Mimio Global Press

A Look at 22 Years of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition & 10 Teams Who’ve Paved the Way


CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 20, 2012 -- Since launching in 1989, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition has given birth to over 160 companies. Those companies have then generated 4,600 jobs, receiving over $1.3 billion dollars in venture capital funding. Focused on three key experiences — pitch, accelerate and launch — the Competition’s fostered decades’ worth of entrepreneurship here in the hub, giving startups their chance at actually having a start.

Fifty-four teams competed in the first competition, which rewarded the winner with $10,000. In the years to follow, the prize money slowly began to grow, evolving from $50K to today’s $100K, giving entrepreneurs an even bigger start. And along with additional funding came additional contests. The Competition’s now divided into three separate contests, each focused on a crucial part of entrepreneurship: the Elevator Pitch Contest, the ACCELERATE Contest and the Business Plan Contest.

Having completed ACCELERATE — focused entirely on building a prototype — teams are entering into the launch phase now, which is new to this year’s competition. Instead of just writing a business plan, contestants will also be judged on activities surrounding their launch. Alice Francis, managing director of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, admits that once teams reach the semi-finalist level, they’ll be expected to see three goals for themselves, including getting customer feedback.

“Some companies don’t focus on the right problem,” Francis says, referring to the fact that too many entrepreneurs talk to their customers after their prototype’s been built and not before. Francis wants to encourage these good habits from the very beginning. Teams will also have to go through activities focused on team cohesion. “One of the biggest reasons startups fail is because of the team,” she admits, hoping she can help prevent that, as well.

Francis says she decided to attend MIT for grad school because “she wanted to be at a place where the learning experience is about figuring out how things work and taking action.” Although she might not be working on a startup, she thought it would be a good use of her time to help build and support the ecosystem.

“MIT is bleeding entrepreneurship, and I want to support it as much as I can,” Francis says, adding that the fellow managing director, Adam Borelli, is equally as passionate. It’s through their joint passion they decided to increase the number of semi-finalists from 25 to 50.

“We just really believe in the ability, intelligence and passion of the students that are here,” she says. “We wanted to give as many of them the opportunity to participate.”

Now, 50 teams will be receiving a $1,000 expense account and access to two mentors, as well as a chance at the Robert P. Goldberg $100K grand prize. And if those figures aren’t inspiring enough, perhaps this list will be. Francis provided a list of over 20 companies who’ve come out of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition over the last 22 years, along with some different figures. We’ve picked 10 of them, and while some have bigger names, others are ones to keep your eye on.

Virtual Ink – 1997 — Their first product, Mimio, was acquired by Newell Rubbermaid in 2006. Mimio was the first portable tool that could attach to any whiteboard or flat surface and capture handwriting and drawings in real-time, transforming that information into electronic content that could be shared, changed and saved.


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