SDM Students Among This Year’s $50K Semi-Finalists

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By Sam Weinstein
April 2, 2004

SDM ’03 students Badari Kommandur, Jean-Claude Saghbini, and Sam Weinstein are members of teams that advanced to the semi-finals of the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition.

Badari Kommandur,
SDM ’03

Claude Saghbini,
SDM ’03

Sam Weinstein,
SDM ’03

The MIT $50K is contest judged by a panel of experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and legal professionals in which teams consisting of at least one MIT student write a business plan for a startup company. Being named semi-finalists means that the teams were selected to be among the final 38 out of the 127 that submitted executive summaries of their business concepts in this year’s competition. The next step for the teams will be to submit a full business plan in hopes of being named one of the seven finalists.

The winners of the $50K will be announced at a ceremony in Kresge Auditorium on May 12. The first place team receives $30,000, with a $10,000 prize to the two runners-up. The business plans entered in the contest are usually based on some new technology or novel idea and the companies that Kommandur, Saghbini, and Weinstein are proposing are no exception.

Saghbini is a member of the Fantasy Seats(TM) team. This company sells options for playoff tickets during the preseason at a fraction of face-value ticket prices. Ticket options represent the opportunity to attend a specified playoff game for a particular team. If the team advances to that playoff game, Fantasy Seats provides the option owner with a ticket at no additional cost. In addition, the Fantasy Seats online marketplace gives sports fans the opportunity to buy and sell playoff ticket options for their favorite teams throughout each season.

Kommandur and Weinstein are members of mLaser (micro-Laser). This company is to be a fabless supplier of pulsed microchip lasers for long-haul optical data communications. Their product is a microchip laser that emits pulsed light directly at 40GHz, simultaneously into all channels of the transmission system, replacing up to 80 conventional lasers and modulators. It will allow their customers to obtain significant cost savings on lasers and modulators. Furthermore, the product is fully compatible with older system components and can easily be scaled to next generation data rates.

When asked about the announcement of the semi-finalists, Weinstein commented, "It is an honor to be in such distinguished company. I don’t know if we will have what it takes to win any of the prize money and I am realistic about the chances of creating a successful startup company, but the experience of writing a business plan has been invaluable to my education. From determining the company’s competitive advantage and strategy to figuring out the most marketable system architecture, the process has really used all of the parts of my SDM education in a real world, practical setting: to design a system (the company) from scratch."

About the MIT $50K

Now in its 15th year, the $50K is designed to encourage students and researchers in the MIT community to act on their talent, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow’s leading firms. The Competition has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and business startup services to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submitted business plans for new ventures showing significant business potential. As the world leader among university entrepreneurship competitions, the Competition has facilitated the birth of over 60 companies with an aggregate value of over $10.5 billion dollars. These companies have generated over 1800 jobs and received $175 million dollars in Venture Capital funding. For more information, see