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Harvard startup contest draws Biden’s attention

Fourteen ventures founded by Harvard students, alumni, and affiliates won awards from the Bertarelli Foundation ranging from $2,500 to $75,000 each.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

It was a big week for some startups affiliated with Harvard University.

The winners of this year’s Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge received a total of $510,000 in prize money — and a letter of congratulations from President Biden.

At an award ceremony Thursday night, 14 ventures founded by Harvard students, alumni, and affiliates won awards from the Bertarelli Foundation ranging from $2,500 to $75,000 each. The teams are tackling a variety of issues, from a venture aimed at combating the extinction of Native American languages to a beauty-tech platform that helps consumers find the best makeup products for their skin tone.

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“To those who have the honor of taking home this year’s top prizes — congratulations,” read Biden’s letter. “Your hard work and determination led you to this extraordinary level of achievement, and you should be very proud.”

Myspeech, a technology platform designed to increase accessibility to high-quality speech therapy, received the $75,000 award for student social impact along with a shout-out from Biden, who has spoken openly about overcoming his stutter. He thanked the nonprofit for “addressing something that’s deeply personal to me and millions of people around the world.”

“Growing up, I stuttered. I remember the pain, dread, and fear of speaking in front of a group or even to another person,” Biden wrote. “But I also learned that when you persevere in the face of struggle, you’ll be stronger for it. And the efforts of Myspeech will help so many people persevere. You will help change people’s lives for the better.”

Myspeech CEO and founder Nathan Mallipeddi, who is an MD candidate at Harvard Medical School, said he was “honored and humbled” by the award.

“It’s just real affirmation that every person who stutters deserves help,” said Mallipeddi.



Annie Probert can be reached at annie.probert@globe.com.