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                MBA Startups To Look Out For In 2020

                We profile the best MBA startups to look out for in 2020 and speak to the entrepreneurs behind them

                Business schools have produced some of the most successful startups of the last decade. Instagram, for example, was incubated on-campus at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Internet meme platform 9gag is a product of the accelerator at Hong Kong University. It’s natural to wonder which of tomorrow’s biggest businesses will have originated on MBA campuses.

                To find out some answers, we reached out to the world's top business schools to get their nominations for the MBA Startups To Look Out For in 2020.

                From insect farming to breastfeeding, the results were wide-ranging, so we’ve split our startups into seven categories: 

                Energy & Sustainability

                FinTech

                Food & Drink

                HR & Recruitment 

                Lifestyle 

                Nonprofit 

                Parenting & Family

                We’ve also highlighted some of the ventures for our very own awards: Impactful Innovation, Green Leadership, Biggest Valuation, and the BusinessBecause MBA Startup of 2020, which you can read more about in our dedicated feature. For all our award winners, just look out for an orange sticker on the company photo below!


                Category: Energy & sustainability


                INSEACT

                Who: Tim van Vliet, cofounder (pictured left)

                School: INSEAD, class of 2019

                Valuation: We are targeting a $100M valuation within three to four years.

                Investment: No formal round raised yet. We raised €35,000 [$38,600] from the INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC) and €5,000 [$5,500] from INSEAD Social Impact Award.

                What is your business and what does it do?

                INSEACT addresses the world’s growing protein demand. We produce fish feed made of protein powder derived from insects we farm.

                The impact is that we save wild fish, reduce CO2 emissions, and feed the world. It’s a more sustainable, reliable, and competitive nutritional product than current fishmeal.

                How has your MBA helped you develop your business? How did the idea come about?

                My Samoan fishermen family couldn’t make a living any longer due to overfishing. So, we had to find a solution. 

                We realized that most of the wild fish caught is used for fish feed. Insect-rearing provides a sustainable and cost-effective alternative. Feeding the insects with recycled palm oil waste makes for a circular solution.

                We found an inspiring mentor in Andre Calmon, Professor of Technology and Operations Management. 

                Then, winning the INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC) among 200+ participants was an amazing trigger for us. We quickly got to sit down with renowned investors and potential partners. There would be no INSEACT without INSEAD

                Where are you at right now? What are your plans for the future?

                We plan to start construction of a mass scale insect factory, the largest of its kind in Asia, within 12 to 18 months.

                We are working closely with European companies that have advanced technology as we wish to accelerate our market entry through cooperation with one of those companies.

                Soon, we will also be running trials as well to optimize the agricultural side-streams. We will also start working with fish feed manufacturers.

                Within 6 months we should be raising our first round of funding. In the meantime, we’re self-funded.


                A2P Energy

                Who: Sukhmeet Singh, founder and CEO 

                School: Indian School of Business (ISB), class of 2007

                Valuation: TBC

                Investment: We have not taken any investment but we have won a few grants, for example #GlobalProsperityChallenge and #GlobalMakerChallenge.

                What is your business and what does it do?

                India produces 500-550 million tons of crop residue every year. In the states of Punjab and Haryana, 35 million tons of paddy straw is left over after harvesting, most of which is burned, causing serious health and environmental issues.

                A2P Energy (Agri 2 Power) was started with three main goals: to solve the crop residue burning problem, to increase the farmers’ income, and to provide useful products made from crop residue to industry.

                How has your MBA helped you develop your business? How did the idea come about? 

                I was in the information technology field before doing my MBA—I had practically zero knowledge of finance, marketing etc. The MBA helped me gain insights into all the necessary subjects required to run a business, especially from a college like the Indian School of Business, which gets the best professors around the world to teach you management concepts.


                AC Biode

                Who: Tadashi Kubo, cofounder and CEO 

                School: Cambridge Judge Business School, class of 2018

                Valuation: Undisclosed.

                Investment: TBC

                What is your business and what does it do?

                AC Biode is developing the world’s first standalone AC (Alternating Current) battery, eliminating the need for AC/DC (Direct Current) conversion. The AC battery is more efficient, 30% more compact in terms of volume, safer, and has double the lifecycle of an AC/DC battery.

                How has your MBA helped you develop your business? How did the idea come about?

                I used to work as an investor and business development manager for battery and renewable energy projects.

                At that time, I was wondering why, while power transmission and distribution and motors have options of both AC and DC, batteries don’t—all the batteries in the world use DC. Through my previous job, I met my current CTO and decided to make our AC battery instead of DC.

                During my MBA, I met different types of entrepreneur-minded people at the university, not only at Judge Business School. That experience stimulated me and pushed toward a new horizon.

                Where are you at right now? What are your plans for the future?

                We started AC Biode in January 2019 and made a prototype. We have won seven startup competitions globally and received several LOIs (Letters of Intent) from battery and battery parts manufacturers in Japan and Europe, and we have just been selected to the finals of Shell's New Energy Challenge 2019 and University Startup World Cup.

                Within a year, we plan to scale up our prototype and test it further. Our first target applications are e-bikes, e-scooters, drones, and small energy storage. Then we will expand to larger scales, including electric vehicles, drones, aerospace, and energy storage for off-grid areas.


                Category: FinTech


                BXB Exchange

                Who: Kwun Phite Consunji Lock, CEO

                School: CEIBS, class of 2019

                Valuation: It’s a self-funded project, with no external evaluators, but it’s about $10-20 million.

                Investment: Undisclosed.

                What is your business and what does it do?

                BXB Exchange is a financial and blockchain technology company. We empower users by providing powerful financial tools that are simplified, fun, and easy to understand. Our mission is to make trading accessible to the average person and the retail trader.

                How has your MBA helped you develop your business? How did the idea come about?

                I originally had the idea when I was working my first trading job after college. There were so many tools available to institutional traders that gave them an edge in the market, but they were inaccessible for a lot of people. 

                Blockchain and crypto allowed me to build these tools, to make them easier and more accessible, and to create a better trading environment focused on fairness, which could help give both retail traders and the average person the upper hand. In short, we reversed the narrative, meaning professional traders no longer had the advantage.

                The CEIBS MBA has allowed me to better understand how to run an international business, from fine-tuning strategy to operational management. The most important thing was learning how to build up strong business fundamentals to fit multiple markets.

                Where are you at right now? What are your plans for the future?

                I’m currently traveling the world, promoting and growing the business. The world of blockchain and crypto never sleeps and has no boundaries—something which makes it so unique and interesting. Every day we are continuously iterating and updating our product lines to make trading as accessible as possible. 

                We’ve got a lot of fun things planned, and we are very excited for the future.


                Skwire

                Who: Elisabeth Kohlbach, cofounder and CEO 

                School: London Business School (LBS), class of 2018

                Valuation: TBC

                Investment: Undisclosed

                What is your business and what does it do?

                Skwire is tech-first real estate investment. We use big data and tech innovations to make high-yield investments scalable and accessible for institutional investors. Our first investment product is a diversified short-let fund with 9% unlevered net yield.

                How has your MBA helped you develop your business? How did the idea come about? 

                The idea emerged when I moved to a tiny London flat, annoyed that my father had decided against buying in Notting Hill in the 1970s because the “area will never be nice”. If I could use data science to tell major fashion trends from fads in my pre-MBA job, why not do the same with real estate investments?

                I started Skwire during my MBA at London Business School. Success in LBS’s pre-accelerator programme Launchpad and its Entrepreneurship Summer School (ESS), interest from investors, and my mentor's support and network gave me the confidence to focus on my venture post-MBA.

                Where are you at right now? What are your plans for the future?

                We launched our first, proof-of-concept investment product six months after receiving VC seed investment. It’s a high-yield real estate...

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