MIT $50K Fun Facts

Largest number of entries submitted by one person: The prize here goes to Joost Bonsen, who submitted 8 entries for the first competition in 1990. The judges awarded him special recognition that year: Most Prolific. His trophy was a light bulb wired to light, handmade by one of the competition founders. “If he had only concentrated his efforts on one plan he might have won,” said one judge. Joost went on to run the competition for two years and co-found a number of initiatives at MIT. He is currently the host of a Cambridge cable show on entrepreneurship, and runs a monthly gathering for area entrepreneurs.

Biggest Win:

When 1998 finalist Akamai Technologies went public on October 28, 1999, it made the record books with the 4th largest run up in stock price on the day of its IPO.

$$$ Awarded:

In its 15-year history the competition has awarded about $500,000 in cash and business start-up services to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs.

If not for the market:

The MIT $50K used to boast that its alumni companies had a total valuation of over $10 billion. Ah, but the market took a hard hit in 2000 and MIT $50K stars like Akamai Technologies suffered a, well, let's say a market correction. Alumni companies valuation is still an impressive $4 billion plus, but we liked that older number better.

Two-time Winner:

Golden boy Michael Cassidy twice won the MIT $50K, once in 1991 with Stylus Innovation and then again in 1998 with Direct Hit. Both companies have had significant commercial success.

Social Venture Award:

In 1993 the competition announced a special Social Venturing Award, given to the “Parents Forum” team of Shirley Lai and Eve Sullivan for their plan for parenting communication skill support groups.

Been there, done that:

MIT Sloan lecturer Joe Hadzima, managing director at venture capital firm Main Street Partners, wins the prize for longevity. He has been a judge every one of the $50K's 15 years and helped in the early formation of the competition.

Recipe for martial strife:

Having an entrepreneur in the family can be tough on any marriage, but when spouses compete for entrepreneurial glory, who knows what will happen. Husband Reuben Domike, an MIT Sloan student, and wife Kristin Domike, a material science student have teamed together this year to develop a business plan for TulipMed. Complications arose when Reuben also joined competing team Early Bird, hoping for $50K glory on his own. We'll see what happens...

The MIT $70K?:

In 1998 the judges were deadlocked over the high quality of student business plans and named two winners of the coveted $30,000 top prize--Volunteer Community Connection and Direct Hit. Each received $30,000 after an anonymous donor fattened the fund with an additional $20,000. Community Connection, an Internet-based clearinghouse that matches volunteers and nonprofit organizations, launched after the competition and was eventually acquired by United Way. Direct Hit went on to internet glory and was sold for $507 million to Ask Jeeves in 2000.

Thanks, but no thanks:

Just to make it a more exciting year, the 1998 Grand-prize co-winner Direct Hit turned down their share of the MIT prize. They donated their $30,000 winnings to the other finalists after announcing they had just received an offer for $1.3 million in venture capital funding.

Wackiest Team Name:

We've had some good ones: YumWeb (ecommerce for restaurants), Jack the Bulldog (corporate social responsibility consulting), thinwoman (a battery), Shoulder Holder (for clavicle fractures), Kick the Tires (test driving for internet car sales), and Deep Golf (computerized coaching). But DonkeyNet was one of our favorites. Despite its name, this 2002 semifinalist team meant serious business. They traveled to India three times before the awards were announced to test and market their communication technology and presented before the UN Information and Communication Technology Task Force. They launched as a company, but renamed themselves First Mile Solutions. Their “Village Area Network” is being used in several developing countries as an affordable rural communications infrastructure.

Contacts for Media:

Armina Karapetyan, $50K Communications Lead

Kathleen Rowe, MIT Sloan Media Relations

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