Harvard Innovation Labs: 2021 Year in Review
Skip to content

i-lab Stories

Harvard Innovation Labs: 2021 Year in Review

Hi logo - Harvard Innovation Labs Celebrating 10 Years

Since the Harvard Innovation Labs opened its doors 10 years ago this fall, we’ve brought together more than 8,500 students, alumni, and faculty from across disciplines to learn from each other and work on solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.

In 2021, the Harvard Innovation Labs has provided both virtual and in-person advising, programming, and resources to more than 950 ventures across its three-lab ecosystem: the Harvard i-lab for student ventures, Launch Lab X GEO for alumni-led ventures, and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab for biotech and life sciences startups. In the first three sections below, you’ll find a selection of the countless achievements these ventures have accomplished as they’ve sought to reimagine the status quo across industries.

Over the last year, we've also observed incredible achievements from 1,500+ former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures. Collectively, these ventures have raised more than $4 billion in capital, and have introduced many products and services into the world — everything from battery technology powering electric cars, to a new approach to investing in underrepresented founders, to the future of vaccine delivery. You can read more about these ventures below.

The Harvard Innovation Labs team takes great pride in supporting all of our current ventures, and staying in close touch with former teams. We’ve been honored to be recognized as a winner of the 2021 Campus Technology Impact Awards as an Education Futurist, and as a finalist for the 2021 Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers’ Award for Outstanding Contributions to Venture Creation.

Over the course of our 10th anniversary year, we look forward to working with thousands of founders, and highlighting the incredible innovators and inventions that have roots at the Harvard Innovation Labs.

Student Venture Updates from the Harvard i-lab

The Harvard i-lab Venture Program is the longest-running program for the Harvard Innovation Labs, offered every spring, summer, and fall. Over the course of 10 to 12 weeks each semester, the program combines a supportive community with key resources for students actively turning an idea into a venture. Notable venture updates from 2021 include:

  • Adventus Robotics is developing an autonomous power wheelchair for people with severe physical disabilities. This year, founder Maya Burhanpurkar was named a Rhodes Scholar. Learn more.
  • AllHere is bringing access and opportunity to the classroom and beyond through its AI-powered attendance tracking system. In 2021, the company raised $8 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Beacon Bio is improving hearing and healing by restoring eardrums with regenerative grafts. The company was a runner-up winner in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Health & Life Sciences Track, and was acquired by Desktop Metal. Learn more.
  • Chaku Foods is establishing a food-focused consumer packaged goods (CPG) company in Africa that sources local agricultural products and has the ability to produce strong financial results, while positively affecting economic and social change. Chaku was a grand-prize winner in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Learn more.
  • ChalkEd was named a winner of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Ingenuity Award for harnessing data to make online classes engaging and equitable for every student. Learn more.
  • Cshflow uses blockchain to deliver financial services to the unbanked at scale. The company was named a winner of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Ingenuity Award. Learn more.
  • Dear Mémé is a personalized activity subscription service that assists people with dementia and their caregivers through science-backed, customized activity kits. This year, the company announced its pilot program.
  • Labhya Foundation announced that it has equipped millions of vulnerable children in India with social-emotional skills to cope with poverty and become lifelong learners. Learn more.
  • HEAL Innovations launched its digital support platform for survivors of sexual abuse. Learn more.
  • Mi Lado Místico is an e-commerce store that sells anything that can help people connect with their inner-self and “mystic side,” including crystals, books, and tarot decks. The company made thousands of sales this year.
  • Mission: Mentor is an edtech nonprofit building a free, virtual college counselor for high school students. This year, the company announced the next version of its product.
  • Morphology develops smart, robotic lighting that adjusts to your needs. The company was named a winner of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Ingenuity Award. Learn more.
  • My Dental Key advances dental education via comprehensive, expert-verified dental edtech. The company was a runner-up in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challege Open Track. Learn more.
  • Narratio activates, supports, and highlights the creative expression of refugee youth through fellowships, workshops, publishing, and partnerships. This year, the company received funding through the Social Impact Fellowship Fund. Learn more.
  • Paheli Puzzles launched its line of puzzles, with the goal of bringing out the inner child in all of us. Learn more.
  • RESE launched early access for its application that lets people invest in real estate just like in stocks. Through the app, you can buy property shares from with as little as $50, earn from rent and appreciation. Learn more.
  • ReThink, an app designed to stop cyberbullying, continues to grow in popularity. This year, ReThink Founder Trisha Prabhu was named a Rhodes Scholar. Learn more.
  • Rhymes with Reason has scaled its web-based educational platform that uses popular music to help students learn standardized, literacy-related topics, including vocabulary. Learn more.
  • Shamiri Institute provides young people, in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, with data-driven tools to actualize their life potential. The organization recently raised $1 million from Templeton, and did a TED Talk. Learn more.
  • Share Crop is creating an ecosystem around local plots of land for gardens that includes microlending and financing, social networking, education, and sales. This year, the company received its first funding.
  • Shelly Xu Design is becoming an increasingly popular zero-waste apparel designer. In 2021, the company worked with climate refugees in Bangladesh on a zero-waste jacket. Learn more.
  • Slam Out Loud has continued to use the transformational power of the arts to build Creative Confidence skills like communication, critical thinking, and empathy in children aged 6-17 from disadvantaged communities. This year, the company announced a partnership with Louis Vuitton’s ‘Louis 200’ Visionary Initiative. Learn more.
  • Spencer Jane recently launched its Gen Z pantsuit collection, which has gained national attention. Learn more.
  • The Apprentice Project develops students into future leaders through choice-based learning. The organization received a grand-prize award in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Social Impact Track. Learn more.
  • Thrive! partners with local governments to invest in breaking cycles of poverty so that everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. This year, the company announced new government. partnerships, won the 2021 MIT Solve Global Challenge in the Antiracist Technology Track and the HP Award for Advancing Digital Equity, and was a runner-up winner in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Learn more.
  • Toppings launched the beta of its free food and grocery delivery by and from the community using the excess capacity of friends and family that are already out shopping. Learn more.
  • Wonder Year launched the beta of its robust entrepreneurship curriculum for middle school girls that will help them launch, or think through the steps of launching, their own venture.

Alumni-Led Venture Updates from Launch Lab X GEO

Launch Lab X GEO is a six-month program designed to help early-stage, Harvard alumni-led ventures grow into sustainable and disruptive businesses. Venture accomplishments from 2021 include:

  • Aurie, a company building a reusable intermittent catheter system to improve quality of life and health outcomes for people living with urinary retention, announced that it received the FDA’s Safer Technology designation. Learn more.
  • Docosan is a doctor booking platform providing effortless access to quality care in Vietnam. This year, the company raised $1 million in seed funding led by AppWorks. Learn more.
  • Givz enables brands like Spongelle, Terez, H&M, and Jupiter to convert discounts into donations, increasing conversion by 20-50%. The company recently raised $3 million in funding and launched their self-serve Shopify App. Learn more.
  • KlickEngage, an organization creating social-emotional learning tools to amplify students’ voices and equip educators with critical data on their well-being, was named to Smithsonian Magazine's Ten Innovators to Watch in 2021. Learn more.
  • Matice Biosciences, a company leveraging nature’s regenerative superheroes to flawlessly repair skin, was the Launch Lab X GEO grand-prize winner in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Learn more.
  • Moxie Apparel was named to the Forbes Next 1000 for its patent-pending, innovative scrub uniforms for nurses. Learn more.
  • Readlee, an edtech platform that uses artificial intelligence to improve academic outcomes by listening to students read, won the grand prize at the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition among 250+ edtech companies from across the world. It is now used in over 1,500 schools. Learn more.
  • TANG App, the international peer-to-peer mobile payment app, recently launched remittances, or cross-border money transfers, from the U.S. to the Philippines. The company also raised £1.2 million. Learn more.
  • Tuverl, an organization making public transportation more accessible for commuters in African countries, was the Launch Lab X GEO runner-up winner in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. Learn more.

Health and Life Science Updates from the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab

The Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab is 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. It celebrated its five-year anniversary this November. Since 2016, 46 ventures have come through the Life Lab. Collectively, they’ve raised more than $800 million in funding.

Here is a selection of the accomplishments from Life Lab ventures in 2021:

  • Concerto Biosciences rebuilds microbial communities in, on, and around us to restore health to our bodies and planet. This year, the team mapped the skin microbiome interactome—the network of microbial interactions that drive skin microbiome behavior. Concerto uncovered an ensemble of microbes that keep Staphylococcus aureus in a skin-friendly state and may serve as a safe, effective topical treatment for chronic skin conditions such as eczema. By rapidly mapping microbiomes, Concerto will discover many microbial products and reinvent humanity’s relationship with microbes.
  • General Biologics is a synthetic biology company that uses rational design to create novel drugs for therapeutic areas with high unmet needs. In 2021, the company successfully transitioned from a Phase I to a Phase II STTR contract, supported by DARPA. This award brings in up to $1.5 million in non-dilutive financing.
  • Manifold Bio is building an in vivo biologics design company. This year, they moved into the Life Lab’s private suite, expanded to 12 full-time team members, advanced their protein barcoding platform, and initiated their first drug discovery programs.
  • M13 Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing a phage-derived particle (PDP) gene delivery platform to address key limitations in the current gene therapy landscape. This year, the company raised a seed fund, announced its first R&D collaboration deal, recruited a scientific team, and won multiple competitions.
  • Nabla Bio makes new medicines and improves nutrition by engineering novel proteins. This year, the company announced $11 million in funding.
  • STRM.BIO is biotechnology company leveraging extracellular vesicles (EVs) to deliver gene therapy in a better way: simpler, safer, more practical. The company has made tremendous strides in its first full year of operations: closing a seed financing round, establishing a manufacturing process, characterizing and filing IP around its platform and product, and demonstrating that these EVs can be loaded with biologic cargo and delivered to hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in vivo.
  • Transcera is transforming chronic disease treatment through improved biologic drug delivery. In 2021, Transcera raised $1.2 million in venture capital, was named a Gold-level winner among 225+ MassChallenge startups, won Novo Nordisk’s Golden Ticket competition, and began expanding its research team with its first two hires. The company was also a grand-prize winner in the 2021 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Health & Life Sciences Track.

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

With each passing year, the accomplishments of former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures continue to grow at an exponential rate. Here are a few of the hundreds of accomplishments of former venture teams in 2021:

  • Akouos (NASDAQ: AKUS), a precision genetic medicine company dedicated to developing potential gene therapies for individuals living with disabling hearing loss worldwide, announced a partnership with Blueprint Genetics to improve access to genetic testing for individuals with auditory neuropathy. Learn more.
  • Aldatu Biosciences, the leader in adaptive PCR diagnostic tests, announced a partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks to advance pooled testing for COVID-19. Learn more.
  • Analytical Space is building the in-orbit communication infrastructure that will enable real-time knowledge of what is happening on the surface of our planet. The company recently won a $26 million contract to begin establishing the Fast Pixel Network for optical communications. Learn more.
  • ArtLifting, an organization championing artists impacted by housing insecurity and disabilities, was named one of Forbes’ 20 Companies that Use Their Profits for Social Good. Learn more.
  • Buoy Health, an AI-powered health navigation platform, launched an employer-facing vaccination tool to provide insight into employees’ interest and progress in getting vaccinated, and communicate critical information to mitigate vaccine hesitancy. Learn more.
  • Cake, the largest end-of-life planning company, announced $3.7 million in funding. Learn more.
  • CarePort Health, a web-based health care software startup that's used by hospitals across the US to place outpatients in care facilities, added more than 130 hospitals to its care transitions program. Learn more.
  • Catalant is building the fastest and easiest way to find a consultant for market research, corporate strategy, project management, supply chain, and digital transformation. This year, the company announced $35 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Catalog, the world’s first DNA-based platform for massive digital data storage and computation, raised $35 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Cellino enables gene therapy companies to deliver gene-editing cargo to cells with ease and exceptional performance. The company won the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in 2021. Learn more.
  • Cobu, a company powering genuine community in apartment buildings, announced that more than more than 30,000 apartment homes are using its platform. Learn more.
  • Coding It Forward is a nonprofit by and for young people creating new opportunities and pathways into social impact and civic technology. In 2021, the Biden administration selected Coding It Forward Co-Founder Chris Kuang to lead the S. Digital Corps. Learn more.
  • Day Zero Diagnostics, an infectious disease diagnostics company harnessing the power of whole-genome sequencing and machine learning to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, won the 2021 Disruptive Technology Award from The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC). Learn more.
  • DoneGood, a one-stop shop for ethical and sustainable goods, was featured in Forbes for creating “a purpose-only online marketplace.” Learn more.
  • DreamxAmerica partnered with the Kiva Special Initiative and Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center to “help immigrants in Maine obtain zero-interest business loans.” Learn more.
  • Evisort is an AI-powered contract management company founded in 2016. The company raised $35 million in funding in 2021, and its customers include Brooks Brothers, Cox Automotive, Fujitsu, and TravelZoo. Learn more.
  • Flare Jewelry gives people peace of mind in a bracelet, helping people discretely call for help at any time. This year, Flare was named one of Boston’s most innovative companies by the Boston Business Journal, and was featured in Fortune. Learn more.
  • Getaway rents cozy cabins to provide restorative stays in nature. The company recently announced an expansion into five new locations across the U.S. Learn more.
  • Hello Alfred, a widely-used resident management software application, acquired tech-enabled amenities provider HOM. Learn more.
  • Juno (formerly LeverEdge) uses group buying power to negotiate better student loan rates. The company has helped more than 80,000 members secure more than $420 million in loans. Learn more.
  • JustFix builds technology for tenants and organizations fighting displacement. The company was a grand prize winner in the 2019 Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge, and was named a finalist in Fast Company’s Best Designs for Social Good in 2021. Learn more.
  • Legacy addresses declining male fertility with a new technology to make the process of freezing sperm as straightforward as possible. This year, the company announced $10 million in funding, followed by a round of celebrity investment including Justin Bieber, Orlando Bloom, DJ Khaled, and others. Learn more.
  • Lumos was one of the first companies to make a bike helmet with built-in lights. This year, the company received bike helmet awards from Men’s Health, NBC News, and Gear Junkie. Learn more.
  • Lightmatter has created a photonic supercomputer that is faster, more efficient, and cooler than any other computer. This year, the company raised $80 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Lovepop makes cards and gifts that create magical moments. This year, the company announced the opening of its largest store in Cambridge, MA. Learn more.
  • Mark43 provides public safety software to over 120 agencies and supports the entire public safety ecosystem. This year, the company announced $101 million in funding at a valuation of more than $1 billion. Learn more.
  • MDaaS Global builds and operates modern, tech-enabled diagnostic centers in Nigeria. In 2021, the company announced $2.3 million in funding and the launch of SentinelX, a comprehensive annual screening combined with personalized primary care. Learn more.
  • MindMics is revolutionizing healthcare through soundwaves. This year, the company announced the results of a clinical trial of its earbuds technology. Learn more.
  • PlateletBio, a company pioneering a new class of cell-based therapeutics, raised $75 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Philo, a TV streaming service that offers top-rated channels at affordable prices, was named one of the FierceVideo 2021 Emerging Leaders. Learn more.
  • Plastiq lets people pay for almost anything with a credit card. This year, the company named a former Amex Open Business Chief as President. 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 announced the availability of API features to “bring predictive hiring data, backed by the power of ethical AI and behavioral science, to more organizations.” Learn more.
  • RapidSOS, a company helping people reach 9-1-1 and first responders faster, is sharing life-saving data from more than 350 million connected devices with first responders to save lives. It raised $85 million in funding. Learn more.
  • RightHand Robotics is developing robots that can manipulate everyday objects. The company raised an additional $19 million in funding in 2021. Learn more.
  • Rumi Spice brings flavorful, ethically sourced and socially responsible spices from Afghanistan to customers while catalyzing sustainable rural economic development and providing countless jobs to Afghan farmers and women who harvest and process the spices. The company was named by USA Today as one of the 10 veteran-owned brands to shop and support right now. Learn more.
  • SES manufactures rechargeable cells at a pilot scale for prototype demonstration and specialized aerospace markets. This year, the company announced a lithium-metal battery that “tops rivals” according to Bloomberg. Learn more.
  • Shield AI, a fast-growing defense technology company developing AI and self-driving technologies for aircraft, announced $210 million in funding at a $1.25 billion valuation. Learn more.
  • smoodi launched its proprietary and award-winning, self-cleaning, self-serve smoothie machine commercially this summer, focusing initially on the convenience store and corporate office markets. Additionally, it further established its frozen consumables supply chain, solidified new manufacturing partners, and received all regulatory certifications necessary to scale nationally next year. Learn more.
  • SoWork builds the virtual spaces where great teams love to work. This year, the company raised $15 million. Learn more.
  • Surround Insurance helps consumers in their 20s and 30s get started with insurance built for renting, borrowing, and freelancing. The company launched in Massachusetts and is now expanding its business nationally. Learn more.
  • TetraScience, the R&D Data Cloud company, announced that the latest release of its Tetra Data Platform (TDP) now includes full-text search and browsing features for faster and more flexible access to experimental data. Learn more.
  • Tomorrow.io provides real-time weather forecasts to customers around the world, including Uber, Delta, Ford, and National Grid. The company recently raised $77 million in funding, and will go public at a $1.2 billion valuation. Learn more.
  • Vaxess, a biotechnology company developing sustained release smart delivery technologies for medicines and vaccines, announced the opening of a facility for vaccine patch clinical trials. The facility will help develop the MIMIX™ sustained-release intradermal microneedle patch, which is planned for proof-of-concept trials for COVID-19 in 2022. Learn more.
  • Vincere Health‘s EARN program is a tech-enabled behavioral health platform that bundles a carbon monoxide monitoring breath pen, health coaching, and financial incentives to improve outcomes for smoking cessation or reduction. This year, the company announced $3 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Visible Hands provides company-building services and investments of up to $200,000 to underrepresented talent. This year, the company announced its first round of funding recipients. Learn more.
  • Umbulizer is a maker of low-cost portable ventilators, helping to address ventilator shortages as well as the high cost associated with typical ventilators. This year, Ferozsons Laboratories and American Business Forum donated Umbulizer’s ventilators to Pakistan’s Rescue 1122 team. Learn more.
  • WHOOP makes the world’s most advanced fitness and health wearables. This year, the company raised $200 million in funding, announced a new headquarters in Boston, and launched the WHOOP 4.0 and WHOOP Body products. Learn more.
  • Zoba, the leading optimization company for on-demand mobility and delivery, raised $12 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Zubale connects companies with consumers who can be brand ambassadors. In the last year, Zubale shoppers did more than three million jobs in 90 cities and 16,800 stores across Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica. Learn more.
  • ZoomCar, an Indian car rental company, raised $92 million in funding. Learn more.
  • Zumper lets people search for apartments, make an offer, and close the lease online. This year, the company announced how its integration of artificial intelligence into its apartment rental leads application. Learn more.