Harvard Innovation Labs 2017 Year in Review

Happy holidays from the Harvard Innovation Labs. As we approach the end of 2017, I’d like to take a moment to share how the Harvard Innovation Labs has fostered innovation and entrepreneurship across the university over the last year, and highlight the progress that many ventures have made.

Before I get to the updates, I wanted to give you some context around how we measure success at the Harvard Innovation Labs. While our team certainty celebrates venture milestones such as funding and commercialization, we don’t use these types of outputs to measure the success of this innovation center.

Instead, we look at success in terms of inputs, from how effectively we’re able to engage the entire Harvard community in exploring ideas, to whether we’re providing everyone who walks through our doors with stage-appropriate resources. We believe that if we bring the entire Harvard community together to explore ideas in any industry, and at any stage, the result will be ideas and businesses that have the potential to fundamentally change how we work and live.

That’s why what I’m most proud of is the depth and breadth of ideas coming out of the Harvard Innovation Labs. As you read this post, you’ll see that ventures being nurtured at the Harvard Innovation Labs are working across virtually every industry on a broad range of products and services, from providing stress-free daycare for parents to developing augmented reality navigation systems. With this in mind, below you’ll find updates from select teams across each of our Labs: the i-lab for student ventures, the Launch Lab for Harvard alumni-led ventures, and the Life Lab for health and life sciences ventures led by Harvard students, alumni or facility.

Student-led Venture Updates from the i-lab

Since opening its doors in 2011, the i-lab has supported more than 900 student ventures, with more than 200 this year alone. Here are a few of the many team accomplishments:

  • 2017 has been a year full of highly-politicized reporting, making it increasingly difficult for readers to discern fact from opinion. Abridge News helps readers develop a balanced opinion about trending stories by showing points of view on all sides of a debate. Abridge News launched this year, and has reached thousands of readers.
  • AugmentX is an exciting company to watch in the augmented reality healthcare space. This year, AugmentX won the Brainnovations Pitch Contest for using augmented reality to accelerate neurological recovery in patients. Read more.
  • Cellino enables gene therapy companies to deliver gene-editing cargo to cells with ease and exceptional performance. The company was named the winner of the 2017 SPIE Startup Challenge. Read more.
  • In an age where talented developers are often tempted to take high-paying jobs at for-profit companies, Coding It Forward inspires and empowers people to use their tech skills for social good. This year, the nonprofit hosted 14 students from the world’s top schools for an internship with the US Census Bureau. Read more.
  • Finding high-quality childcare can be a headache for new parents. CozyKin, a company that makes nanny sharing easier for families, received the top $100K prize in this year’s MassChallenge. Read more.
  • Doorbell.me is bringing curated event experiences and apps to apartment communities. The company’s products and services are now being used in more than 1000 apartment units. Read more.
  • Evisort is using artificial intelligences to help lawyers organize, manage, and gain insight from their legal documents. This year, the company grew to eight employees and secured seed funding. Read more.
  • Herald Health’s solution for helping doctors manage data overload gained significant traction in 2017. The company now has hundreds of doctors using its software, and secured a contract with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Read more.
  • Gender inequality is a significant problem in India, resulting in poor health outcomes for more than 100 million adolescent girls. Girls Health Champions is an organization that trains adolescent girls worldwide as peer health educators and health leaders in their schools and communities. This year, the company secured one of the top prizes in MassChallenge, receiving $50K.
  • In a year where research has painted an increasingly grim picture of the effects of climate change, Joro helps individuals track their real-time, granular carbon emissions and make better energy consumption decisions. This year, the company was named an MIT Clean Energy Prize finalist, receiving a $20K prize. Read more.
  • Phiar is developing an augmented reality navigation system with real-time artificial intelligence safety detections. The company successfully raised $225K in angel funding, and was selected for both Nvidia’s Inception Program and Taiwan’s Garage+ Startup Global Program.
  • StudyBuddy launched its mobile app that helps students connect with classmates, and experienced significant user growth over the last year.
  • Too often, high school athletes agree to college scholarships without fully understanding the implications of their decisions. Trey helps high school athletes and their parents navigate college athletic recruiting and use sports to build transferable life skills. This year, the venture launched a pilot in Chicago.
  • Zoba uses machine learning to predict areas that are at higher risk for crime and terrorism. This year, the company secured seed funding from the Graduate Syndicate, led by Jeffrey Bussgang and Mark Cuban.

Health and Life Science Updates from the Life Lab

We recently celebrated the one year anniversary of the Life Lab, and were thrilled to report that Life Lab teams have collectively raised more than $30 million in capital. You can read about all of the Life Lab ventures’ milestones here. A few highlights include:

  • Aldatu Biosciences is a biotechnology company applying its proprietary genotyping platform—PANDAA—to the development of innovative diagnostics designed to address unmet clinical needs in infectious disease. This year, the company grew its team from five to seven members, and received a Phase II SBIR for further development of the company’s PANDAA diagnostic platform.
  • Catalog is revolutionizing data storage by harnessing DNA. The venture successfully transitioned headquarters from IndieBio in San Francisco to the Life Lab. It also closed a $5M seed round, and added CTO Darren Link and Principal Engineer Swapnil Bhatia to their team.
  • Focused on antibiotic resistance prediction, Day Zero Diagnostics secured a $3.1M seed round, and won a top prize in the 2017 MedTech Innovator Global Competition.
  • Octagon Therapeutics raised an additional $600K in equity financing, and initiated a chemistry campaign to optimize its new class of antibiotics. The company also generated animal data showing the efficacy of Octagon’s medicines against resistant bacterial superbugs.
  • UrSure Inc., an HIV prevention company, has made significant progress towards developing its point of care test. It received a Phase 1 SBIR funding, and was one of the final 26 teams in MassChallenge. UrSure CEO Giffin Daughtridge was also named one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare.

Harvard Alumni-led Venture Updates from the Launch Lab

This year, the Launch Lab was home to more than 50 alumni-led ventures. These teams worked on everything from providing affordable mobile access for people around the world to lifestyle-focused digital health coaching. Here are a few team updates:

  • One of the year’s most fascinating stories related to blockchain and cryptocurrencies came from the Harvard Launch Lab. AirFox, a company that reduces the cost of mobile data for consumers, held a successful initial coin offering (ICO), raising $15M through the sale of digital tokens. Read more.
  • Opioid addiction is one of the greatest struggles that our country faces today. Blue Therapeutics continued to work on breaking the chain of opioid addiction by developing highly effective, non-addictive pain killers.
  • Gain Life, a company delivering lifestyle-focused digital health coaching to combat serious, preventable chronic disease, received a scholarship from 2017 PULSE @MassChallenge. Read more.
  • With the proliferation of podcasts, how do you find the ones that are right for you? RadioPublic answers this question with its home for handpicked podcast playlists from people who love podcasts. This year, the company announced investments from WGBH and Companyon Capital. Read more.
  • TetraScience is applying the Internet-of-Things to laboratories. This year, TetraScience Founder Spring Wang was named one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science.

Where are They Now? News from Former Harvard Innovation Labs Ventures

Over the last year, we’ve greatly enjoyed seeing former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures grow and evolve. Here are a few notable updates:

  • Buoy makes a digital health tool that helps people – from the moment they get sick – start their care on the right foot. This year the company raised $6.7M. Read more.
  • BrainCo raised $15M for its Brain Machine Interface (BMI) wearables. One interesting application of this technology is measuring student engagement. Read more.
  • Climacell had a busy year, launching its hyper-local weather prediction technology platform and raising $15M in funding. As the world’s weather becomes ever-more volatile, it’s become increasingly clear that more accurate weather has the potential to not just save time and money, but lives. Read more.
  • DoneGood launched its new ecommerce site to help people shop for ethical alternatives to products that they would normally purchase from corporate giants. Read more.
  • Getaway is focused on providing “tiny house” rentals for people looking for a relaxing vacation. This year, the company raised $15M. Read more.
  • Philo raised $22M for its Internet television service. Read more.
  • Pykus Therapeutics, a company focused on developing a dissolvable intraocular surgical device to make retinal surgery less painful and more successful, won the top MassChallenge prize of $100K.
  • When a life-threatening emergency strikes—from a natural disaster to a robbery—it can be impossible to reach authorities by phone. This year, RapidSOS made its rescue and recovery app free in response to the many recent natural disasters. Read more.
  • Rumi Spice partners with Afghan farmers to bring top-quality, sustainably farmed saffron to customers around the world. This year, the company received a Shark Tank investment. Read more.
  • Will Ahmed, founder and CEO of sports tech company WHOOP, was named one of the Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. This year, WHOOP also signed partnership agreements with the MLB and NFL.