Deans' Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge

Harvard University announced 20 student-led teams today as finalists in four Deans’ Challenges. The competitions drew 161 proposals from across 13 Harvard Schools, each articulating a plan to tackle a pressing issue facing society. Sponsored by five deans and the director of athletics, and hosted by the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), the competitions, along with the President’s Challenge, give Harvard students and fellows an opportunity to create and develop solutions that have meaningful impact for people around the world.

Drawing from their expertise and experience as entrepreneurs, industry experts, faculty, and investors, the judges for each contest reviewed dozens of applications to determine finalists. The finalists:

AREAL is a venue that provides alternate realities for people of all ages to indulge in a lot of fun and a lot of thinking.

Ivory is a music education app that listens to you play an instrument, and then provides real-time analytics, targeted lessons, and “gamified” elements.

PACEE is a platform that connects artists and designers with the public needs and desires to sustain arts and promote arts education.

Papero is a web app that lets you add comments and annotations to articles, podcasts, and videos in private threads, supporting content producers around the world.

TOTO Express
TOTO Express is a platform that supports the livelihoods of India’s rural artisans through intensive design training, working capital, and market linkage.

To read the Harvard Gazette story about Finalists in this and other Deans' Challenges, click here.

2015 Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge Topic Areas

Funding and Audiences

Artistic production has long been funded by public funds and/or private philanthropic contributions. But, both sources have been declining in recent years. Financial crises, changing demographics, and lack of infrastructure have led to dwindling markets for artistic and cultural production, further exacerbating the economic stress faced by artists.

The Challenge would like to encourage ventures that: help artists become more financially sustainable and self-sufficient; create and educate audiences; or construct marketplaces for artistic works.

Broad Cultural Impact and Access

Change – socio-economic, cultural, and technological – is rapid and pervasive. These changes have created opportunities as well as challenges for artists
and their work.

The Challenge seeks ventures that generate scalable ways of enabling artists to maximize their cultural and economic impact by harnessing these
developments, thus promoting sustained interactions among art, artists and their communities to create a vibrant, informed, and culturally-enriched

Artist Services and Support

Artists are embedded in a co-operative web of providers of support services – ranging from making and selling paints and instruments, to bringing art to
the market – that help in the creation, promotion, and circulation of art.

Ideas for ventures that enable the creation, exhibition, and dissemination of artistic work are welcome.

Expanding Horizons

The existence of specialized art worlds in every artistic field can create institutional structures that constrain various art forms, impede
cross-fertilization, and restrict artistic innovation.

The Challenge is interested in promoting ventures that enhance creativity and enrich society by generating opportunities for collaboration across
traditional artistic boundaries to expose audiences to radical, new artistic creations.

We’re at a moment in time when new ways of thinking about business and culture can have a profound impact on society...If artists and artistic organizations are to thrive, we have to think about new models. The ideas the students have presented as part of the challenge are a significant step in the right direction.”

- Mukti Khaire, HBS Associate Professor of Business Administration