On May 13, eight student teams pitched their business plans at the 25th annual MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Raptor Maps, a startup using unmanned aircraft technology to provide crop analytics to agribusinesses, took top honors this year.
Founded by a trio of aerospace engineers, Raptor Map employs drones to monitor crop health, which enables focused pesticide application only on troubled plants—a method that increases crop yields and reduces environmental impact.
Since its start in 1990, the $100K competition has gained national attention and served as a model for startup competitions at other universities. And, as Nidhi Subbaraman points out in a recent BetaBoston article, even the runners up often go on to launch winning companies. Take, for example, 1998’s fifth-place team, Akamai Technologies, Inc., which today is one of the world’s largest internet traffic managers.
“To me it is not surprising at all that the teams who don’t win it end up doing as well or are better off than the ones who win it,” says Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The competition is run as three distinct contests—pitch, accelerate, launch—helping team members develop specific skillsets needed to grow a successful company.
This structure, as well as mentorship and other training, helps teams get in shape and develop stamina to compete in the real world. “The sooner you can get this sorted out the leaner and meaner your team becomes,” notes Aulet.