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Plant-based diapers and tech for construction companies: A look at the winners from Harvard’s annual business competition

The set of Harvard Business School's 24th annual New Venture Competition, which was held virtually this year because of the pandemic.Courtesy of Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School held its 24th annual New Venture Competition this week, where 22 student and alumni finalist teams pitched their ideas — virtually, of course — for a slice of $325,000 in prizes.

A total of 301 teams entered the competition, which is organized by the school’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise Initiative, in partnership with alumni clubs and associations. Since the start of the New Venture Competition in 1997, winning teams have collected more than $3 million.

The competition has several “tracks,” including business, social enterprise, alumni, and technology. Jodi Gernon, director of the Arthur Rock Center, said in a news release that this year’s teams “continue to challenge the status quo in every industry and around the globe.”


Here’s a roundup of the winners:


Concord Materials $50,000

Robert Lane, ’21, and Anthony Valente, ’22, who both come from multigenerational construction families, want to “even the playing field for the little guy,” with a materials management platform for construction companies. The technology aims to use machine learning algorithms to help firms order materials, such as rock, sand, or cement, more efficiently.

Hive Health $50,000

Camille Ang, ’22, and Jiawen Tang, ’21, are launching a digital health insurance company for Filipino employees. The platform uses data science to make care more affordable and more accessible.

Social Enterprise

Shelly Xu Design — $75,000 (grand prize)

Shelly Xu’s childhood playground in Asia is now a “textile dumpster” because of all the unused fabric or waste from clothing factories. That’s why she launched a design-tech startup that takes textile waste and turns it into apparel.

Vocal Justice — $25,000 (runner up)

Shawon Jackson, ’21, started a public speaking program targeted at Black and brown students so they can learn how to communicate about social justice issues. The goal: empowering them to become socially conscious leaders.



Bone Health Technologies — $75,000 (grand prize)

Laura Yecies, ’88, hopes to receive FDA approval by the middle of 2022 for a device that aims to prevent osteoporosis, a milestone she says will “lay the foundation for an enormous business.” Based on research on astronauts conducted by NASA, Yecies sees her device as a safe, early intervention that could lessen the need for the osteoporosis medications — and their side effects.

Kudos — $25,000 (runner up)

Amrita Saigal’s first company (out of MIT) turned banana leaves into sanitary pads for schoolgirls in India. Now, as a 2014 alumni of HBS, she’s launching a company that makes a “natural, leak-defying, sensitive-skin-loving diaper” from cotton, sugarcane, and trees.

Tough Technology Prize

Karivez Bio — $10,000

Hunter Goble, ’22, and Dr. Wayne Lencer are aiming to treat chronic disease by developing a better way to transport hard-to-deliver large molecule drugs, essentially turning injections into pills.

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.