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MIT Sloan Women in Management Conference Features First-Ever Pitch Contest

The 2014 MIT Sloan Women in Management (SWIM) Conference included its first-ever pitch contest for MIT women entrepreneurs. As part of the challenge, held last week during the annual SWIM conference, 10 startups presented a range of innovative ideas so compelling that the panel of judges ended up selecting two winners rather than one for the $1,000 prize.

One of the winners was Caroline Mauldin, a first-year student in MIT Sloan’s dual-degree program with Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her company, Love Grain, creates food products made with the Ethiopian grain teff to serve the growing gluten-free market. Its first product, a pancake and waffle mix, is already being sold, and a second product, an energy bar, is in development.

In a tie with Love Grain was Accion Systems, a developer of propulsion systems for small satellites. Led by CEO and President Natalya Brikner, Accion is preparing for its first space test in April and fielding inquiries from NASA and Fortune 500 companies. Brikner, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told judges that Accion’s systems would cost $1 million, compared to $15 million for current systems, and would significantly increase the life and operability of small satellites.

The judges for the pitch contest were also all women, including Christina Chase, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship; Heather Groat, an associate at Common Angels investment firm; and Katie Rae, managing director at Tech Stars Boston. To be eligible for the contest, entrants needed to MIT students and founders of the company presented.

In addition to the debut pitch contest, the SWIM conference featured a keynote address by Stephanie Sonnabend, former president and CEO of Sonesta International Hotels Corporation, a range of panel discussions, and multiple networking opportunities for attendees.

“The SWIM conference is really about empowerment, and our theme of ‘Challenge Accepted’ is addressing taking risks,” said Kathleen Stetson, MBA ’14, vice president of entrepreneurship for SWIM.

Learn more about the SWIM conference at MIT Sloan.