Indian American MIT student wins $100K entrepreneurship competition


An Indian American dual-degree MS/MBA student and co-founder of Active Surfaces, a company commercializing an ultrathin film solar technology has won the 100K Entrepreneurship competition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Shiv Bhakta, a graduate student in MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations dual-degree program within the MIT Sloan School of Management and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, received the cash prize with the co-founder of Active Surfaces, Richard Swartout. Bhakta also won the MIT Student Sustainability Leader Award earlier this year.

The MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Award recognizes exceptional leadership and collaboration within the sustainability community. Bhakta’s company which is working with solar technology developed at MIT also won first place at the Harvard Climate Symposium Startup Pitch competition in 2022.​

The MIT 100K Entrepreneurship competition saw students and researchers from across MIT and Greater Boston pitch their talent, ideas, and technology to leading companies. Founded in 1989-90, the competition is run as a series of distinct, increasingly intensive contests: Pitch, Accelerate, and Launch. Each contest focuses on developing specific founding skills, and for each semi-finalist contender, the MIT $100K brings together a network of resources, including mentorship from venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and attorneys; media exposure; prototyping funds; business plan feedback; and discounted services. Additionally, more than $300K in non-dilutive awards help these new ventures accelerate.

“Our approach is to develop solar technology for the built environment. In a nutshell, we can create flexible solar panels that are as thin as paper, just as efficient as traditional panels, and at unprecedented cost floors, all while being applied to any surface. Same area, and the same power. That’s our motto,” Bhakta said. “When we’re ready to deliver a pilotable product, it’s my job to have customers lined up ready to demonstrate this works on their buildings, sign longer-term contracts to get early revenue, and have the support we need to demonstrate this at scale. That’s the goal.”

“When I came to MIT, my north star was to dive deeper into my climate journey and help make the world a better, greener place. Now, as we build Active Surfaces, I’m excited to see that dream taking shape. The prospect of transforming any surface into an energy source, thereby expanding solar accessibility globally, holds the promise of significantly reducing CO2 emissions at a gigaton scale. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning,” Bhakta added.

“After winning the $100K, we’ve gotten a lot of inbound contact from MIT alumni. I think that’s my favorite part about the MIT community — people stay connected. They’ve been congratulating us, asking to chat, looking to partner, deploy, and invest. We’ve also gotten contacted by previous $100K competition winners and other startups that have spun out of MIT that are a year or two or three ahead of us in terms of development. There are a lot of startup scaling challenges that other startup founders are best equipped to answer, and it’s been huge to get guidance from them,” Bhakta said. “We’ve also gotten into top accelerators like Cleantech Open, Venture For Climatetech, and ACCEL at Greentown Labs. We also onboarded two rockstar MIT Sloan interns for the summer. Now we’re getting to the product-development phase, building relationships with potential pilot partners, and scaling up the area of our technology.”

“Winning the $100K competition was a great point of validation for the company, because the judges themselves are well known in the venture capital community as well as people who have been in the startup ecosystem for a long time, so that has really propelled us forward. Ideally, we’ll be getting more MIT alumni to join us to fulfill this mission,” Swartout added.

[Pic Caption and Photo Courtesy of MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition: The founders of Active Surfaces, including (second from left) Richard Swartout and (far right) Shiv Bhakta, celebrate winning this year’s MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition (and the audience choice award) with summer interns from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, who include (far left) Khalid McCaskill, (center) Thomas Luly, and second from right Jeanne Pidoux.]



Related posts

Leave a Reply