Harvard Launches 5th Annual President’s Challenge with Deans’…
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Harvard Launches 5th Annual President’s Challenge with Deans’ Challenges

Speaker at the lecturn and a large group of students attending the launch of the 5th Annual President's Challenge  with Deans

The University’s Premier Social Impact Competition Embodies the Cross-Disciplinary ‘One Harvard’ Ethos

The official kickoff of the fifth annual Harvard President’s Challenge will take place at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) on the evening of Thursday, October 22, and will feature a keynote from Stig Leschly (MBA ‘97 and JD ’98), the founder of Exchange.com and current CEO of MATCH Education.

For the first time, the event will serve as the launch of both the social impact-focused President’s Challenge as well as the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge and Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge.

As the official beginning of the year-long innovation competitions, hosted by the i-lab, the event gives students interested in partaking in one of the Challenges a chance to connect with fellow participants, start to formulate ideas and build teams, and learn from the experiences of finalist teams from past Challenges.

In February, student proposals that address the topic areas of each Challenge will be narrowed down to a select group of finalists. Later in the spring, more than $300,000 in prizes will be awarded to the winning ideas. Last year, mobile emergency response application RapidSOS won the $70,000 President’s Challenge Grand Prize. RapidSOS has gone on to raise a $5 million Series A round of funding, and has grown to more than 20 full time employees since May.

“Harvard is about possibilities. Here, it is possible to meet—and to become—the change-makers who are applying knowledge and solving the world’s greatest problems.” said Harvard University President Drew Faust.

To participate in any of the Challenges, teams must include at least one matriculated and degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate Harvard student, Harvard postdoctoral fellow or clinical fellow. Collaboration with non-Harvard entrepreneurs, scientists and executives from industry is encouraged, though it is a requirement that the Harvard student(s) be a core founding member of the team. Students may apply to one Deans’ Challenge and the President’s Challenge. The i-lab encourages teams to form with students from across Harvard University.

“This is an enormous opportunity to showcase the cross-disciplinary cooperation that has come to define One Harvard,” said the i-lab’s Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Managing Director Jodi Goldstein of the i-lab’s signature startup competition. “Last year, many of the finalists for both the President’s Challenge and the Deans’ Challenges were comprised of founders from multiple Harvard schools, but represented global innovation definitive of Harvard’s leadership in law, education, medicine, design, engineering, business, and more, and represented the opportunity for those students to translate classroom learning in action.”

Thursday’s kickoff event will feature a keynote from Stig Leschly, who founded Exchange.com while a student at HBS and was later sold the company to Amazon.com. “Being a student at Harvard is one of the best chances any for profit or social entrepreneur will ever have to create a new venture,” said Leschly. “It’s a chance to think, connect, and plan — in an incredibly resourced environment.”