MIT 100K and Energy Prize—Impressions From the Finalist Party

Xconomy Boston — 

The five track winners for the MIT 100K business plan competition were announced on Friday. These teams will compete in the finals on Wednesday, along with the winner of its sister contest, the MIT Clean Energy Prize competition (that team will be announced next Tuesday). All five track winners, and three of the five Energy Prize finalists (all those with MIT ties), gathered Friday night at Bob Metcalfe’s house in the Back Bay for a small celebration of their making it so far.

Metcalfe, now a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners, has hosted a party for the 100K finalists for many years. As is also the tradition, finalists select one team member to stand on the stairs leading to the second floor, while guests gather in the foyer below them to hear their very short (60-second or so) pitches. I’ve been to several of these gatherings, and others that are similar—and always enjoy them. This year, though, the teams seemed to have risen to another level in terms of both their poise and the sophistication of their pitches. For the first time, I came away pretty sure that not only would a few of these plans turns into real businesses, but that one or two might even be significant businesses. (So, hey—remember when Xconomy spotted you.)

Below are my capsule descriptions of the eight finalists (out of some 260 that entered the two competitions), along with a few impressions. Congratulations to all:

—-Ksplice (100K Web/IT track winner): This teams wins the prize for most rarin’ to go, for sure. When someone asked who wanted to start things off, Waseem Daher’s hand shot up as fast as an Olympic badminton player reacting to a smash. What he was so eager to talk about is technology that enables the installation of operating system and application updates on running systems, without the need for rebooting the computer or restarting the application. The initial target market is enterprise systems, where such updates mean downtime and lost productivity, according to Daher. Although Ksplice only works on Linux systems right now, he envisions every operating system and application employing the technology for software updates. Impression: strikes a universal chord in computer users—big potential royalty market.

YouTea! (100K Product and Services track winner): Urinary tract infections strike 11 percent of women each year, according to team spokesperson Alex Herzlinger. YouTea! has a new way to deliver a preventative medicine through “a low-calorie, great tasting” drink, I guess called YouTea!. The team was also a finalist in the Harvard Business Plan competition, where it said it planned to the deliver YouTea! first in powdered form, then in a bottle. Impression: Big market need, but might consider a new name (I thought they were saying UT, as in the University of Texas, hook ’em). And, even if it really does taste great, there’s always the question of how many people will take preventative measures in the first place (see Cambridge Eyenovations below).

Sun Point (Energy prize finalist, winner of renewables category): Eric Cohen described a passive solar tracker, with no motors, gears, or drive train (at least I think I got that right). It goes … Next Page »

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