MIT Students' $50K Competition Spawns 80+ companies in 15 years
— Final Awards: May 12, 7:00 p.m.

Cambridge, Mass., May 10, 2004 — The MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, a student-run business plan competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has announced that more than 80 companies, representing more than 1600 jobs and over $4 billion in valuation have been created in the $50K's 15-year history. These companies include Wall Street names like Akamai; companies that have been acquired by firms like Motorola, Broadcom and Ask Jeeves; as well as independent entities, aiming to be the next Wall Street darling. Students take away skills that have enabled them to start businesses later in their career and bring an entrepreneurial bent to whatever they do.

In addition to its success in company generation, the MIT $50K has also been involved in competition fostering. The MIT $50K Global Startup Workshop is held in a different country each year to train people from other competitions and share best practices. This year 220 people attended from 35 different countries, helping to expand entrepreneurship globally. The MIT $50K is a student-powered economic engine.

“Our competition itself is really our ultimate start-up,” said Marcus Lopez, MIT $50K lead organizer and MIT Sloan student. “This student organization has had tremendous economic impact.”

In addition to impact, the competition draws a lot of attention. Judges come from the fields of venture capital, patent protection, and entrepreneurship. Top people in the venture field follow and attend the competition, looking for good companies to fund.

Organizers credit the success of the $50K companies to several factors. The $50K has a unique combination of students from MIT Sloan, one of the nation's top management schools and MIT, the world's top science and engineering school. The competition also has a number of educational supports built in: workshops on patents, marketing and funding; entrepreneurship classes from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and detailed feedback and advice from the judges for each entry. Semifinalists are also offered professional mentors, often successful entrepreneurs, to guide them as they work through the process.

“The students have tremendous educational opportunities, both from the faculty and from student generated activities like the $50K,” said MIT Sloan Dean Richard Schmalensee. “The fact that the competition is all student run is a testament to their creativity, drive and enthusiasm.”

This year 127 teams with a total of 425 team members are competing to win, with $30,000 going to the top winner and $10,000 each to the runners up.

The group was whittled down to seven finalists on May 7:

  • Active Joint Brace, an electromechanical orthotic that increases functional independence
  • Active Spectrum, miniaturized wireless transceivers that are tunable across the entire radio spectrum
  • Advanced Diamond Solutions, Inc., the first cost-effective diamond composite that can more efficiently dissipate heat from electronic devices
  • Hyperscore, software to compose music by drawing on a computer screen
  • LiquidPiston, a combustion engine that doubles fuel efficiency and reduces NOx emissions by 90%
  • LumArray, a desktop printer for nano-scale chips, that is maskless, inexpensive and fast
  • MicroLaser, lasers for optical communication that can replace 80 conventional lasers and modulators

The public is invited to the final awards ceremony, held from 7-9 pm on Wednesday, May 12, in Kresge Auditorium at MIT, opposite 77 Massachusetts Ave. In addition to a presentation from each finalist team, the keynote speaker will be Vinod Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems.

The competition was founded as the $10K in 1989 when members of the Entrepreneurs Club of primarily technical students joined together with the management students from the MIT Sloan New Venture Association in their common area of interest. This brought both sides of campus together in a significant and powerful new way, one that ended up providing the catalyst for entrepreneurship activity at MIT. The MIT Entrepreneurship Center opened its doors a few years later and coursework at MIT Sloan and a host of new entrepreneurship-oriented clubs, workshops and activities have grown up around the competition, each area fostering the success of the others. The $10K was renamed the MIT $50K in 1996.

Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts will recognize May 12, 2004 as “Entrepreneurship at MIT Day” in honor of the competition and MIT's contributions to entrepreneurship and economic progress in Massachusetts.

A survey of 14 entrants from the first year of the competition shows the tremendous entrepreneurial bent of those who compete. After graduation, this small group founded 15 different companies and worked at a total of 32 early stage firms.

Mark Hansen, MIT Sloan MBA '91 and MIT Ph.D. in Mathematics, was an entrant the first year of the competition and was a founder of the first MIT $50K “alumni company,” QDB Solutions, along with fellow MIT Sloan student Sam Levine. “This contest has had a big impact on my life. It convinced me that I could be successful as an entrepreneur. In 1991 I had a job offer from a top consulting firm which I turned down to co-found QDB. The $10K helped give me the confidence to turn down that firm.” Since then, Hansen has started two additional companies. His entire career has been focused around company formation.

The MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition encourages students and researchers in the MIT community to act on their talent, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading firms. The MIT $50K has awarded about $500,000 dollars in cash and business startup services to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submitted business plans showing significant business potential. The Competition's refinement process, its network of mentors, investors and potential partners, and the cash prizes awarded, have helped many of these teams to act on their dreams and build their own skills, companies and fortunes.

Contacts for Media:

Armina Karapetyan, $50K Communications Lead

Kathleen Rowe, MIT Sloan Media Relations

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