In true MIT style, this year’s Elevator Pitch Contest — part of the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition — was full of cosplay and nerdy puns, reminding us that entrepreneurship is fun! The audience was given red balloon-drumsticks, emblazoned with “100K,” with which to make as much noise as possible. The theme of the night was “superheroes.” Hosts were dressed as Avengers superheroes, who represented each of the five competition tracks — Emerging Markets, Energy, Life Sciences, Mobile, Products & Services, and Web/IT.
The night’s keynote speaker was Rahim Fazal, founder and CEO of Involver, a social media management company that was acquired by Oracle this July. Fazal recalled his early days as an entrepreneur, when he started his own web-hosting company. He excused himself from class so often that the principal at his high school contacted his parents with concern. “My dad was sure that I was dealing drugs,” he joked. “But I convinced him that I just had a bladder infection.” Such was the humble beginning of the company that he eventually sold for $1.5 million while still in high school.
In his talk, Fazal reflected on his experiences as an entrepreneur and offered several lessons to those considering starting their own companies. He stressed the importance of trying to “create lasting value” and finding the right cofounder, among other pieces of advice.
Following the keynote, twelve finalists had 60 seconds each to pitch their startup ideas. The first place prize of $5000 went to Andrea Glaco with 3dim, a 3-D cellular phone photo imaging technology that allows users to take 3-D pictures with their cellphones. Runner-up Josh Adler with Moses Membranes was also chosen as the Audience Choice Award winner, for the company’s graphene nanotechnology that filters the toxic byproduct of fracturing in a rock layer and returns the water to the environment. Manoah Koletty with Bluelight was the second runner up, for the company’s SMS technology that allows the poor to purchase products without paying high interest rates.