For many entrepreneurial-minded MBAs, launching a startup embodies the frontier ideal of taking charge of their own destiny. Their role models are bootstrappers who turned industries inside out with a mix of pluck and endurance. This phenomenon has only been amplified by Millennials, who revel in challenging convention and testing limits. For this current crop of MBAs, startups have moved beyond large exits, IPOs, and loads of cash and have also become a means to pursue social good, platforms to connect resources, and opportunities to build or even create communities. 

The Most Disruptive Startups

This year, we asked 28 leading business schools to nominate what they consider the newest and most “disruptive” startups founded by MBAs. Here is a few examples of what we found.

In 2018, Sonny Tai and Ben Ziomek, graduates of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, launched Aegis AI. The company’s artificial intelligence software turns existing security cameras into smart cameras that can detect guns. As a result, Ziomek says, companies can head off potential gun violence--“without invading privacy.” The investment community loves the concept and have thus far poured over $2.2 million into Aegis AI.

Founded by Columbia Business School graduates, Sable brands itself as the “first mobile bank for internationals in the U.S.” Targeting international students, the platform enables customers to easily access their “Sable Card” with just a passport. Already accepted into Y Combinator, Sable is moving cautiously, with about 200 members in an invite-only pilot. Upon rollout, the institution will be able to tap into a market of 44.5 million immigrants in the United States alone.

Many MBAs tap into talent pools at other colleges within their university, such as engineering or medical schools. At the University of Minnesota, Jack Schneeman helped launch Phraze to aid physicians; in initial tests, this “scribe” has freed up 90 minutes of a doctor’s day by parsing through key data during patient conversations to generate clinical documentation. 

Not every MBA startup is predicated on analytics, artificial intelligence, or algorithms. Take M’panadas, which matriculated at Georgetown University’s McDonough School. Positioned as “real food to fuel people on the go,” M’panadas promotes health with a balanced meal tucked inside a pocket using ingredients inspired by Hispanic street foods. UCLA’s Eliqs caters to special events with personalized craft beers. In the apparel space, Lia Winograd’s Pepper markets bras to women with small cup sizes, an often-underserved population.

Of course, several MBA startups defy categorization. This year, Sahar Jamal won the 2019 Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award at Northwestern University, which included $70,000 in seed money. Jamal designed the Maziwa breast pump customized for working women in developing countries. 

Pay attention to these players in the startup space. Very soon, these companies could be changing the way you live, work, and play.

Published on: Oct 28, 2019