College Startups Virtually Everywhere During MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge’s Annual Student Pitch Off: Beantown Throwdown

Entrepreneurs, Events, High Technology, Innovation, Technology Posted Apr 16, 2021 by Kayla Krause

While in-person business events and social gatherings have been few and far between, technology continues to help us bridge that gap. Another great example – MIT Enterprise Forum transitioning its always-popular Beantown Throwdown online until we can all hang out together again!

For the past eight years, the Forum has hosted the region’s top multi-university start-up pitch competition, welcoming college and university student entrepreneurs to compete for the title of Best Student Startup.

As a sponsor, CHEN PR always looks forward to hearing these budding business tycoons present their visions and innovations so we can get a glimpse into what just may be the Next Big Thing! This year’s Throwdown was split into two parts, so we got double the insights. The first half, or the Fall Beantown Throwdown, was held on November 18, 2020, during which six entrepreneurs presented their ventures covering an array of products, services and innovations that included:

  • Babson College: Busy Boda – a mobile phone-based motorbike hailing app initially targeting Kenya
  • Boston College: Conditer – a patisserie where style meets the culinary arts
  • Brown University: Cress Health – digital technologies for wellness and mental health
  • MIT: Surge Employment Solutions – meeting human capital needs with formerly incarcerated people
  • Tufts University: Cogna Technology – the next revolution in sleep
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology: Watch the Krown – stylish and functional hair care products for afro-centric hair

After each entrepreneur made her or his 5-minute pitch, the judging panel of MITEF Cambridge Board Members Yadid Ayzenberg, Ravindra Rathi, Jeremy Segal and Gabi Zijderveld deliberated and debated among themselves before Babson’s Busy Boda ultimately came out on top!

Flash forward to this Wednesday night for the second half  — the Spring Beantown Throwdown. The evening opened with a real treat — Innovation Leader Co-founder and Boston Globe Innovation Economy Columnist Scott Kirsner chatted with MITEF Cambridge’s Katja Wald about Scott’s new book, “Innovation Economy: True Stories of Start-Ups, Flame-Outs, and Inventing the Future in New England.” A walk down memory lane for some of the audience, it was a confidence-building and often humorous window into the startup life…and all that comes with it. As a big supporter of the Beantown Throwdown, it was great to jumpstart the night hearing from Scott as he gave some quick stories from his book, vignettes accumulated during his ring-side seat to the Boston tech scene for the past 20 years or so.

Then, it was time to let the games begin and the pitches were underway! Teams included:

  • Brandeis PB ‘n’ Yay is a probiotic nut butter that gives consumers a delicious new way to get more probiotics in their diets.
  • Boston University Go Off! is an emerging social platform that hosts small live-text discussions that are moderated to encourage meaningful conversations around the content you consume.
  • Harvard Chaku Foods creates better-for-you snacks to feed the world, sourcing from farmers in Africa.
  • Queen’s University (Canada) WaiveTheWait Inc. is dedicated to bettering the waiting experience for patients while also optimizing clinical operations using our Virtual Waiting Room.
  • UMass Lowell ConnectKnee created a knee brace that incorporates the use of EMG sensors and goniometers to track and record a patient’s recovery, making it more efficient and hands-on.


Again, the experienced and veteran judging panel – this time comprising MITEF Cambridge Board Members Andrew Hammond, Christine Wolff, Mark Johnson, and Sanjay Manandhar – praised presenters while posing questions about business models and protectable intellectual property. When the dust had settled, BU’s Go Off! took the win! (Since CHEN PR Founder Chris Carleton is a BU alum, he was quite happy with the results 😊…while giving big props to all the teams!)

Congrats to all who participated in the Fall and Spring events this year. As we’ve all seen and experienced, the last 12+ months have been anything but normal. We’ve all had to adapt and rise to new challenges, which rings especially true for these college and university startups teams who are as dedicated as ever to moving their businesses forward. The Beantown Throwdown is such a successful event fueled largely by exactly that spirit and dedication. Kudos to MITEF Cambridge for giving these students a platform to generate visibility for their startups while connecting with industry experts, investors, serial entrepreneurs and others who provide equal doses of field-hardened feedback and go-get-‘em encouragement.

CHEN PR wishes all the teams much success in the days ahead…and we’re already looking forward to next year’s Throwdown, whether it’s virtual or in-person!