06 Nov 2014
Building a Startup Community Beyond Commencement
The new Harvard Launch Lab offers alumni startups all the benefits of being on campusRe: Amy Berylson (MBA 1979); John Berylson (MBA 1979); Bridgitt Evans (MBA 1986); Bruce Evans (MBA 1986)Topics:
As director of the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), Jodi Goldstein (MBA 1996) has watched a number of innovative student businesses thrive at the space in its three years of operation. But watching those students lose their access to this community the moment they crossed the stage at graduation became a “pain point” for her.
“That’s when they need us the most,” says Goldstein, a 20-year vet of the Boston startup scene.
In early 2013, Goldstein took the idea for an alumni incubator space to the i-lab’s advisory board (which includes the provost and the Harvard school deans), making the case that the project’s model—open to startups employing a graduate of any Harvard school—would offer the kind of cross disciplinary collaboration sought by the “One Harvard” movement. The board agreed, and—with financial support from Amy S. Berylson (MBA 1979) and John G. Berylson (MBA 1979) as well as Bridgitt Bertram Evans (MBA 1986) and Bruce R. Evans (MBA 1986)—the Launch Lab opened up across Western Avenue from the i-lab this past summer.
Even with no marketing, the space’s 15 spots immediately drew the interest of 50 companies. The rent is relatively cheap ($200/month per person) compared to start-up sites in Kendall Square and South Boston’s Innovation District, its dedicated desks offer more permanence than most co-working spaces, and the access to the i-lab’s resources and proximity to the Harvard community are viewed as big benefits.
But even with the early positive response, Goldstein still sees this as “version 1.0” of the Launch Lab.
“We need to better understand the behaviors and needs of the community,” she says. The lab is already undergoing some responsive physical changes, such as installing phone booths after seeing a demand for privacy.
Expansion within the building is part of the short-term plans, and Goldstein hopes to move into a standalone space in three to five years. But she can see the model working beyond campus, too. “The vision is Launch Labs all over the globe,” says Goldstein.
Class of MBA 1996, Section A