MANILA, MAY 20, 2006
 (STAR) By Donnabelle Gatdula - CentroMigrante Inc., the entry of six budding Filipino entrepreneurs in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Entrepreneurship Competition, has won the grand prize in the $30K Development/Social Impact Track Category.

The $50K Development/Social Impact Track was recently launched as a new category in the $100K MIT Entrepreneurship Competition.

The grand prize for this category will be awarded $30,000 while the two runners-up will receive $10,000 each.

Artessa Saldivar-Sali, a professor of civil engineering at the University of the Philippines with a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from MIT and one of the members of the CentroMigrante team, said they were very proud to have won the award.

"We are all very happy and proud to be the first and only Filipino team to ever have even attempted to enter the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. This is the most prestigious competition of its kind in the world, and this year MIT has taken the lead in recognizing that a new form of business is evolving: social entrepreneurship," Sali said.

Sali said, "We are honored to be the first winners of the MIT $100K Social Impact Prize and we look forward to launching CentroMigrante in the fourth quarter of this year.

"Our team has never been more proud to be Filipino, and we dedicate this project and this victory to the seafarers and all the overseas Filipino workers who are so essential to the development of our country," she added.

The CentroMigrante team is led by Illac Diaz, a research fellow in the Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies at MIT. Other members of the team are: Sali; Neil Ruiz, a PhD candidate in political economy at MIT; Tina Laforteza, a corporate internal strategy consultant with an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management; Chester Yu, an MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School; and Bianca Locsin, a Yale Law School graduate who runs the programs for the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation in the Philippines.

CentroMigrante’s aim is to provide solutions to the global urban slum problem affecting over 200 million transients in developing countries, such as the Philippines.

Sali explained that unlike donation-dependent models, CentroMigrante can be self-sustaining. "We draw impoverished transients out of the slums by offering clean, safe and affordable accommodations paired with a self-help program that helps them become productive workers. Initially, the project will target the Philippine seafarer community of one mission Filipinos per year.

"Our pilot shelter in Manila has been running profitably for two years and has already helped 80,000 Filipinos. We are ready to launch in the fourth quarter of this year, and are currently seeking an initial investment of $200,000 to build the first phase of our shelter network in Manila," she said.

Sali added they would tap venture capitalists who follow the MIT $100K Competition every year as potential sources of the initial capital investments needed for the first phase of the project.

According to Sali, they may also seek the assistance of Filipino investors to pursue this socially-sensitive venture.

The MIT$100K Entrepreneurship Competition is designed to encourage students and researchers to act on their talent, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow’s business firms. Now on its 16th year, the competition has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and business start-up services to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs.

The six-man team earlier won two other competitions at MIT, including the grand prize in the IDEAS Competition with their First Step Coral project, an innovative turbine that uses seawater current to regenerate coral at a faster rate.

They also bagged the second prize for the Peanut Revolution project, an easily replicable cement-based machine that speeds up the shelling of peanuts by 50 times, a big boost to peanut farmers all over the country.

The team also won the $1K Business Warm-up Competition for their Earth Classroom project which builds classrooms in rural areas at half the usual cost, using sustainable materials mostly of soil stabilized by ash and lime.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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