What we did in the fall of 2016: Harvard Innovation Labs news wrap up

Happy holidays from the Harvard Innovation Labs.

It’s hard to believe that, at this time five years ago, the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) was just a few weeks old. Within a month of opening our doors, hundreds of students across all 12 Harvard schools had already visited the i-lab, began exchanging ideas with people who they wouldn’t havw met otherwise, and started forming ventures. As I’m sure you can imagine, we entered that holiday season filled with anticipation for what 2012 would bring.

It’s amazing to reflect on all that has happened over the last five years. Since 2011, the Harvard Innovation Labs has supported more than 750 ventures across a variety of industries, including social impact, health and life sciences, technology, and consumer products. We’ve expanded our scope from helping only Harvard students explore innovation and entrepreneurship, to working with alumni and faculty-founded ventures. We went from hosting a few events per month to more than 1000 events each year, engaging hundreds of leaders from Boston and beyond to help Harvard Innovation Labs ventures take their ideas further, faster.

The fall 2016 semester was perhaps the busiest in the Harvard Innovation Labs’ history. As we continued to work towards bringing together students and alumni from all 12 Harvard schools, we significantly enhanced the support we’re able to offer innovators and entrepreneurs across industries. Not only have we celebrated dozens of achievements from current Harvard Innovation Labs ventures, but we have been thrilled to follow the accomplishments of former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures as well.

Here are a few of the many notable highlights:

Introducing the newest addition to the Harvard Innovation Labs

Continuously identifying ways to support early stage ventures more effectively is a critical component of what we do at the Harvard Innovation Labs. In November, we took a big step forward in this effort with the opening of the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, a fully equipped and permitted laboratory and office space to support life science ventures with at least one Harvard student, alumni, or faculty founder.

You can read all about the Life Lab, including the 17 teams that will be working out of the space, here. As you’ll see, the Life Lab ventures are tackling a number of incredibly important and challenging issues, from finding ways of stabilizing vaccines so they can be shipped to areas of the world that lack refrigeration, to developing DNA technologies that will accelerate a path towards more personalized medicine.

Interestingly, the entrepreneurs who make up these teams do not all have traditional life sciences or health backgrounds. The team members represent eight Harvard schools, and more than 40 percent of the ventures have a female founder, representing the true diversity of Harvard.

Supporting the emerging augmented and virtual reality ecosystem

Our most impactful event from the fall was a day-long exploration of how augmented and virtual reality will affect innovation across industries in the coming years. More than 1,000 visitors came to the Harvard Innovation Labs to see a talk from Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz, who “visited” us through Beam’s telepresence robot for a fireside chat with OnShape CEO Jon Hirschtick. You can read more about the AR/VR event here.

For me, one notable takeaway from the day was reflecting on the many ways that Harvard Innovation Labs ventures are already creating AR and VR applications in a variety of industries, from education to medicine. For instance, Luminopia is building VR software to treat underserved visual disorders that affect millions of people word-wide. In the historian space, PIVOT is creating an app that offers a lens into what places looked like in the past, showing authenticated histories of both everyday places and popular tourist attractions.

These are just a couple of the many Harvard Innovation Labs ventures that are focused on building AR or VR applications. We look forward to continuing to support this community in the coming year, and officially opening the Harvard AR/VR Lab in January 2017.

Celebrating a season filled with team accomplishments

It’s been incredible to see many current and former Harvard Innovation Labs ventures achieve so much this fall. For current Harvard Innovation Labs teams, here were a few milestones: 

  • Ace-Up, a marketplace where people can find coaches for a variety of areas, from business and leadership to career and communication, launched its new online platform.
  • ALEX (Anyone’s Learning Experience) launched their marketplace for higher education and professional courses.
  • Analytical Space, a company that is both increasing the speed and decreasing the cost of data transmissions from satellites to Earth, was named one of the top five winners in MassChallenge.
  • Doorbell.me, a real estate tech startup that is making a social network for people living in the same apartment building, launched its application in buildings in Cambridge and Somerville, including Holden Green, an apartment building with more than 400 units.
  • Flare Jewelry, makers of fashionable, tech jewelry that protects women from assault and collects evidence, won multiple business competitions and expanded their team.
  • PathoVax, a healthcare company developing a prophylactic Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine technology that targets all 15 cancer-causing strains, won a $500k prize at the 43North business plan contest in Buffalo.

We were also pleased to hear from a number of ventures that have achieved much success since leaving the Harvard Innovation Labs:

  • ArtLifting, a company that empowers artists living with homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork, announced a partnership with Starbucks. You can view the announcement and beautiful gift cards here.
  • Baroo, a premium pet care company, announced that it raised $2.25M, and has made its services available in nearly 60 residential buildings throughout Greater Boston.
  • Bounce Imaging, a maker of throwable tactical cameras and sensors, also won a $500k prize at the 43North business plan contest in Buffalo.
  • DoneGood, a venture that promotes socially responsible shopping, launched an already popular browser extension that helps people quickly find products that align with their values.
  • LovePop, the greeting card company maker, raised $6M in Series A funding. The company makes elegant and fun popup cards for any occasion.

While every one of these ventures, and many more, deserve congratulations, we’re even more excited about what 2017 will bring for the Harvard Innovation Labs.

For instance, in the fall we had more than 400 teams declare interest for the President’s Innovation Challenge, an annual contest that prompts the Harvard student body to work towards solving some of the most challenging issues facing the world today. In May, we will award more than $300,000 in funding to the most promising ideas that emerge from this challenge, which will focus on social impact and cultural enterprise, health and life sciences, as well as an open category for ventures that don’t fit the other categories.

It’s events like this that best demonstrate the mission of the Harvard Innovation Labs. What we care most about is encouraging people to explore innovation and entrepreneurship in any industry and at any stage, and helping people from diverse backgrounds meet and exchange ideas.

For students, alumni, and faculty, our hope is that what they learn from their interactions through the Harvard Innovation Labs will help them solve some of the world’s greatest challenges in the years to come.