Megamimo wins Elevator Pitch Contest grand prize

The MIT $100K Elevator Pitch Contest wrapped up Wednesday at the finale event in the Stata Center’s Kirsch Auditorium. The Elevator Pitch Contest began with 285 contestants on Monday, and it is the first of a series of three contests sponsored annually by the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

To win the $5,000 grand prize, individuals or team representatives had to deliver a 60-second pitch of a business idea to judges in one of six categories: emerging markets, energy, life sciences, mobile, products & services, and web/IT. Sixty semifinalists were chosen over the first two days of the contest, and 12 finalists were then chosen from this group. The two finalists in each category were announced at the finale event, when the judges chose a winner and two runners up for the contest.

The crowd at the Academy Awards-themed event, complete with inflatable noisemakers, overflowed the auditorium. The keynote address was given by Matt Lauzon, founder of online jewelry retailer Gemvara, which has secured more than $25 million in venture capitalist funding. All four of the judges were also entrepreneurs in various industries.

Finalists were called up by category to re-deliver their pitches. They were sometimes cut off mid-sentence or mid-word by a loud buzzer at the end of a minute. The judges then had 30 seconds to ask questions of the contestants.

The finalists’ business ideas represented a wide range of industries, from optimizing sun protection compounds to facilitating micro-philanthropy for Sri Lankan education to reducing the size of voltage conversion chips in mobile phones. Some ideas had already produced patented technology, while others had been conceived just days before the competition.

The winner of the $5,000 grand prize was Megamimo, a Wi-Fi optimization system. The judges chose Wellwatcher, a landfill methane collection system, and Podimetrics, an ulcer-predicting insole for diabetics as runners up. Each received a $2,000 prize. The Podimetrics team also won the $1,000 audience choice award based on text message voting.

Megamimo was pitched by MIT graduate student Hariharan S. Rahul, who worked with fellow student Swarun Suresh Kumar G and advisor Dina Katabi PhD ’03. Their idea, which has been in development for two years, uses signal processes that work with existing Wi-Fi protocol to greatly increase the efficiency of data transfer by processing multiple requests simultaneously in the same frequency band. Current wireless systems can alow only a single transmission at any time in a particular frequency band. “The hardest part was to convey some sense of how it works without going into too much technology in under one minute,” Rahul said.

Podimetrics was pitched by Sloan MBA student Jonathan D. Bloom. He and four others developed the idea for a temperature-detecting insole to assess the risk of ulcers in diabetic patients at the Hacking Medicine Competition just a week before the Elevator Pitch Contest. Bloom, who has an MD, said, “As a physician, I love when you can help one person at a time, but I think this is an opportunity to help really large groups of people.”

The other two contests in the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition are the ACCELERATE Contest and the Business Plan Contest. At the end of the finale, MIT $100K announced that the new ACCELERATE Contest will replace the Executive Summary Contest in the $100K Competition. Twenty-five teams will receive mentorship and $1,000 to develop their ideas before competing for a $10,000 prize. The deadline to register for ACCELERATE is December 2.