Curious About Entrepreneurship? Meet the Harvard Innovation Labs

Editor’s Note: Our students have access to a variety of resources at HDS and across Harvard. Here, we’re spotlighting one of those resources, with an interview with Alexa Barry, the Harvard Innovation Labs Community Coordinator. 

What are the Harvard Innovation Labs? 

First, thank you for interviewing me! I’m excited to connect with prospective Harvard Divinity School students! Harvard Innovation Labs (the “i-lab” for short) is a hub for innovation that connects, supports, and inspires the next generation of leaders, and is a fantastic resource for any full-time, degree-seeking Harvard student. We are actually three distinct labs: The i-lab is open to students at any Harvard school, at any stage of the entrepreneurial journey; Launch Lab X GEO is our accelerator for alumni-led, early-stage venture teams anywhere in the world; and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab supports students, faculty, and alumni working on high-potential life sciences and biotech startups. Whether you have a startup or just want to start thinking like an entrepreneur, we can help. We’re also an incredibly diverse community, and we’re proud to have hosted venture teams with founders from more than 120 countries. 

Photo Courtesy of Alexa Barry

Why is the i-lab’s primary goal? 

Our purpose is to inspire cross-disciplinary connection and venture creation amongst all Harvard students, as well as alumni and faculty. We do this three ways: 

  • Diverse Connections: We aim to create a cross-disciplinary community of innovators and entrepreneurs from all 13 Harvard schools, with a focus on bringing together undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni from a wide variety of backgrounds, life experiences, and areas of expertise. 
  • Experiential Learning: We connect students and alumni with people and resources that can help them move their ideas and ventures forward. 
  • Psychological Safety: We work hard to create a supportive environment that truly nurtures entrepreneurs and innovative ideas. We help students think like entrepreneurs, and we strive to create a sense of connection and belonging.  

Another thing that I’d offer is that being a founder can get lonely! But by creating new points of access to thinkers and founders from many communities and areas of expertise, the i-lab community acts as a kind of beehive for collaboration.  

How can the i-lab support Harvard Divinity School students? 

The i-lab provides an entry point to entrepreneurship for innovators at all stages of idea development, across all disciplines and sectors. Whether you just have an idea or you’re already working on a startup that could use some support, please reach out! HDS students can innovate, try, test, iterate, fail, and grow with the support of this community.  

We also think of innovation broadly. We have many nonprofit and social enterprise teams, and we want to support leaders who are working on new kinds of business models to meet the challenges of these times. We are also exploring collaborations across the university to increase Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education, at Harvard and beyond.  

What kinds of resources do HDS students have access to through the i-lab? 

Students can apply for our Venture Program.This 10- to 12-week program is for full-time Harvard students who are actively building an idea into a venture. It has two tracks: “Start It” is for teams bringing a new idea into the world; “Build It” is for ventures who have real world demand and are ready to scale. We just closed the latest round of applications (learn more), but students can apply again in December. Students can alsobook advising sessions with an industry expert to gain real-world advice from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, creative directors, and lawyers in our network.  

All full-time, degree-seeking Harvard students have access to this resource. This helps you expand your circle, get feedback, develop your idea, hear experts’ stories and insights, talk through pain points, and learn how to “fail forward” as we say. While our physical space in Allston is temporarily closed for Fall 2020, all of our other offerings are still happening virtually. We also encourage all Harvard alumni to check out Launch Lab X GEO, our accelerator program that supports and connects alumni-led ventures all over the world.  

Do you have an example of a past project that involved religion or faith? Or can you give examples of how HDS students have worked with the i-lab before? 

Yes! Harvard Divinity School students and alumni have joined or started a variety of ventures here. Some are directly related to their work at the Divinity School, and others draw from skills and experiences gained at the Divinity School and beyond. Honey Goddess, Parterre Tea, Shepherd Therapeutics, and MannMukti are some of the HDS alumni founded ventures in our community. Check out more ventures with Divinity School founders/members here

What would you like prospective students who are interested in entrepreneurship to know about the i-lab? 

First and foremost, our sole purpose is to support you as an entrepreneur. “Entrepreneur” derives from a French word entreprendre meaning “to undertake,” and at the i-lab, that starts with seeing a problem in the world that needs solving. Your journey with the i-lab may start with the simple desire to find a solution to a problem. We are here to help you discover new ways to approach problems, connect with experts who can help you imagine solutions, and build ventures that innovate the ultimate solutions. We’re dedicated to creating a space for students and leaders across all 13 schools to take risks, build new things, and make meaningful connections.  

We also know that we are part of a vibrant community at Harvard where innovation is happening all of the time. Any prospective students reading this who decide to attend HDS, reach out once you’re an enrolled student. We hope you’ll join us for an upcoming event, or get involved in building a venture with the Venture Program. And check out the 2020 President’s Innovation Challenge Virtual Award Ceremony to meet some of the venture teams in our community.  

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