As a co-founder of LinkCycle, a start-up company designed to help industrial firms assess the environmental performance of their products, Alex Loijos draws on his experience in several business plan competitions. He and LinkCycle’s co-founder, Sahil Sahni, were students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. when they began working on the concept that eventually became their company.
Through the course of studying entrepreneurship and entering business plan competitions, they learned a lot about what makes — or breaks — new business ventures. Their team has won awards in three business plan competitions sponsored by MIT:
- 2011 LinkedData Prize, MIT 100k Entrepreneurship Competition: Co-Winner with two other companies
- 2011 Deployment Category Winner, MIT Clean Energy Prize
- A 2011 MIT Global Challenge Development Grant, MIT Global Challenge
Key to their success in wining competitions and launching their company is the support that MIT provides around entrepreneurship and their business plan competitions, he says. “MIT has built a very successful entrepreneurial eco system that provides ongoing mentorship, feedback and help constructing a viable business plan,” Loijos continues.
“We were appointed a mentor through the process of competing for the MIT Clean Energy Prize and he was phenomenal,” he comments. “He helped us put together a very solid pitch and understand how to get the key compelling points across that would resonate with the judges.”
A major motivator through the competition process was that Loijos and his team planned all along to launch their business; it wasn’t a theoretical exercise. “It was a business that we really wanted to get off the ground so everything we did around the competition and in other areas, including applying for SBA grants, forced us to refine our ideas and get them down on paper,” he adds. “We didn’t get the grants, but the feedback was very helpful.”
While competing in business plan competitions in the midst of grad school and starting a business didn’t leave him and his team members much leisure time, the time put into formulating the business plan was definitely worth it. “It was a nice break from research, more applied, more relevant to my future,” he notes. “Working on the business and competing in the MIT competitions motivated us to keep going forward on the business. Having the deadlines of the business plan competition forced us to prioritize and get what we needed to get done.”
Loijos graduated from MIT with a Master’s in Technology and Policy last year. Sahni is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Both are working full time on getting the company off the ground. “It’s challenging,” he admits. “Being such a small company that is brand new, it’s hard to convince potential clients to work with us. We have to sell our experience in practice and fulfill multiple roles, from running marketing campaigns to keeping the sales pipeline full.”
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