A Ph.D. student in environmental sciences at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Jay Munster founded Blue Skies, a company developing products to reduce asthma and deaths from air pollution, after an incident that occurred while he was working out in China.
During a run in the a highly-polluted area of the country, Munster suffered a severe breathing reaction. The experience led him to develop hardware to make living living in areas with high levels of air pollution safer.
How did you get started at the i-lab?
I went to an office hours session with Harvard Innovation Labs’ Assistant Director Alice Ly because I had some questions about cofounders. I had already taken out a provisional patent on the technology I had developed, and she was confused as to why I hadn’t already entered the Venture Incubation Program. I had thought the i-lab was for teams that were pretty much market ready, and she corrected me.
Which resource at the Harvard Innovation Labs is most useful, and why?
The staff! They are always encouraging and trying to provide good connections. Alice, in particular, has played an important role in helping me with some IP with the university.
As useful is the actual i-lab space itself. Being able to walk up to other founders that have experience in different areas of running a startup saves a ton of research time.
How have other founders and startup teams helped you at the i-lab?
Sean Eldridge and Ian Richardson of Gain Life, based at the Launch Lab, have been amazing advisors, giving me tips on who to contact and how to go about doing it, and even providing me with introductions. Hitesh at Virtudent is always encouraging and uplifting, and the team at ACEA has provided me with tactical advice on a ton of aspects.
In general, i-lab teams have helped me over a few stumbling blocks and allowed me to save time.
What’s next for you and your venture?
More marketing and an Indiegogo campaign!
What is one piece of advice that you’d give other founders to get the most out of the i-lab?
Recognize that startups are 5% idea, and 95% execution.
For most startups, it’s even more tilted towards execution than that. Stop worrying about someone stealing your idea, and start talking to everyone to get people to poke holes in it. The more criticism you get upfront, the faster you can figure out how to acknowledge and fix potential problems.
This advice from others saved us a ton of time, and helped us pivot to a better product-market fit.