it very valuable to participating teams is the focus on the learning experience they have. Students learn to pitch their ideas and answer the tough questions to an audience that’s focused on evaluating the potential of the idea and the team behind it, rather than an investment opportunity. It makes it a perfect chance to practice the pitch, without worrying about losing the funding opportunity if you make a mistake.
3) How have you seen business ideas from competitors improve and evolve as a result of being in the competition?
Significantly! We have seen teams come with an idea for the Pitch contest in the Fall and then totally change the business model, or even the product, as they compete in the Launch contest in late Spring. It’s a lot different working on an idea in closed labs, from pitching it to a wider audience, judges, and mentors that help you develop it and expand its potential.
4) What is your favorite successful business to emerge from the competition?
Akamai and Harmonix were both semi-finalists of the $100K and they resemble what the competition is all about; a learning experience that brings MIT innovations to life. There are also a few teams competing with technologies for this year’s Launch contest, which I believe will be great success stories in the near future.
5) What areas do most business plans tend to be weak? What advice would you give to competitors in this area?
Most teams tend to play down their competition and make it look like it will be very easy for them to overtake the market. My advice for all competitors is to fall in love with their competition, understand what they offer well, and give them their fair weight, in order to know how to beat them.
6) Are the financial projections of most entrants plausible? What type of research would you suggest in creating the financial projections?
We see all sorts of financial projections; most teams have at least one business student on their team that builds the financial projections for them. There are plenty of online resources that offer materials on how to forecast your financials. My only advice is to find something relevant to the industry of your idea.
Perihan is currently a first-year MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management and a recipient of the Legatum Fellowship for Entrepreneurs. Prior to Sloan, she was the CEO and Co-Founder of Qabila Media Productions; a media production start-up based out of Cairo and serving the whole Arab region. She previously started Egypt’s first online supermarket and worked with Google as a Business Strategist, where she consulted large-sized corporations on their online advertising strategies. She has won several awards in academic excellence, leadership, and entrepreneurship. In 2012, she received the Best Female Entrepreneur Award from the MIT Enterprise Forum – Pan Arab Region.