How did you get started at the i-lab?
My co-founder and I met after attending a Life Science Entrepreneur Boot Camp at the i-lab, and our first discussion about starting a company happened at the bus stop right around the corner. We then met with Alice Ly (the i-lab’s Life Sciences liaison) a few months later to ask “We’re thinking about starting a company – what do we do now?” Alice proved to be a tremendous resource throughout our time at the i-lab, pushing us to be a part of the Venture Incubation Program (VIP) and later participate in the Deans’ Health & Life Sciences Challenge – which we were fortunate enough to win.
What’s the #1 resource you use most at the Harvard Innovation Lab? Why is/was it so useful?
The biggest benefit we realized from the i-lab were the connections. These were facilitated through i-lab staff like Alice, our VIP mentors, our Deans’ Challenge mentors, and folks with whom we crossed paths at workshops, panels, and Expert Office Hours. It’s no exaggeration to say that our professional network was largely enhanced by the i-lab, and we continue to make meaningful connections via the i-lab despite our recent graduation to our new lab and office space.
What’s next for you and your venture?
Aldatu recently moved into Lab|Central, a life science incubator in Cambridge just down the road from the i-lab. (This move was largely necessitated by our need for lab space.) We’re taking our recent funding successes (a large NIH grant and some business plan competition awards) and developing an affordable diagnostic kit for identifying drug-resistant variants of HIV. It is designed specifically to meet the economic constraints of sub-Saharan Africa (where the need for such a test is the greatest). Right now, we’re hiring scientists, looking for business and global health research interns, building strategic business relationships, and learning a ton as we go!
If you had to give another student one piece of advice to get the most out of the i-lab, what would it be?
The i-lab staff are great – lean on them, and let them help you find the people you need to talk to. If they don’t know the right person, they definitely know someone who does. And do the VIP program and the Deans’ or President’s Challenges – even if you’re not successful, participating will light the proverbial fire under your asses to finally get serious about your venture and business plan.
Anything we missed? Feel free to wax poetic here…
In short, Aldatu loves the i-lab. The i-lab plays an integral role in our story, and genuinely continues to do so. We hope to maintain a relationship with the i-lab for as long as we’re still pursuing the Aldatu dream, and hopefully we can help other entrepreneurs accomplish what the i-lab has helped us achieve thus far. Once our logo made it onto “The Wall”, we were pretty much locked in anyway 😉