Nanoengineered cement beat out a handful of other technologies in this year's MIT Entrepreneurship Competition, earning its creators a $100,000 prize.
C-Crete Technologies, which created a new type of cement that cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions and yet is stronger than any current cement, took home the top prize Wednesday night from the awards ceremony on MIT's campus in Cambridge, Mass. A panel of judges composed of fellow entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry executives chose C-Crete as the winner based on the execution of its business plan and presentation.
"For many years, the world has been looking for simple, scalable solutions to reduce the global carbon footprint and limit its impact on the environment," Natanel Barookhian, an MIT Sloan School of Management MBA graduate and one of C-Crete's founders, said in a statement. "We at C-Crete Technologies have developed a method for tackling this issue by targeting the production of cement, one of the most widely used materials on earth, while improving all of its core properties."
The 204 teams of MIT graduates who entered this year's challenge competed across six different tracks--Products and Services, Web and IT, Energy, Development, Mobile, and Life Sciences. A winning team was chosen in each of the six categories, receiving $20,000 in seed money to build their businesses. As winner of both the Energy track and the overall competition, C-Crete was given a total of $120,000.
The teams that each won $20,000 for their individual tracks also contributed several innovative ideas.
SolSource 3-in-1 took the top prize in the Development track for creating a device that captures solar energy for use in portable cooking, heating, and electricity devices. The team sees this technology as a way to limit the indoor air pollution generated by systems that use traditional gas.
Aukera Therapeutics won in the Life Sciences track for developing a new drug designed to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Currently, the only FDA-approved ALS drug will extend one's life by two to three months, according to Aukera. As part of its research, the company is trying to isolate a specific natural protein called Angiogenin, which has been found to be lacking in ALS patients. Aukera also won an additional $10,000 Wednesday night after being voted the favorite team by the 1,000-member audience.
Privo Technologies won in the Products and Services track for developing chewing gum that can deliver insulin to people with diabetes. Using nanotechnology, the gum could also potentially be used to slowly deliver other substances, such as energy supplements or pain killers.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this year's MIT competition was the first to ask contestants to use a social-media approach called Twitch. A combination of Twitter and Pitch, entrepreneurs had to tweet an inviting sales pitch or short business plan in 140 characters or less. But that tweet also had to persuade as many other people as possible to retweet the idea over the 20-day stretch of the competition.
Beating out competitors from 13 different countries and 19 different states, Couchange.org won the $500 Twitch prize. A company that converts unused balances on gift cards to charitable donations, Couchange.org tweeted its short but simple business plan. Retweeters were asked to include the name of their favorite charity, with the $500 award going to the most popular nonprofit.
A total of $262,000 was given away in prize money Wednesday night, all of which was awarded to start-ups to jump-start their companies. A webcast of the awards ceremony can be viewed at the MIT website.