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Harvard Innovation Labs 2019 Year in Review

By Jodi Goldstein
12/17/2019

As we enter the final weeks of the decade, it’s worth taking a few moments to look back on the last 10 years.

At the start of 2010, the Harvard Innovation Labs was still just an idea—one that would not turn into a reality for nearly two more years. Since then, we’ve launched and scaled a university innovation center that has brought together tens of thousands of Harvard students, alumni, and faculty to explore ideas across industries and stages. In recent years, our growth has included opening the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, introducing the Launch Lab X accelerator program to support alumni entrepreneurs, engaging with more world-leading innovators and entrepreneurs to advise Harvard Innovation Labs’ teams, and creating multiple new funding opportunities through the Allston Venture Fund, the Social Impact Fellowship Fund, and early stage grants. Throughout, we’ve continued to scale the annual Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, which will offer $510,000 in prize money from The Bertarelli Foundation to winners and finalists in 2020.

Growing this incredible community of people who share a passion for collaborating, experimenting, and problem-solving has resulted in the creation of more than 1,600 ventures. Founders have represented more than 125 nationalities, and nearly 50 percent of the ventures have been led by a female founder.

Every December, we look back on what some of these current and former ventures have accomplished in the past year. The selection below is a small representation of the collective achievements from the Harvard Innovation Labs community in 2019. We look forward to sharing many more in 2020 and beyond.

Student-led Venture Updates from the i-lab

The i-lab supports Harvard students who are exploring innovation and entrepreneurship. Here are a few notable accomplishments from student-led ventures that participated in one of the three Venture Incubation Programs in 2019:

  • Auggi, a smarter way to manage gut health, was featured on CNN for developing a digital gut health coach that will roll out in 2020. Learn more.
  • ArtNext unveiled its subscription model for “making art ownership more accessible for more people.” Learn more.
  • Coding It Forward, a nonprofit empowering the next generation of technology leaders to create social change, announced its fourth annual Civic Digital Fellowship program and provided an overview of the company’s growth over the last four years. Learn more.
  • DreamXAmerica, an organization that joins filmmaking and impact investing to support immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs across America, was named one of the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30. Learn more.
  • Forgeant announced the Forgeant Employee Experience Platform (EXA), the “fastest and most efficient way to track employee engagement.” Learn more.
  • H20k Innovations uses AI and data analytics to empower communities with the knowledge for sustainable access to clean water. The venture launched its beta this year.
  • Kinnos, a company working on a new standard of infection prevention, was awarded the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge’s top prize in the Health & Life Sciences category. Learn more.
  • JustFix, a nonprofit that builds free tools to help New York City tenants fight for a safe and healthy home, won the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge’s top prize in the Social Impact category, and introduced a new service to help provide tenants with legal representation. Learn more.
  • LeverEdge decreases student loan rates by negotiating on behalf of large groups of potential borrowers. The company launched in 2018, and now has thousands of students as clients, including over 10% of all U.S. MBA students. Learn more.
  • ReThink won the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge’s top prize in the Open Track for using technology to stop cyberbullying.
  • Teaching Artists International, a nonprofit developing global citizen musicians while supporting music education around the world, was selected to participate in the Sphinx Tank, a startup competition to identify the next great cultural entrepreneur with a chance to win $25K.
  • StrattyX, a fintech company developing a quant tool for the everyday trader, won $25K at the 2019 Grace Hopper pitcHER competition, and was a finalist in TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019 Startup Battlefield. Learn more.

Alumni-led Venture Updates from Launch Lab X

Launch Lab X is an accelerator designed to help grow high-potential Harvard alumni-led ventures from seed-stage startups to sustainable, disruptive businesses with real-world impact. Hundreds of ventures from around the world applied to Launch Lab X, and 12 were chosen for the nine-month accelerator that kicked off in September 2019.

Notable updates include:

  • Arbilex is developing predictive analytics solutions to help lawyers derisk high-stakes decisions in cross-border disputes. Global law firms have deployed ArbiLex’s proprietary, explainable AI solutions to optimize strategy in a portfolio of cases worth more than $3 billion. The company is concurrently raising an AI-augmented litigation fund to invest in international arbitration cases. Learn more.
  • OZÉ uses data to unlock the value of small business in Africa. This year, the company launched a premium paid version of the app for helping entrepreneurs interact more professionally with their customers and get paid on time. OZÉ also launched a Web-based version of its application and participated in the 4th Cohort of the Google Launchpad Accelerator.
  • Rise: the Membership is an online learning and community platform supporting 20-something women’s personal development, goal setting, and achievement. This year, Rise expanded its membership to 660 young professional women across three countries.
  • Settlyt, a company aimed at energizing friendships using competition and competitive banter, outperformed industry standards for product acceptance in a national survey and completed a 200-person closed beta of their iOS product.
  • Smoodi makes people happier and healthier with on-demand, fresh, and customized smoothies through a proprietary self-cleaning blending unit. The startup launched its first convenience store partnership with Barrel Country Store in Hingham, MA. Learn more.
  • Surround Insurance secured a reinsurance partnership with a $30 billion global reinsurer and is planning its market launch in 2020. The insurtech company is designing insurance for urban millennials and has won global awards for its innovative approach to insurance product design.

Health and Life Science Updates from the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab

We recently celebrated the three-year anniversary of the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, a wet laboratory with co-working space for early-stage, high-potential biotech and life science start-ups founded by Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars. Here are a few of the ventures’ accomplishments:

  • Day Zero Diagnostics, a company using genome sequencing and machine learning to modernize infectious disease diagnosis and treatment, launched epiXact™, a first-of-its-kind rapid turnaround genomic sequencing and analysis service to help hospitals fight nosocomial infection outbreaks. Learn more.
  • Elevian develops therapeutics that treat and prevent the diseases of aging by simulating regenerative capacity. In 2019, the venture entered a research collaboration with Insilico to discover drugs that target aging. Learn more.
  • Metalmark Innovations received an SBIR Phase I grant to address the global challenge of pollution abatement and air purification, won a TechConnect Innovation Award and was a finalist of Women Who Tech. Learn more.
  • Octagon Therapeutics made significant progress in advancing a new class of medicines that selectively target cell populations involved in autoimmune disease. The company was also honored as a finalist for the RESI Innovation Challenge and Endless Frontier Labs program for life science companies.
  • UrSure, a company focused on patient-friendly diagnostic tests that measure and improve adherence to medications, ran its 4,500th lab-based test for HIV medication adherence. The company’s PrEP adherence test is now available in 11 states and more than 20 clinics nationwide.

Where Are They Now? Updates from Former Harvard Innovation Labs Ventures

With each passing year, the quantity and quality of Harvard Innovation Labs alumni venture accomplishments grows at an incredible rate. Over the last year, we’ve greatly enjoyed seeing former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures achieve a wide range of accomplishments. A few of the hundreds we’re aware of include:

  • Abridge News, a company that helps get people out of their news echo-chambers and engage with a broad spectrum of opinions on current events, was recognized as one of Boston’s 10 civic tech startups working to streamline government processes. Learn more.
  • AceUp, a company that is reinventing professional coaching, raised $2.3M and had its co-founders recognized on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Learn more.
  • Analytical Space, a company launching a nanosatellite network to provide secure, reliable, high-speed data connection for Earth observation satellites, was invited to apply for a $3M SBIR grant during the first Air Force Space Pitch Day in San Francisco. Learn more.
  • ArtLifting, an organization connecting socially conscious companies with talented artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities, was recognized as one of ’s Companies to Watch, and had its CEO named on The Meaningful Business 100.
  • Base Operations, a company focused on keeping the global workforce safe and connected, announced $1M in funding. Learn more.
  • Buoy Health has created an online symptom and cure checker that uses an intelligent algorithm backed by medical data to diagnose patients. This year, the company announced a $15M Series B. Learn more.
  • Catalant was named one of the 50 hottest companies in Boston for making it easier for business leaders to execute their most important strategic initiatives. To date, the company has raised more than $70M. Learn more.
  • ClimaCell, a company that provides more accurate weather predictions by using cellular networks, was recognized as one of Forbes’s AI 50 of 2019, and launched ClimaCell.org, a nonprofit that seeks to address the global need for lifesaving and life-transforming weather information. The company has raised $75M. Learn more.
  • Cobu, a company powering genuine community in apartment buildings, had its founder and CEO Ben Pleat recognized as one of The Next Generation of Commercial Real Estate Leaders. Learn more.
  • DoneGood’s e-commerce site for making it quick, easy and affordable for shoppers to use their purchasing power for good, now features more than 200 brands. Learn more.
  • Elektra Labs, a healthcare-security company advancing the safe, effective, and personalized adoption of medicine, announced Atlas, a digital measure platform that simplifies the evaluation and deployment of connected technologies that collect behavioral or physiological measurements. Learn more.
  • Evisort, a company using AI to change how companies interact with their contracts and legal documents, announced that it raised $4.5M in funding. Learn more.
  • Jamber uses a science-driven approach to reinvent everyday consumer products, starting with mugs. The company received the top prize in the 2019 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, and was featured on TODAY. Learn more.
  • Legacy, a company addressing declining male fertility with a new technology to make the process of freezing sperm as straightforward as possible, was accepted into Y Combinator, and raised $1.5M in funding. Learn more.
  • LovePop was named on Shark Tank’s list of the 20-best selling products from the show and announced an additional $10M in funding, bringing the company’s total funding to more than $20M. Learn more.
  • Nebula Genomics, which uses blockchain to give people complete control over their DNA sequencing and has raised $4.3M, launched an anonymous genetic testing solution, and announced a partnership with Merck subsidiary EMD Serono.
  • Philo,a TV streaming service that offers top-rated channels at affordable prices, has grown 3.5x year-over-year. To date, the company has raised more than $90M in funding. Learn more.
  • Pymetrics uses neuroscience and AI to predict the right person for a job, while removing bias from the hiring process. This year, the company was named one of the Forbes AI 50, and one of the top recruitment software tools for 2020.
  • RapidSOS, a company helping people reach 9-1-1 and first responders faster, raised an additional $25M in funding, bringing its total funding to more than $90M. The company also announced a series of new partnerships with emergency responders across the US. Learn more.
  • Right Hand Robotics, a leader in providing end-to-end solutions that reduce the cost of e-commerce order fulfillment, established a Japan Entity, and was named one of the 10 Coolest Robotics Startups of 2019.
  • Rumispice, a team of US military veterans sourcing the world’s most valuable spice, Afghan Saffron, was recognized as Best For The World 2019, which honors the top 10% of all B Corporations for investments in serving the community. Learn more.
  • Sophya is a future of work-focused startup that uses data science and AI to enhance learning and retraining. This year, Sophya launched its content recommendation system Atlas, began working with several top universities to train learning algorithms, and raised a seed round led by the Bertarelli Family. Sophya was also a runner-up in the 2019 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge.
  • Vaxess, a company pioneering silk biomaterial technologies, closed its $8.2M Series A, bringing its total funding to more than $20M. Vaxess also announced a collaboration with GC Pharma to develop a refrigeration-free flu vaccine in a patch format.
  • WHOOP, a company that monitors people’s daily recovery, strain, and sleep in order to train optimally and unlock their bodies’ true potentials, raised a $55M Series D and launched the WHOOP Strap 3.0.
  • Zubale is transforming how companies engage with customers across emerging markets. This year, the company announced $4.4M in funding. Learn more.

When you consider the collective work of all of the ventures described above, not to mention the hundreds of teams that are not included here, it’s clear that the Harvard Innovation Labs has had a significant impact on the world. Still, much like our teams don’t rest on their laurels, neither does the Harvard Innovation Labs. We’ll continue to listen to our customers and augment our resources in ways that encourage even more experimentation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

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