Cultural Entrepreneurship in NYC J-Term Trip
2014 Harvard i-lab Winter Break Trip: Cultural Entrepreneurship in NYC
The 2014 Harvard Innovation Lab Winter Break trip to NYC will immerse students in New York City’s entrepreneurial environment, with a focus on the creative arts (e.g., fashion, fine arts, food, film, design).

The trip will be led by:
  • Professor Tom Eisenmann from HBS (Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration; Faculty Co-Chair, Rock Center for Entrepreneurship)
  • Lecturer Beth Altringer from SEAS (Visiting Lecturer in Engineering Sciences; Interim Director of The Laboratory at Harvard)
  • Gordon Jones, Managing Director of the Harvard Innovation Lab
Trip Summary
  • January Term travel to New York City (Jan. 13-17, 2014)
  • Pre-Trip Meetings: Two Fall term early-evening meetings (one to be held at SEAS and one at the i-lab)
  • Enrollment: Limited to 40 students from across Harvard University (15 pre-selected by HBS lottery)
Enrollment is open to any degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate student from any school at Harvard University. Last year’s i-lab Winter Break trip to New York received more than 100 applications from 11 schools; the trip’s 37 participants were from 8 different Harvard schools: the College, GSAS, GSD, HBS, HGSE, HLS, HKS, and SEAS. We expect strong interest again this year.

All interested students, except those from HBS, will apply via the application process developed by the trip working team. The trip was offered as a field course for academic credit to HBS students; HBS trip participants have been selected based on results of the HBS Registrar’s course lottery.

Career Focus
This program is intended for students interested in founding or joining a startup upon graduation—especially those who aspire to innovate within the cultural ecosystem, including fashion, design, and other creative arts.

Educational Objectives
The trip’s primary educational objectives are to build students’ understanding of: 1) the distinctive attributes of the booming NYC startup ecosystem; and 2) the unique challenges confronting entrepreneurs in cultural industries.

These objectives are intertwined. NYC entrepreneurs often rely on partnerships with established corporations. Startups are spawned by employees with experience in New York’s big corporations, and these entrepreneurs often link up with local giants to leverage their resources.
Entrepreneurship in the creative arts often takes two forms: 1) business model innovations, such as new forms of distribution for existing products (e.g., Rent the Runway; Art.sy); and 2) product innovations that introduce new art forms (e.g., graphic novels; rap music in the mid-1970s). In both cases, to succeed, entrepreneurs must change the behavior of established players:
  • Business model innovators must persuade rights owners to make their content or products available through new channels.

  • Product innovators face a more basic challenge. As HBS professor Mukti Khaire points out, they must orchestrate market participants’ perceptions of their new product’s value. Whereas utility is evident with many innovations (e.g., a better mousetrap), the value of cultural artifacts derives from the meaning that people ascribe to them: the canvas, fabric, or digital recordings that comprise novel artifacts have little or no value until someone says, “This is art!” Thus, an artist/entrepreneur must manage processes through which meaning is socially constructed, not only by customers, but also by intermediaries (e.g., gallery owners, literary agents) and established ecosystem experts (e.g., critics, trade press, museum curators, academics).
By exploring how cultural entrepreneurs work with established ecosystem players to launch business model innovations and new art forms, students should gain insight about the distinctive ways in which new businesses are built in other industry sectors that have a high concentration of powerful incumbents in New York City, including finance, advertising, news media, and packaged goods.
Another objective is giving students the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship by building relationships with students from other Harvard schools who will bring different skills and experiences to the program.

Trip Content and Organization
The program schedule will include: a workshop with the design consulting firm IDEO; several trips to startups’ offices and those of larger cultural enterprises; presentations and panel discussions featuring entrepreneurs and investors; and a visit to an incubator.

Time will also be devoted to three types of project work; students can express a preference for which type they prefer.
  • Some students will work in teams immersing themselves in a topic area, e.g., understanding, through observations and conversations over the course of the week, how cultural entrepreneurs blend online and offline experiences.
  • Other students will work in teams engaged in learning-by-doing, developing an entrepreneurial solution for an aspect of the cultural ecosystem that is somehow "stuck." As examples, these projects might include: a new feature or marketing initiative for a struggling startup; a new product or rejuvenating partnership for a big corporation in decline; or new public policy that strengthens the NYC cultural entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Finally, students have the option to work solo on their own new venture idea.
Teams will be assembled by the program leaders with two goals in mind: 1) matching students to projects on topics of special interest to them; and 2) ensuring that each team has members with a diverse range of skills and knowledge.

During November and December, teams will meet during pre-trip sessions to scope their projects and plan how to use their time in NYC. During the trip, teams will have the opportunity to speak with entrepreneurs, investors, and other industry experts who can offer insights and feedback. Teams will also return to our hotel “home base” to work on their projects, incorporating what they just learned in the field, and getting input from peers, program faculty, and mentors with relevant expertise. On the last day of the program, each team will have fifteen minutes to and field questions from the entire group.

Fees & Financial Aid
Harvard will provide accommodations, select meals, and local transportation during the program, but all students will incur a fee of $500 to defray part of the trip costs. In addition, students are responsible for planning and paying for their air, train or bus travel to/from New York City, including any airport or station transfers to/from the hotel where the group will be based.

FINANCIAL AID NOTE: Students who have an existing financial aid application on file with Harvard may request additional financial support for this Winter Break Trip and are encouraged to apply.