Winners of 2016 Harvard Deans’ Challenges Announced

This year’s winners of the Harvard Deans’ Challenges were announced in a live ceremony at the Harvard i-lab on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. In its fourth year, the startup competition, aimed at finding novel solutions to pressing issues facing society, received more than 90 proposals from ventures representing 12 Harvard schools.

In the Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge, the $45,000 grand prize winner was magic, a subscription career awareness and positive self-image box developed by women of color for girls of color. Songshark, which allows anyone to compose and record complete music compositions with a few clicks, was awarded the $10,000 prize.

The winner of the Bertarelli Foundation Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge $30,000 Grand Prize, was Herald, which makes health care safer by offering clinicians real-time access to clinical data. Pykus Therapeutics, which develops a dissolvable intraocular device to make retinal surgery less painful, won the $25,000 Health and Life Sciences Challenge prize.

In March, the applicant pool for the Challenges was narrowed down to 20 teams. Each finalist venture had the opportunity to participate in the Harvard i-lab Venture Incubation Program (VIP), was given access to experienced business mentors, and also received $5,000 to further develop their idea. A judging committee consisting of Harvard faculty, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and investors evaluated the finalist teams and awarded the grand prize and runner-up awards.

Sponsored by three deans and hosted by the Harvard Innovation Labs — which includes the i-lab and the Harvard Launch Lab — the competitions, along with the President’s Challenge, give Harvard students and fellows a unique opportunity to create and develop solutions that could impact health, the arts, and society for generations.
“Here at the i-lab, it’s all about taking your ideas as far as they can go, and the Challenges are a perfect manifestation of that mission,” said Jodi Goldstein, the Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Managing Director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “We are challenging Harvard students to create and develop solutions that have meaningful impact for people around the world.”

The Deans’ Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge, created to find venture-based solutions in the arts, is co-chaired by Dean Nitin Nohria of the Harvard Business School, Arts and Humanities’ Dean Diana Sorensen, and non-profit Silkroad, which encourages dialogue among artists and musicians, educators and entrepreneurs.
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“The Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge is a project that came together because so many people came together and decided to do something creative,” said Dean Nohria of the Harvard Business School.

The Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge is chaired by Dean Nohria and Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier and is designed to support students pursuing innovative solutions that will improve healthcare and patients’ lives.

Chris Viehbacher, the former CEO of Sanofi and a current partner at Gurnet Point Capital, awarded the Bertarelli Foundation Grand Prize. “I think that innovation can come from any source,” Viehbacher said prior to handing out the award. “The more we can encourage diversity and give everyone a fair shot to express their ideas will make things better for everyone.”