A new take on arts and entrepreneurship at MIT

$10K Prize launched for startups that incorporate art

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Bags made from recycled saris, produced by lallitara, one of the startups competing for the $10K Creative Arts prize this spring.
Joanna Zhou

Startup companies competing in the MIT $100K Launch Contest now have a chance to win $10K for incorporating art or design into their business. The $10K Creative Arts Competition, sponsored by Arts at MIT, will be awarded annually starting this year. To be eligible, a $100K entrant must have art or design at the core of its business model. The goal of the prize is to promote art-focused startups and put MIT at the forefront of art and design competitions.

The jury for the prize may include former and current MIT visiting artists, entrepreneurs in the creative industries, local artists, and leaders of the Arts at MIT program.

“Rather than focusing on how art and design are important to a new venture, we are focusing on ventures that are important to the arts,” said Sam Hunter Magee, coordinator of the Student Arts Program. “The $10K Creative Arts Competition recognizes that entrepreneurship in the arts and for the arts is a dynamic and important part of the innovation ecosystem at MIT and beyond.”

One startup competing for the prize is lallitara, founded by current Sloan MBA student Bijal Hasmukh Shah G. The company upcycles secondhand saris, using the fabric to make one-of-a-kind products such as upholstery and wall art.

According to Shah, lallitara will “not only benefit undeserved women and the environment, but will also allow us to promote sustainability amongst the arts, design, and creativity communities.” Her team learned about the $10K Creative Arts Competition through the Martin Trust Center and from Magee. Although they considered applying for the $100K, they did not commit until they heard about the arts prize.

Another team gunning for the $10K prize is Sistine Solar, which provides architects with software that enables them to weave solar cells into building windows, roofs, and façades, in elegant patterns. Co-founder Ido I. Salama G said his team learned about the prize while competing in the $100K Accelerate Contest. His team planned on competing in the MIT $100K Launch Contest before they heard about the $10K arts addition, but the prize was an extra incentive.

The winning team is expected to use the prize money to launch its business, just as $100K winners are required to. The Harvard Innovation Lab sponsors a somewhat similar prize, The Dean’s Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge, but otherwise this $10K prize stands apart in a category of its own making. Time will tell what successes its winning companies achieve and reveal the kinds of impact they can make compared to other $100K contestants.