MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition awards $100,000 grand prize to startup tackling sanitation-related disease in Africa’s slums

Cambridge, MA, May 12, 2011—Sanergy, a startup creating accessible and affordable hygienic sanitation for developing countries, walked away with $100,000 last night after beating out five teams of finalists during the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition awards ceremony held on the MIT campus.

This year’s finalists – whose offerings included, among others, new 3D depth-sensing screen technology, improved epilepsy pharmaceuticals, and collapsible air cargo containers – emerged from a pool of 280 teams. A panel of judges made up of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry professionals chose Sanergy on the strength of their business plan, presentation and field expertise in Kenya. Sanergy also netted an additional $5,000 as the winner of this year’s Audience Choice Award.

According to Sanergy’s founders, 2.6 billion people in developing countries lack access to basic sanitation. The resulting disease kills 1.6 million children each year and costs countries as much as 6.4% of GDP in lost productivity. Sanergy’s team of MIT engineering students and MIT Sloan MBAs are taking a systems-based approach to create a scalable and profitable model for sanitation provision.

“In these areas with no sewage infrastructure, tackling the sanitation crisis requires more than just building toilets,” says Ani Vallabhaneni, MIT Sloan MBA 2011, who serves as the startup’s strategist. “We are franchising a dense network of small-scale, high-quality sanitation facilities to local entrepreneurs in slums, starting in Kenya. We then collect the waste to convert it into electricity and organic fertilizer. At each step, Sanergy creates jobs, opportunity, and profit, while addressing serious social and economic needs.”

Sanergy has begun working in Kenya’s densely packed slums, where eight million people lack access to adequate sanitation. For a two-minute video overview of Sanergy, please visit: http://vimeo.com/16095397

Since its debut in 1989, the MIT $100K has facilitated the birth of over 150 companies that have gone on to raise $1.3 billion in venture capital and build $16 billion in market cap. Over 4,600 people are currently employed by MIT $100K companies. Recent successes include SmartCells Inc, winner of the business plan contest in 2003, which was acquired by Merck for $500 million in 2010; Akamai (AKAM); net.Genesis (NTG); C-Bridge Internet Solutions (CBIS); Harmonix; Brontes Technologies; and Direct Hit.

“We received a record number of very high quality entries this year,” says MIT $100K Business Plan Contest Director Joey Wignarajah. “And we were thrilled to to host venture capitalist and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla as our keynote speaker. These impressive teams, mentoring services, and our countless, successful alumni prove that that business plan competitions play a significant role in launching some of the most impactful companies.”

For more on the MIT $100K, please visit: www.mit100k.org

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