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Halo Braid, MV3 Foundation take home $75K prizes in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition

Halo Braid, a Black-owned hair company that is building a patent-pending automated hair braider, won $75,000. Meanwhile, the MV3 Foundation won $75,000 for its non-profit organization that supports aspiring Black doctors.

Halo Braid, MV3 Foundation take home $75K prizes in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition
New Venture Competition Student Business Track category winner Halo Braid. SUSAN YOUNG PHOTO

Two Black-owned businesses walked away with top prizes from Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition (NVC) March 30.

One of the companies, Halo Braid, a Black-owned hair company building a patent-pending, automated hair braider, won $75,000.

“Stylists start the braid and Halo finishes it, and we reduce braiding time from six hours to minutes,” Yinka Ogunbiyi, founder and CEO, said in a pitch presentation. “We make braiding painless and consistent, and we allow a stylist to triple their business, giving us an $11 billion opportunity to transform braiding.”

Founded by Ogunbiyi, David Afolabi, and Christian Knight, the trio's company beat out 11 other student finalists. They took home the Dubilier Prize for the competition’s Student Business Track category.

Ogunbiyi, a second-time hardware founder and mechanical engineer, said she has six products on the market and four patents. She said her team has experience building and scaling consumer hardware products.

“We followed a pattern, we’ve built a prototype, and we’re launching in 20 salons this summer that have signed up to be paying customers. Then early next year, we’re launching into a wait-list of over 400 stylists. We’re excited to bring much-needed innovation to an overlooked industry that hasn’t changed in thousands of years,” Ogunbiyi said.

Meanwhile, MV3 Foundation, which supports Black college students pursuing careers in health sciences, took home the $75,000 Peter M. Sacerdote grand prize in the Student Social Enterprise Track.

The non-profit organization was founded by CEO Ashley Kyalwazi, and chief operating officer and research lead Leonard Nettey.

“Black Americans are twice as likely to die from treatable conditions compared to other racial groups. Evidence shows that having more Black doctors could prevent tens of thousands of these deaths each year, yet only five per cent of all physicians in the U.S. identify as Black, a number that hasn’t; changed in the last 20 years. And that is why the MV3 Foundation exists,” Nettey said in a pitch presentation.

New Venture Competition Student Social Enterprise Track winners Ashley Kyalwazi and Leonard Nettey from the MV3 Foundation after earning the grand prize. SUSAN YOUNG PHOTO

The company aims to train the next generation of Black doctors to advance health equity through clinical practice, public policy, and scientific research. It provides mentorship and scholarships, and trains them to identify health inequities.

“I worked three jobs in college and my medical school applications. And Leonard was one of two Black students in a 60-person undergraduate research program. The other student never finished,” Kyalwazi said during the pitch.

Next month, the company will field a cohort of 68 MV3 scholars with support from Amgen and UnitedHealth. By year five, Kyalwazi said the organization expects 500 students.

This year, 318 teams entered the competition — 122 in the Student Business Track, 57 in the Student Social Enterprise Track, and 139 Alumni Track teams in eight regional competitions around the world, according to a statement.

The pitches were vetted by more than 300 judges, including many HBS graduates, from fields such as venture capital, private equity, law, accounting, philanthropy, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship.

In total, 20 finalists were chosen — eight in the Student Business Track, four in the Social Enterprise Track, and eight in the Alumni Track.

“Our entrepreneurs have been working diligently on their ventures for the past year or two, and the NVC is the culmination of that work,” Jodi Gernon, director of the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, said in a statement. “They have cultivated their ideas, often collaborated with classmates, and taken advantage of the many entrepreneurship resources the School has to offer. Now, with the experience of crafting, refining, and delivering a pitch, and in some cases a cash prize, they can continue their journey.”

You can see the complete list of winners and runner-ups here.

Participants in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition (NVC) competition, which took place March 30. SUSAN YOUNG PHOTO