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 (VIP) is a resource-rich program designed to help all current Harvard students and select alumni pursue entrepreneurial ventures while diving deep into the world of innovation and business.  Whether you have a great idea and some inkling of what you might do with it, or are halfway down the path to getting funded and going to market, the VIP is open to you. The application is a bunch of pretty straightforward questions and won’t take weeks to complete. So give it a look. We encourage applicants from all 13 Harvard schools.

Once accepted into the 12-week program, VIP teams have access to a number of exclusive and really helpful resources, in addition to the resources, we offer to all students throughout the school year. The VIP only support includes:

  • Weekly check-ins with your dedicated i-lab Advisor who specializes in your industry area
  • Access to a mentor through a mentor-matching program
  • Technical resources including hosting credits
  • Industry-specific roundtables for peer-to-peer learning
  • Exclusive office hours with guest experts
  • Founders’ Dinners with visiting entrepreneurs
  • A strong community of like-minded individuals and teams

The whole idea of the VIP is to help you learn about the challenges and wonders of starting a business and to provide you with the emotional support and functional guidance you need to make what is often a rocky journey into a smoother one. The majority of our venture teams are really early stage, and many don’t go beyond graduation. That’s okay. If you have a good idea, have put some solid thought into it, and are up for getting a ton of help, you should apply to the Venture Incubation Program. We accept applications every Fall, Spring, and Summer. The sessions are pretty similar with some nuanced and not-so-nuanced differences explained below:

Fall Session

The Fall Session is a time for exploring, learning, developing, and refining your ideas. We offer a host of programming designed to help you explore what innovation means to you, what it means to develop and test your ideas, and how the i-lab can be a resource for you beyond the scope of just operating a startup.

It’s also designed to prepare you for the Spring VIP session and the chance to compete in the $310,000 President’s Innovation Challenge.

To help you along this journey, we offer specific workshops geared toward answering some of the basic questions we’ve encountered when it comes to turning an idea into something more concrete.

We also highly encourage you to make an appointment with a Staff Advisor who can help answer all kinds of questions you may have: from general to very specific.

EiRs are also an excellent resource for you to tap into for answers to your questions.

Finally, we encourage you to come to our space. If you’re working on developing an idea, there’s no better place to be. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are also trying to answer big questions and solve big problems. It’s not only inspiring to be around others who are engaging in the innovation space, it also creates unrivaled connections and opens intriguing doors. You’ll be amazed to find how many good things result from the connections you make here – even the ones in the kitchen that you wouldn’t think could be life-changing.

The Fall is definitely a great time to get involved here.

But, if you missed engaging with us in the Fall, don’t worry. We still strongly encourage you to apply to the Spring VIP with your idea if you’re interested in exploring how far you can take it.

And, if you aren’t accepted, you can still engage with all the non-VIP resources that we offer in the Spring. We’re here to help and we want to see all ideas explored. No idea left behind is what we strive for.

Spring Session

The Spring is more heavily geared toward accelerating the teams accepted into the VIP and getting everyone ready for the President’s Innovation Challenge (PIC), our annual competition that offers $310,000 in prize money to winning teams.

The President’s Innovation Challenge now shares a unified application with the VIP. Once separate, the President’s Innovation Challenge and the VIP have now been integrated in a way that combines the excitement and incentives of the Challenge with the comprehensive approach and support of the VIP. So when you apply to the Spring VIP you are automatically in the initial stages of the President’s Innovation Challenge. Cool hunh?

Teams accepted into the VIP are immediately designated as semifinalists for the PIC and will have the opportunity to submit an updated application in March for judging to identify the 15 finalists (5 in each track). It’s not a huge lift to update your original application for the PIC which is why all Spring VIP teams should do it.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re interested, you should be engaging with the i-lab’s workshops, staff advisors, and EiRs as much as possible right now and make sure to attend Open House events and the like to get to get all the specifics.

Please note that if you did not apply to the Spring VIP or did not get accepted, there are still plenty of ways to engage with us.

We continue to host specific workshops on the fundamentals of turning your idea into a venture and will always encourage you to engage with staff advisors, EiRs, and to come to our space. You’ll be amazed to see what happens when you come here regularly.

Find out more about the PIC

Summer Session

The Summer is a little different.

Running on a 10-week schedule, we encourage Spring teams to renew their application with us if they’re still gung-ho about their ventures.

We also encourage new teams to apply that are really committed to exploring their ideas and ventures. We ask for a higher level of commitment than throughout the Fall and Spring mainly because we ask that teams be physically present throughout the summer to participate.

Because summertime has a different cadence than the school year, the Summer Session is always a time where teams can accelerate even more than throughout the year, and where community bonds are extremely strong. All the workshops and sessions that we do during the summer are VIP-only, and many are peer-to-peer, making the learning opportunities even more meaningful.