Introducing the Summer 2017 Social Impact, Educational and Cultural Ventures

In today’s atmosphere of heightened social and political awareness, the number of applications to the Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program (VIP) in the category of Social Impact, Educational and Cultural enterprise has been increasing. So it’s probably no surprise that they are being reviewed with an increasing level of rigorous scrutiny.

If they want to be accepted as a new team in the sector, teams now need to show that they can create measurable, impactful outcomes and do so in a way that’s either more effective or cost-efficient — or both — than existing programs, says Harvard Innovation Labs Associate Director for Social Responsibility Matt Guidarelli.

“In the past,some  folks relied on just doing good as their value proposition,” Guidarelli says. “That’s not sufficient anymore.”

Of the 19 teams in the sector, 3 are new to the VIP and are all about increasing access: Access to mental health care, access to the political system, and access to private learning. Existing social impact teams that have renewed their VIP status are working on problems ranging from sustainable agribusiness to affordable vision care. Teams in the education space are working on projects that address student absenteeism, professional skills training, and providing preschool access to the world’s most vulnerable children.

The Harvard Innovation Labs are a dynamic incubator ecosystem that unleashes the innovative power of the Harvard community and helps people take their ideas further, faster. Student-based ventures work and receive support in the Harvard i-lab, while alumni ventures are headquartered Launch Lab, a collaborative co-working space and resource-supported community for high-potential early-stage startups. Our newest space, the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, houses high-potential early-stage life sciences startups.

The following teams have named to the Social Impact/Education/Cultural cohort in the 2017 Harvard Innovation Labs Venture Incubation Program:

Affect is accelerating the innovations needed to provide every single person in the world with high quality mental health care.

AllHere is an app that increases K-12 school attendance by 10 percent per year, by quickly notifying families of student absenteeism and by improving family engagement.

Chinese a la Carte equips travelers for meaningful cross-cultural experiences, using virtual reality to give them the confidence and initiative to use foreign languages abroad.

ClassForward uses its online video platform to provide teachers with evidence-based feedback from instructional coaches.

Frank is a professional skills training program that helps companies identify and hire work-ready college graduates for professional jobs.

Gusto & Gecko’s Travel is a children’s edu-tainment venture that fosters appreciation of cultures, and tackles the problem of declining geography literacy.

Koru Strategy Group provides customized and data-driven professional learning, strategic planning services, and coaching to schools and districts.

Learn is disrupting the private instruction industry by providing the best instructors at a moment’s notice at a lower cost.

Nex2us is a platform connecting classrooms around the world through images and critical classroom discussions to promote understanding across cultures.

Parachute Teachers is creating the world’s most trusted online marketplace for on-demand part-time teachers.

PlenOptika is enabling eye care for all with the QuickSee — a simple, affordable device that prescribes eyeglasses at the push of a button.

Resistance School provides training for communities to make sustained issue and electoral change that advances fairness, equality, and inclusivity.

room2learn is a design consultancy and sharing platform that helps educators tailor school spaces to learning and teaching needs.

Skillist helps middle-skill employers find the talent they need, and that helps community college students get the jobs they deserve.

Trajectory of Hope is awakening educators to bias regarding black male identities while shifting their mindsets, with the aim of improving school discipline outcomes.

T-var EdTech creates and sells affordable assistive technologies that teach literacy within a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.

Two Rabbits is improving access to high-quality early childhood education for the world’s most vulnerable children.

Verticulture is building a modular vertical agriculture system to confront malnutrition, as well as the educational tools to develop vibrant social enterprises in resource-challenged communities.

Whoo is a platform that provides low-cost, live-streamed micro-courses and a learning community to help Chinese learners know about academic disciplines.