Venture Incubation Program

The keystone initiative of the Harvard i-lab.

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What is the
Venture Incubation Program (VIP)?

The Venture Incubation Program is a 12-week program designed to help current Harvard students make progress on their entrepreneurial ventures. We encourage students to apply who are committed to building their venture among an engaging community at the i-lab. Selected teams will have access to VIP-only resources and support to help them reach their milestones.

Examples of resources provided to help guide student teams toward success:

  • Shared coworking space
  • Private workshops
  • Industry-specific roundtables
  • Mentor-matching program
  • Founder Dinners with visiting entrepreneurs
  • Exclusive Office Hours with guest experts
  • i-lab Staff Advisor
  • Technical resources including hosting credits
  • Access to our maker space hardware lab

What is it like being a part of the VIP?

The VIP is not just a co-working space. It is a community where the diverse skills and backgrounds of the students, mentors, and staff are leveraged. We work hard to encourage collaboration and establish community, and the sharing of experiences amongst student teams.

You can learn more about how our teams engage and grow within the VIP by reading our Student Stories and listening to our Harvard Innovation Labs podcast interviews with VIP teams.

But don’t take our word for it. Just a sample of recent feedback:

“The other day someone asked me what was the best thing that the i-lab gave to the students. After some thought, I came up with the conclusion that it is the fact that they believe in us.” – Extension School ’16

“Treat the i-lab like another class. Visit it on a lazy Friday afternoon and meet someone new, take a workshop you wouldn’t have before, or explore a new skill you wouldn’t have otherwise. You’ll be amazed how your venture benefits, or how you grow as an entrepreneurial thinker.” – College ’15

“We’ve been through several incubator and accelerator programs, and the i-lab has been one of the best. If I had to pick a #1 resource, it would be the Experts-in-Residence that come through. When you are starting out, what you really need is 30 minutes to ask specific questions to people with specific knowledge.” – GSAS ’14

“[The best resource?] Other startups! These kinds of partnerships and shared learning experiences have been integral to us — there is a guarantee of shared culture, mutual trust, and supportive empowerment among the startups that cannot be matched in other environments.” – HSPH ’16

“You get out of it what you put into it – the i-lab is a supportive environment that can benefit a startup at any stage and in various fields.” – HSPH ’16

“I recently closed a $250K seed round… This would not have been possible without the i-lab, and being at the i-lab was the single best thing I got to do at Harvard, so thank you!”
— Harvard College ’15 VIP team lead

How can I ensure I am taking advantage of everything the VIP has to offer?

The i-lab staff realizes that not one size fits all. We realize that different teams require different resources depending on their development stage. Every team is assigned a Staff Advisor who checks in with each team regularly. They are here to help students set milestones, discuss the best way to utilize the resources, and establish a plan for the semester. We will help tailor their program to fit the needs of their venture. You can learn more about our staff here.

How is the VIP Mentor Program set up?

The Mentor Program is exclusively available to VIP teams. VIP Team Leads and Mentors must commit to an entire semester of meeting and the point of contact must be the lead team member. Student teams will attend a Mentor Matching Event to ensure that each team is appropriately matched with their assigned Mentor in terms of industry, experience, working style, and desired learning outcomes. We encourage students to meet with their Mentor several times per month. The goal of this program is to make progress within their venture and develop deep, personal working relationships.

My venture is industry-specific. How can the VIP help?

The VIP is “industry-agnostic” — meaning we accept teams from every industry, from nonprofits to consumer products to diagnostics to robotics.

We have many staff and visiting experts on hand with industry-specific experience that are at your service. Any VIP member (even non-Harvard VIP team members) as well as any Harvard student can sign up for Office Hours with the staff experts, entrepreneurs-in-residence, law firms, investors, and visiting practitioners that hold office hours regularly.

VIP teams are assigned a Staff Advisor according to industry, with whom they are expected to regularly engage, and who acts as their main point of contact within the VIP.

What are the criteria or restrictions for applying?

At least one of the venture co-founders must be a current, full-time, degree-seeking student at any Harvard school across the University, and must plan to be a consistent participant at the i-lab as that venture’s Team Lead. HUID status will be checked. (During the summer program, the Team Lead may have just finished classes during the previous spring semester.) The Harvard Innovation Labs takes no equity or intellectual property rights, and there are no restrictions on participating in other incubator/accelerator programs.

In general, startups entering the program are able to demonstrate a combination of or all of the following:

  • Deep and intimate understanding of a problem or market need/opportunity
  • A compelling solution to said problem/need
  • Thoughtful and clear plan to achieve milestones
  • Ability and team to build, test, and deliver
  • A desire to help other teams and contribute to the i-lab ecosystem as a whole

The competitive process for team selection is done by a panel of expert evaluators. The panel looks for demonstrated dedication to the venture’s growth and implementation.

How to prepare for the application? We recommend taking advantage of plenty of i-lab resources available to all Harvard students: book office hours with staff and visiting experts, use our coworking space and conference rooms as a meeting place for your venture, and attend our weekly workshops to bolster your skills and meet other members of the community.

How do I apply to the VIP?

Visit the VIP application page for links to the application and key dates.

The i-lab i-lab email newsletter will announce the application opening and deadline as well. You will also stay up-to-date on our general events, programming, and resources offered.

2017 Calendar Year Key Dates:

  • Spring 2017 VIP:
    • Applications due early January
    • 12-week VIP term: January 30 – April 21, 2017
  • Summer 2017 VIP:
  • Fall 2017 VIP:
    • Applications due in mid-August
    • 12-week VIP term: late September through mid-December