Harvard Business School Awards $50K to Lean Startups

Harvard Business School has given out $50,000 in total awards to student entrepreneurs in an effort to support the development of lean startups. The Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship announced the winners Monday of the first round of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Funding for the 2011-2012 academic year.

According to a release from the school,  the MVP Fund was started last year by MBA students and is based on the premise of the Lean Startup methodology, which focuses on rapid prototyping, a process that brings products to market as quickly as possible. This methodology has been advanced and popularized by Eric Ries, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School, who advises students and collaborates with faculty members on research and course development. Says Rajesh, the founder of RapidValue, “This will have a great impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Boston.”

This academic year, the Rock Center is offering two rounds of MVP Fund awards. Submissions for the first round were due September 30 and open only to second-year MBA students. Forty-eight teams, each with at least one current Harvard second-year MBA student, submitted entries. Submissions for the second round of funding, open to both first-year and second-year students, is due January 20, 2012.

The seven winning entries (with their founders) are:

  • BeautyX (Jamira Cotton, HBS 2012): A social shopping site where women of color can discover beauty products based on user photos and reviews.
  • Colectivo (Jeremy Doutte, HBS 2012, Antoine Bonnier and Antonin Blanc): An online group purchasing organization that allows small and medium-sized businesses to leverage their joint purchasing power to benefit from large discounts.
  • CPGlink.com (Benn Manning, HBS 2012): An online business-to-business service platform that connects small- to mid-size domestic manufacturers with independent sales representatives and other companies that support the consumer packaged goods industry.
  • Eksis (David Sokoler, HBS 2012): An online platform that utilizes Facebook’s social networking technology to connect job seekers and employers in Indonesia.
  • Excelegrade (Jason Brein and Lauren Miller, both HBS 2012): An online software platform that allows K-12 teachers to design standards-based assessments, administer tests on mobile devices, automatically track student performance, conduct rigorous data analyses, and create individualized progress reports.
  • FeedBx (Maya Farah and George Audi, both HBS 2012): A new sampling channel for small and medium manufacturers in the food and beverage industry.
  • Tenth & Taylor (Cynthia Samanian, HBS 2012): An online home decor platform that efficiently bridges the gap between design inspiration and product purchase for consumers.

Funded teams must meet with a mentor on a monthly basis, attend a monthly gathering of other MVP teams, and present lessons learned from the MVP program at the end of the semester.

“In last year’s pilot of the MVP Fund program, we were impressed by the number and quality of entries we received,” says Tom Eisenmann, the Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration in the Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Unit.

“We are pleased to be able to double the size of the fund to $100,000 and offer two rounds of awards this academic year, to support more of the extraordinary entrepreneurial ideas our students are generating.”

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