What is the Venture Program?
The Venture Program enables Harvard students to take their venture from idea to action on their path to becoming an entrepreneur. It’s not a one-size-fits-all program, but an ecosystem of offerings and support systems that you can choose from to create the experience that’s right for you. In addition to key resources like workshops, one-on-one advising, expert mentoring, and networking opportunities, you join a supportive community of students who are learning about and experiencing the highs and lows of entrepreneurship right alongside you.
The Venture Program has two tracks: Start It, for teams at the idea stage who are focused on defining their offering, and Build It, for teams who have achieved traction via revenue, partnerships, paying customers, users, or investors (beyond friends and family). The program is open to teams led by at least one matriculated, degree-seeking Harvard student, including undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and clinical fellows. You can apply to join the semester-long program during the Fall and/or Spring, and if you’re already a member of the Venture Program you can apply to join the special summer session.
What’s the difference between who’s right for the Start It and Build It Venture Program Tracks?
The Start It Track is for teams who are evaluating their idea, defining their offering, and working to take their idea to action. The Build It Track is for teams who have completed essential steps on their journey forward, whether it’s establishing demand validation (e.g. effective responses to low fidelity prototypes), building users/partnerships, and/or have revenue or completed revenue tests.
Whatever stage you are at, the Venture Program offers resources tailored to the exact needs of your venture at that moment. Importantly, you also join a community of peers who can lift you up and help you leap over challenges. Entrepreneurship is challenging and can feel isolating, so building a strong network of friends experiencing similar things can buoy you through the toughest spots. More details on what is included in the Start It and Build It offerings here.
How is the Venture Program structured?
The Venture Program offers a wide range of support, tailored to your venture stage. Here’s an overview of the program experience:
On alternating weeks, you’ll receive programming focused on venture development, industry cohorts, community, and expert networking.
For example, during a Cohort & Expert Programming week, you can expect industry-specific content, in the form of workshops, peer-to-peer pitch swaps, roundtables, and more:
During a Venture Development & Community Programming week, you can expect the following:
Does Harvard Innovation Labs take any equity in the venture?
Not at all. Harvard Innovation Labs does not take any equity in your venture. A core tenet of the i-lab is that we want students to feel safe while trying new things and feel safe failing. Offering support without equity allows teams to take greater risks and grow in the directions that are right for them.
Does Harvard own the intellectual property (IP) associated with my proposal?
No, Harvard Innovation Labs is an “IP safe harbor.”
Your participation in the Venture Program– including using i-lab resources to develop inventions, software, copyrighted works or unpatented materials as part of the Venture Program– will not give Harvard any rights in those developments.
However, while Harvard Innovation Labs is an “IP Safe Harbor,” if you are working with another part of Harvard that has another agreement, your work with the i-lab does not replace that agreement.
If Harvard is otherwise entitled to rights in such a development under its Intellectual Property Policy – for example, because the development involves work done under a sponsored research agreement administered by Harvard or with other financial support from Harvard that comes with IP agreements – the fact that you participated in the Venture Program or used i-lab facilities or resources to work on the development will not eliminate Harvard’s rights.
Will the Harvard Innovation Labs be open during the ‘21-22 year?
As you can imagine, our plans are continually evolving! We anticipate being open in the fall and offering our programming in hybrid or virtual formats, dependent on guidance from the University.
Does the i-lab offer funding?
The i-lab facilitates applications for a range of funding opportunities for ventures at different stages.
How do I get personalized advice on my venture?
If I’m assigned to one advisor, can I still meet with others?
For teams in the Venture Program, we recommend cultivating a deep and repeated relationship with an advisor who knows you well. Once in a while you may meet with other advisors to get their topical advice, and you can always book time with experts and specialists, but we expect teams to work with one advisor to help move their venture forward.
What resources are available to me if I’m not accepted into the Venture Program?
At the i-lab, we’re committed to helping students grow their ideas, whether or not they’re involved in the Venture Program. All students have access to a variety of i-lab resources – including workshops and events, and experts-in-residence. These can help you refine your idea and gain some traction. We offer many resources beyond the Venture Program!
I don’t have an idea yet. How else can I engage?
You should frequent the i-lab community and utilize our resources to learn about entrepreneurship; select workshops and events, and experts-in-residence, are all open to you. Through the workshops and events, you may meet fellow students whose venture you can join, or with whom you can grow a venture!
I’m not a Harvard student, but I am an interested community member. How can I engage?
You can learn about entrepreneurship by listening in on our public workshops. Please keep in mind that the content is tailored to students, so we ask you to be a respectful audience member and allow students to do the speaking.
How do I apply to the Venture Program?
Visit our Venture Program page to see if applications are open. We look forward to hearing about your idea or venture!
Who is eligible to apply?
To apply to the Venture Program:
What if I am deferring or taking a leave of absence?
We are unable to accept applications for ventures with team leads who are deferring or on a leave of absence, as team leads must be fully matriculated.
Do Extension School students qualify?
Extension School Students that are admitted degree candidates in the ALB and ALM programs with a minimum of 8 credit-registration (generally, two courses or more) are eligible for i-lab resources, including the Venture Program. Eligibility for applicants will be reviewed by the Career and Academic Resource Center (CARC). Unfortunately, non-degree-seeking students are not eligible to engage with i-lab resources.
I have a venture that is already a growing or thriving business. Can we apply to the Venture Program, or is it just for brand-new ventures?
Yes, please apply! We welcome teams at all stages. The Venture Program does focus a lot of our attention on helping new ventures get started. But, of course, the definition of “new” can be subjective. We have accepted plenty of ventures that were started a year or so prior to applying, but who joined the program to get help in scaling or gaining traction. Our network of advisors can help you at any stage of growth.
I missed the Fall application for the Venture Program. When can I apply again?
The Venture Program usually runs each semester: Fall, Spring, and Summer. Depending on the semester there may be a rolling application available after the main application closes. Please note: the summer program is only available to ventures already in the program.
Do all the co-founders need to be Harvard students?
No! Your venture must have at least one co-founder who is a matriculated Harvard student, or a Harvard affiliated post-doc or clinical fellow in order to be eligible. That person must be the one to fill out the application. The entire team does not have to be composed of Harvard students and we welcome teams with outside team members.
Based on recent years, what are the typical things people might leave out of an application that you would like to know about the venture/team?
The key thing to let us know is your traction. How far have you gotten in defining your offering and talking with real users? Have you tested a low-fidelity prototype? How have you validated demand?
Who do I contact if I have more questions?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding the program or the application process.
We can’t wait to have you in our community!