Babson celebrated entrepreneurial spirit on Thursday, April 11, by awarding more than $300,000 in cash and prizes to alumni, graduate, and undergraduate startups Yad, Taylor Custom Rings, and Perkzilla, as well as to special award winners during the B.E.T.A. (Babson Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®) Challenge Finale.
“The B.E.T.A. Challenge isn’t an ordinary pitch competition. It’s about the strength of the venture, but, more importantly, entrepreneurs are rewarded for taking action,” said Debi Kleiman, executive director of The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson.
Winners of the B.E.T.A. Challenge each won a grand prize of $20,000 in cash plus “services in kind” donations from corporate sponsors. An additional $2,500 was awarded to the two other finalist ventures in each of the three competitions. Applicants competed for prizes by demonstrating success in achieving major milestones by taking action.
This year’s winners all further Babson’s commitment to creating economic and social value simultaneously.
The Undergraduate Challenge award went to Yad, led by Deborah Cohen ’19. Yad is a social enterprise that aims to empower people with disabilities by allowing them to express themselves through art and to profit from their work.
Taylor Custom Rings took home the Graduate Challenge award. Co-founded by Ashley Taylor MBA’20 and Jerry Taylor, the startup designs rings with mine-free diamonds and pure recycled metals for the socially conscious consumer.
Alumni Challenge winner PerkZilla, co-founded by James Cantoni ’17, Jeremy Gislason, and Simon Hodgkinson, changes the advertising landscape for small businesses and entrepreneurs with a self-service platform that converts visitors into brand advocates. It does so by rewarding users for sharing and promoting the brand within their networks.
Three additional awards were given during the Challenge.
Forefront earned the $10,000 Social Impact Award for its efforts to advance several of the U.N. Global Goals and to achieve a better and more sustainable future. Forefront, co-founded by Yulkendy Valdez ’17 and Josuel Plasencia ’17, is a corporate education company that makes it easier for businesses and their employees to foster diverse and inclusive cultures.
Earning the $2,500 High Impact Female Founder Award was Rachel Pardue ’19, co-founder of LOU, for her big thinking, tenacity, innovative problem solving, and leadership. LOU, co-founded by Kyle Lawson ’18, makes it easy for software companies to upgrade their lengthy help centers with code-free interactive tutorials. These tutorials boost adoption by guiding users through their work.
Graduate Challenge winner Taylor Custom Rings also won the evening’s $10,000 Centennial Award for its identification of a unique opportunity and momentum toward its goals.
Reflecting on the competition, Kleiman added, “The B.E.T.A. Challenge is a great example of what makes Babson so special. It’s a celebration of startups of all kinds and founders who are taking action to bring their vision to life. Last night, we saw the best of Babson—the energy was amazing, the pitches were on point, and we are excited to see what these remarkable entrepreneurs do next.”