M-Profesa, Madi take top prizes at TigerLaunch 2011

For aspiring entrepreneurs at Princeton, Feb. 26 was a very important day. The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club held its annual TigerLaunch competition, in which student entrepreneurs present their businesses to a panel of judges with the hopes of winning money, free office space, and most importantly, validation.
 
i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpg The competition began when teams submitted executive summaries in late December, and on Saturday, the semifinalists presented their ideas to judges in the morning. In the afternoon, teams and spectators gathered in McCosh 10 auditorium to watch the finalists present their ideas to the public.
 
The competition was separated into two categories: social enterprise and technology, products, and services.

 
The judges announced the three finalists in the social enterprise track. They were DhanLink, a company that would money using mobile phones in India; My Card My Story, which puts disabled Indians to work making handmade greeting cards; and M-Profesa, a mobile phone-based test-prep service directed at Kenyans. Each group presented for eight minutes and then took questions from the audience.
 
The finalists in the technology, products, and services track followed. They were Chaparral Chemical, a new chemical method of wildfire protection; SwoopText, a service for sending mass text messages to campus groups; AhGan.com, billed as “China’s Netflix”; and Madi, a technology that allows users to try on clothing virtually.
 
The M-Profesa team of juniors Richard She, Josphat Magutt, and Eric Kuto won the social enterprise category. Madi won first place in the technology, products, and services track. Each winner earned $5,000 and free office space in Palo Alto for the summer. Madi co-founders Nick De Veaux ’11 and Woody Hines ’12 welcomed the prizes, but said winning was important for other reasons.  
 
“For us, this really provides validation,” De Veaux said. “That’s probably much higher value than the actual cash prize.”
 
The pair has been working closely on the idea, which combines Hines’ fashion know-how with De Veaux’s technical skills to make a product that they hope will revolutionize online shopping using a 3-D camera to allow users to try on clothing virtually. Hines credited the competition with inspiring them to take what had been an idea between two friends and make it a reality.
 
“We’re really committed to this venture, but [TigerLaunch] was the catalyst,” Hines said. “It made us make a business plan and get really revved up about the idea.”