August 14, 2014
Harvard iLab: Venture Incubation Program Demo Day

Last night the Harvard Innovation Lab hosted its’ Venture Incubation Demo Day, which is a culmination of their Venture Incubation Program

The Venture Incubation Program, or VIP, is a 12-week program designed to help students make progress on their entrepreneurial ventures.  They assist students by providing them with the necessary resources (co-working space, mentors, workshops and more) and support to help them reach their milestones. 

Each session more than 80 teams are accepted into the program. This specific session saw 84 teams, 10 of which were selected, due to their progress and engagement over the summer, to present on Demo Day.

Harvard iLab Director Jodi Goldstein kicked things off for the crowd of 100 plus. As she explained the program’s mission - to “help students take their ideas as far as they can go,” you could feel her excitement as she turned it over to the entrepreneurs to showcase their new (and hopefully future successful) businesses.

The presenting teams were extremely diverse; something Goldstein later told me she was very proud of. There was everything from drones (YouFly - helping make UAVs more accessible to small businesses) to education (CommonLit - a reading resource for teachers that provides a free, online library of high-quality short texts selected to stimulate thought and discussion) to the battle against HIV (Aldatu Biosciences - improving access to the best HIV patient care worldwide with better and faster diagnostic tools). 

Villy, a travel site launching September 2nd, had me skeptical at first (...there’s just a couple travel sites out there...), but a demo of their site better illustrated their concept to help travelers by knowing “both you and your next destination.” It resonated with me as one of the founders, Rami Lachter, played out an example of a trip to Paris. Their algorithms narrowed his search to showcase hotels that met specific wants, such as bars and restaurants. Their partnership with Expedia also allows them to lock in guaranteed best pricing for consumers. 

Another company that really stood out to me was Seratis, who is providing team transparency and care coordination for healthcare providers. Being able to relate to the frustrations that their Founder & CEO, Divya Dhar, is trying to solve, I caught up with her briefly to ask about gaining traction among local hospitals and she tells me that is a key focus moving forward. Originally, she started the company in Pennsylvania and gained early interest from doctors there, but she’s excited (and anxious) to gain access into Boston’s renowned hospitals. 

Concluding the demonstrations was Six Foods who is making healthy and sustainable foods from insects - crickets to be exact. Some may be familiar with the concept from Chapul on ABC’s Shark Tank. Not only was Six Foods’ pitch compelling and educational (they informed us of six foods made with insects, including rainbow jimmies and beer), but also entertaining as they closed out their pitch with a rap complete with a beatbox. Two thumbs up to their closing slide of “bug appetite!” as well.

Outside of the 10 teams at Demo Day are 74 other teams that went through the program that I still need to explore, but I’m sure, with the diverse nature of the iLab, there is something of interest for everyone and plenty of promising businesses. 

I also need to give a shout out to the Feedback Panel who followed up each pitch with questions and suggestions for the founders:

Finally, be sure to follow all these future entrepreneurial success stories on Twitter:











Josh Boyle is Director of Community & Marketing, VentureFizz.  You can follow him on Twitter @jb_sid
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