Women Making History at the Harvard Innovation Labs
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Women Making History at the Harvard Innovation Labs

March 2019 has been a whirlwind Women’s History Month.

In just the past few weeks, women all over the world have made history. The prime minister of New Zealand has exemplified compassionate leadership. Greta Thunberg has inspired an entire generation to climate activism. And Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler have epitomized the black women increasingly at the helm of more representative storytelling.

To add to the global celebration of women’s contributions, we would like to highlight some of the remarkable women making history at the Harvard Innovation Labs. A month-long celebration doesn’t feel nearly long enough, given that female founders and co-founders make up 50% of the Venture Incubation Program, Launch Lab X, and the Life Lab teams – but it’s a start.

Since the Harvard Innovation Labs exist, above all, to inspire and to help transform ideas into reality, we asked these groundbreakers to share what inspires them and their advice to women considering the entrepreneurial path.

We hope their words inspire you in your own journey.

Believe in yourself. An entrepreneur's journey is like a roller coaster ride filled with innumerable feats/celebrations and bouts of frustration/self-doubt. What’s important is to keep going! A positive attitude to learn, coupled with self-belief, can make you win any battle that this journey will throw at you. We as women have innate capabilities, which we realize once a situation is thrown at us. So never lose your self-confidence and passion. Ayushee Agarwal, Cofounder of Nature Buddy
Nature Buddy Cofounders
Nature Buddy is a technology platform designed to promote green spaces in urban settings to combat climate change and pollution.
"My biggest dream in life has been to create impact and give back to my home country, Turkey. My venture, bao, embraces something truly Turkish, empowers women in Turkey, and does so in an environmentally sustainable way. I strongly believe I can change the lives of many people and create significant shared value by revitalizing this old, traditional and, unfortunately, now-dying art. Being based in the US and studying at Harvard Business School, I felt like I am uniquely positioned to awaken this culture and introduce it to the world.” Begum Agca Okutgen, Founder, bao
bao makes stylish, multi-use and sustainable handbags that flatter but also matter. The bags are handmade by women for women who want sustainability and chicness.
“For anyone looking to start a venture, I think it’s integral to have a burning passion for what you’re building. Going down the innovator’s path requires extreme conviction and persistence, and it’s very difficult to persevere if you don’t love what you are doing. Encountering obstacles and experiencing doubt are both inevitable parts of the process; if you don’t believe in your own business, no one will.” Claire Spackman, Founder, pretty
Claire Spackman
prettychill delivers healthy, frozen, plant-based meals that are free of gluten and dairy — each in a portable and microwaveable bowl — straight to your door.
Rise is an online mentorship, community and learning platform that positions itself right at the point when young women are ripest for transformative adult development experiences, in their early- to mid-20s. We’ve created a crazy strong, strategic community of knowledge, relationships and support for women at the beginning of their careers. Ultimately, we facilitate the development of positive self-concept, which supports our members as they rise through the ranks, standing firmly in their power.” Julia Starr, founder, Rise: the membership
Julia Starr
Rise: the membership supports 20-something women's transition from academia to professional life through learning content, mentorship, and community.
"ReMana is about empowering Mom to recognize how amazing she is and how much she is doing for her baby, give her time back in her day, and bring her stress level down. The times when this journey of starting something gets really difficult, I remind myself that my reason for doing this came from talking to other women about wanting something better, and that’s the inspiration that keeps me going too.” Lindsay McCurren, Cofounder, ReMana
Lindsay McCurren
ReMana is reinventing the way women pump, store and feed their breastmilk through resuable bottles designed for efficient freezer storage.
"My journey began with my love for biology and passion for making a positive difference in the world. Fiercely driven by scientific curiosity and passion for improving medicine with technology, I built the Theraplexus platform for drug discovery while still in high school. When the realization hit me that this technology must be made available for discovering better drugs faster and at lower costs, I took it to the next level, forming Theraplexus." Marissa Sumathipala, Founder, Theraplexus
Marissa Sumathipala
Theraplexus enables rapid, low-cost drug discovery with network science analytics and AI, and uncovers new therapeutics, with a focus on heart and lung diseases.
“If he can do it, you can too!” Sarah Fleischer, cofounder, Turntable
Sarah Fleischer
TurnTable develops software to help restaurants turn tables faster.
“My inspiration to work on Chord runs across the personal and professional dimensions. I’m innovating at the intersection of real estate, technology and finance: fields where women, especially women of color, are notoriously underrepresented – but just so happen to be my areas of expertise. Using my skills and knowledge to solve a problem that touches so many people – how to finance a home purchase – is the icing on the cake. Starting the conversation around how the conventional homeownership model is doing us all a great disservice is the cherry on top.” Shapri Generette, cofounder, Chord
Shapri Generette
Chord allows people to buy a home in increments, building ownership at their pace, and unlocking a new vehicle for institutional investment.
“I was inspired by the opportunity to bring the nanotechnology research I’ve been working on in academia for many years to practical applications with positive societal impact. In today’s world, air purification is becoming an increasingly urgent need, and it’s critical to get this right for future generations.” Tania Sherman, cofounder, AirCrew
Tania Shirman
AirCrew is developing novel materials for catalytic decomposition of air pollutants in order to make clean air accessible and affordable globally.
"I created FooFii in a course focused on designing mobile apps for health promotion. The concept drew from my family experiences and Master’s thesis, and won the Tufts Institute for Innovation’s Human Health Hack (2016). Despite this lived experience and initial success, FooFii remained an idea for over a year, until my Harvard DrPH program director/advisor encouraged me to pursue it through my doctoral studies. While grateful for his validation, I realized that I had been afraid. Shelving my ideas prevented potential failure. I had already founded a company, EmVision Productions, so what were the odds that this second venture would also be successful? I was letting self-doubt get in the way of success. In life and business, believing in yourself is the best investment you can make.” Tariana V. Little, Founder, FooFII
Tariana V. Little
FooFii ("foo-fee") is an information sharing platform that makes it easy to connect people to food and resources.
“I grew up a contradiction. I was the shy kid, but also the kid with all the ideas. I wanted to speak up, but no one ever taught me how to advocate for my ideas. As women, we often aren’t taught this essential skill. I see debate as a tool that teaches students, especially women and students of color, how to advocate confidently for their ideas, often for the first time. That’s why I co-founded Debate Spaces, an organization that helps share the power of debate with middle school students.” Tessa Holtzmann, Cofounder, Debate Spaces

Debate Spaces is a nonprofit that teaches debate, fosters activism, and facilitates friendships among middle school students from disparate backgrounds.
“Never forget that you are more than enough. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you look like, you are the right person to change the world.” Trisha Prabhu, Founder, ReThink
Trisha Prabhu
ReThink is a patented app that detects online hate and gives users a second chance to reconsider the decision to post or send an offensive message.
“The three of us share a passion for early childhood education – and a commitment to improving education in Brazil! Combining Maria and Elisa’s corporate, social impact, and entrepreneurial work with Angela’s classroom and school background in Brazil has allowed us to build mopi, and to merge our passion for education with research-backed solutions to promote systemic change in Brazil.” Founders of mopi
Mopi team
mopi empowers community mothers to help children ages 0-4 reach their full potential by creating a network of home-based daycare centers in Brazil.