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MBA Startups To Look Out For—2018

We highlight some of this year's best MBA entrepreneurs set to take over the business world

Kinima is a virtual fitness station that uses AI to guide its users through their workouts independently. Using 3D camera technology to track movement, Kinima acts as a virtual personal trainer, giving real-time feedback and visual analysis.

How did the idea for Kinima come about?

Dan: I did my undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, and it came out of my senior thesis. I got an undergraduate business degree but I was also an engineer studying to do science.

Back in undergrad I was an athlete—I played squash—[and] we would always do a ton of video analysis on our performance after every game. Of course someone who loves computer science is going to want to automate that!

Even back then, the big thing for me was that you shouldn’t have to wear anything—you should just walk onto the court, and you’re tracked.

Then when I graduated I felt the pain point that everyone else did—I’d go to the gym, my workouts would take forever, and I did the same workouts over and over. I wanted to solve my own problem.

How did the MBA help you get the business started?

Naicheng: I think business school provides an incredible ecosystem to be able to start your own company—starting off with the wealth of resources.

We’ve been connected to many very successful and experienced investors and entrepreneurs who can guide us along the way and provide mentorship. Oftentimes when you go into a startup you don’t even know what you don’t know, and it’s helpful to have people coach you along the way and be really motivated by your success.

Read more: 10 Of The Best US MBA Programs For Entrepreneurship


Your Personal Best (YPB)


Who: Donal Bailey, co-founder and CEO

Where: University College Dublin (UCD) Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, Class of 2017

YPB creates wholefood bars designed to provide fuel for each stage of exercise. Using input from Olympic coaches, athletes, sports doctors, and nutritionists, and based on simple parameters entered by the athlete, YPB deliver the ideal mix of bars to get the best results from training.

How did you get the idea for your startup?

The idea for YPB grew out of the Entrepreneurship module of the MBA program, when our team were brainstorming ideas.

We felt that the sports nutrition market was rapidly changing. We saw that a section of consumers are becoming increasingly active, concerned over the environmental impact and ethics of animal-based products, and aware of the health impact of their diets.

Another set of consumers are looking for their nutrition questions to be answered and personalized by credible sources rather than relying on the numerous and conflicting messages that exist in current media.

We spent months preparing and developing a patentable technology and integrated solution for real time feedback and personalised sports nutrition tailored to each user.

What are your future plans for YPB?

Our focus is on the endurance athlete and vegan fitness communities right now, so that we can concentrate our efforts. We are moving our website from beta test to a polished product, while also engaging events, social media, as well as online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Our big plans, however, are really exciting! Having filed our patent we are moving forward with our plans to personalize sports nutrition predictions and feedback for each person.

We expect to be testing it with some of our athletes by the Dublin Marathon at the end of October, before larger roll out in the new year.



Who: Shom Gupta

Where: UC, Berkeley Haas School of Business, Class of 2019

nearfarms is an online marketplace for fresh, local produce. Working with independent farms in the San Francisco Bay Area to help producers sell directly to consumers, nearfarms offers an easy-to-use online platform, plus marketing and delivery management for farmers. For consumers, it’s a way of getting farm-fresh produce delivered to their doorstep.

How did the idea for nearfarms come about?

I met my co-founder Surya, another graduate student at UC Berkeley, in my first semester and we discussed our shared interest in going to farmers’ markets.

However, we also noticed that farmers’ markets don’t satisfy all the needs for consumers looking for convenient access to fresh produce. The idea for nearfarms came about as a way of expanding this access and making it easier for customers.

How did the MBA help you start your business?

Being at Berkeley-Haas has tangibly helped me launch nearfarms in many ways.

Surya and I met through an entrepreneurship mixer for a Haas class. We went through an on-campus accelerator program (LAUNCH) that has been instrumental to our progress and development as a company.

Additionally, I’ve always had easy access to professors for mentorship or advice whenever I’ve needed it. I’ve also been fortunate to receive our Dean’s Seed Fund that provides grant funding for student entrepreneurs. 

What are your plans for the business?

Our key future milestone is growing both sides of the marketplace and scaling the business. This is critical to improving our unit economics and setting us up for geographic expansion.

We currently operate only in parts of the Easy Bay and we naturally want to expand. Tactically speaking, this involves developing more distribution partnerships and broadening our marketing efforts.

We’re also always working on improvements to the platform based on user feedback.



Who: Justin Ahn

Where: HEC Paris, Class of 2014

Quidli is a blockchain protocol designed to allow companies to transfer equity in just one click. The company’s first application on top of this is a future of work platform for projects and companies to trade work for equity, meaning companies can pay workers in future equity instead of cash upfront. Quidli even used this model to grow themselves, working with more than 20 contributors in 6 months, while maintaining a low burn rate.

How did the idea for your startup come about?

My co-founder, a colleague at HEC, used a work-for-equity system to bootstrap his previous startup (a hardware company) despite having no cash or workforce at the beginning. He wanted to build a SaaS [Software as a Service] product around this concept and so he reached out to me due to my experience in Internet and SaaS businesses.

Together, we established the foundation for a simple and legal framework that could address the challenges that entrepreneurs, founders, and CEOs face when building a company.

What are your future plans for the business?


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