Harvard Business School hosts one of the most influential business plan contests in the country. Previous finalists have gone on to build great businesses, including some you’ve probably heard of: Rent the Runway, Birchbox, and CloudFlare, to name a few. Others’ ventures eventually IPO or get acquired for millions of dollars. Many of them create jobs and help transform industries. 

In short, the companies coming out of this competition are ones to watch. 

The 2012 finalists and overall winner were announced Tuesday. As a Harvard MBA alum (and former contestant), I helped endow this year’s awards. The rules of the contest state that at least one team member must be a Harvard MBA candidate, and some teams include members from other professions. 

So what types of ventures made the cut this year? And more importantly, who should venture capitalists, investment bankers, and others watch as a future hot IPO opportunity?  

Here’s the company that won the 2012 Harvard Business School Business Plan Contest: 

Vaxess Technologies 

The big idea: This venture is working to commercialize a Tufts University technology that stabilizes vaccines into a thin film strip which can be shipped and stored without refrigeration, eliminating the need for a cold chain. Vaxess aims to not only lower the cost of distribution, but also to increase access to life-saving products for people around the world. 

Team members: Michael Schrader, Anura Patil, Livio Valenti, Patrick Ho, Kathryn Kosuda, Isa Watson, and Matthew Olsofsky

And here are the three equal runners-up: 


The big idea: This company is trying to revolutionize the way military professionals connect, develop, and pursue fulfilling opportunities throughout their military careers. They do for the military what LinkedIn does for business. 

Team members: Aaron Kletzing and Yinon Weiss 


The big idea: SaferTaxi takes a successful concept from the U.S. and Europe to Latin America. The company provides a smartphone application that lets consumers book and pay taxis conveniently and transparently. SaferTaxi aims to bring greater efficiency and safety to the existing taxi booking process. 

Team member: Jonathan Lo 


The big idea: Still in stealth mode, this online platform wants to change how tenants rent real estate. Zumper will help connect landlords and brokers to qualified tenants, while also helping those tenants search for and close annual apartment leases in a much more transparent manner. 

Team member: Anthemos Georgiades

Judges selected these new venture ideas from more than 100 entries presented by some of the top business school students in the world. If history serves as a guide, it’s highly likely that at least one, if not more, of these promising new companies will make a big impact. Stay tuned.