The MIT $100K($50K adjusted for inflation and energy prices) was held last Thursday night. This year there were two specific tracks, the traditional Venture Track Competition as well as the Development Track. The purpose of the latter is to implement technology-based ideas for improving the state of low-income communities worldwide. This seems to be an increasingly pervasive theme at the 'Tute; harnessing technology not only for the creation of traditional enterprise but also to improve lives.
The keynote speaker was Dean Kamen, of Segway fame. His current project is a line of potable water purifying devices and portable generators that run on...cow dung. Yes...cow dung. Read about it here: Cool Invention
Despite the developmental thrust of this product, I could see there being a number of commercial applications. In the case of natural disasters, this could be a part of the home generator/purifier kit that allows the stranded and destitute to survive until FEMA shows up.
There was a significant VC presence in the room: Atlas, ATV, Battery, TD Capital and Polaris. The key law firms of Choate, Hall and Stewart, as well as Wilmer Cutler, Goodwin Procter and Brown Rudnick were all there as well.
The VC track had seven companies present. Briefly, they were:
Apnyx: A sleep apnea medical device company
Avanti: A "green" titanium company based on Dr. Don Sadoway's research, and run by Jeff Sabados, an MIT Sloanie who's a former Navy SEAL
Piffany: Google for kids; a search tool that provides different results for the youth market than adults, based on a settable slider bar.
QuantumID: An intelligent tag that competes with RFID but without the need for a passive reader(uses on-board photoelectric power). Cost is in the $.10-$1.0 range
Renaissance Biotechnology: An early stage drug discovery company working on eliminating the scar tissue that limits spinal cord treatment. I found this company to be especially interesting; the technology could be breakthrough for these tough injuries, and the team was great about explaining the problem and solution.
Stericoat: A stent-coating technology based on the work of Dr. Bob Langer and Dr. Greg Stephanopolous. The key ability here is a way of eliminating the formation of bio-films on the stent. This was the "ringer" deal, as with those names behind it, they were going to be clear contenders. According to the CEO(Chris Loose), they only need $12M to be cash flow break-even.
Terrafugia: Every now and then you see a deal that reminds you that you have to be somewhat outrageous to be a good entrepreneur. This is the deal. It's a flying car. Yes, a flying car. Look at the simulations on website: The Flying Car
Net Net, Stericoat was the winner with Renaissance Bio and Terrafugia as runners up. Honestly, I thought Renaissance was the breakthrough technology, and Terrafugia deserved a special "we have cojones" category award.
On the Development side, the winner was CentroMigrante, an up and running developmental architecture play that provides interim housing for migrant workers. This is actually a huge global problem, affecting Asia, Africa, Latin America and even parts of Eastern Europe. Who knows, when oil hits $100/bbl it could be a hit here as well.
Well, at least I saw the flying car...