Shark Tank premiered on television in 2009. It marked the arrival of the business pitch as a source of entertainment. Traditionally, pitching an idea to investors is a dull process executed in boardrooms with little fanfare. The technology boom transformed that paradigm. Technology pioneers challenged business conventions as they innovated software, hardware, social media, and the Internet.
Pitchers only intrigued the Sharks if they had made significant personal investments in their product or service. Celebrity business leaders Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran drew attention to Shark Tank and made each pitch a real-life drama. The participants’ decisions may not make good business sense, but they certainly make captivating TV.
Students and faculty at Harvard Business School (HBS) provide a thoughtful alternative to the Shark Tank spectacle. The HBS New Venture Competition favors participants whose ideas feature a positive social impact. Harvard Business School has been home to a variety of innovators in finance. Its graduates include Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of the City of New York, Martín Escobari, Managing Director of General Atlantic’s Sao Paulo, Brazil office, and Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
Here are some of the startups that pitched and scored during the New Venture Competition. Let them inspire you to start up your own pitch!
RapidSOS is a startup that promises to “revolutionize emergency response and communication.” These student developers won the New Venture Competition and a $50,000 prize. Their company has created an app that sends vital information to dispatchers responding to an emergency with one touch of a button on your smartphone.
Barakat Bundle is focused on reducing high rates of infant mortality in developing countries. Their main product is a baby-box providing items that support a newborn’s health and a new mother’s wellbeing, providing resources lacking in many poor countries.
Honeycomb Homes is designed to support youths aging out of foster care by providing transitional housing and training on a small farm to be purchased outside of Chicago. The children will receive career training in agriculture and sustainable farming practices as well as food and housing.
Focus Foods, Inc. proposes that urban areas develop sustainable fish farms and rooftop gardens. A prototype has been created in Philadelphia and serves as a model to educate the community and potential investors.