Harvard Entrepreneurship Lives! (A Report from an MIT Student)
Several weeks ago, I heard a very heated discussion on the failure of Harvard entrepreneurship at the MIT Entrepreneurship Forum’s recent Power, Drugs & Money conference (that was extended in an Xconomist Forum post by former gubernatorial candidate and Harvard grad Chris Gabrieli). Being a curious MIT student, I decided to investigate the issue and committed the treasonous act of hanging out at Harvard. What I witnessed over the last few months was a fast-growing and excited group of entrepreneurial students who you should definitely keep your eye on. The following is a general summary of student entrepreneurship activities at Harvard, as well as some observations.
The most active entrepreneurship group at Harvard is the Harvard College Entrepreneurship Forum (HCEF), now in its second year. While there have been several instances of other student entrepreneurship clubs at Harvard, they have all died with the original founders. Entrepreneurship forum co-presidents Travis May and Michael Segal still face this issue of group sustainability. But they have rallied an impressive group of students. Recent noteworthy events include talks by entrepreneurship journalist Scott Kirsner, Emerge founder/MIT student Alia Whitney-Johnson, and Bessemer Venture Partner/HBS Professor Felda Hardymon. It is interesting to note that these events pull in not only Harvard students, but also MIT, BU, Babson, and BC representatives.
The i3 Harvard College Innovation Challenge, which the HCEF is organizing, along with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard and Harvard Student Agencies, is a business plan competition in its first year that offers up a very respectable $32.5K in prize money. The competition is divided into tracks, akin to the MIT $100K Competition, with categories for for-profit ventures, social entrepreneurship, creative non-business ventures, and campus services. The finals are on April 9, so stay tuned to see if i3 uncovers any gems from the Harvard community.
My only major criticism of Harvard’s entrepreneurship community is the lack of collaboration between components of the Harvard community. We have seen the success from mixing Sloan School of Management students and engineers at MIT. I think we can all agree that a multi-faceted group is necessary in a strong startup team. The results of a “bump and connect”-type encounter—described by Boston History & Innovation Collaborative executive director Bob Krim here—between students from Harvard College, Harvard Business School, and the JFK School of Government could be golden. Now, if we add to that Harvard’s resources in the form of faculty and industry connections, then BAM! We have a veritable innovation machine that can compete with MIT and further drive Boston’s innovation economy. But perhaps that is an overly simplistic model. Post your thoughts below!