Harvard Business School’s Startup Tribe formed two years ago when three students saw an unmet need on campus. Although the School’s entrepreneurship program was evolving, the out-of-class component was still lagging behind.
Students were looking to learn and create, which is one of the reasons the Startup Tribe flourished. As founding member Andrew Rosenthal once said, “There’s a clear hunger among HBS students to engage in creating new products and companies.”
The School encouraged the Startup Tribe, allocating $100,000 a year for the “MVP Fund,” now called the Rock Accelerator Program. Focused on the Lean Startup methodology popularized by Harvard Business School Entrepreneur-in-Residence Eric Ries, the program now supports student teams focused on rapid prototyping—a process that helps bring products to market as quickly as possible.
With a new round of winners recently announced, the goal is to keep the momentum going and carry it forward. With the founding members scattered in New York and San Francisco post graduation, MBA candidates Adam Besvinick and Melody Koh have stepped up and taken charge, hoping to get more of the organizations on campus equally involved.
Harvard’s TechMedia Club and Entrepreneurship Club have also been working to meet the School’s needs, yet what could likely most benefit the School is a more cohesive student body. At the beginning of the new academic year, Koh said the presidents of every organization met to learn more about what each had planned for the semester. Together, they’ve been trying to strengthen the communication channel, whether it be through new closed, focused Facebook pages or internal mailing lists. “We want to make sure no one is overlapping efforts,” Koh says.
The Startup Tribe also wants to make sure they’re giving those serious about startups a support system, but not burdening them with any major time commitments. The group meets once a week, but Besvinick claims members are posting on Facebook every day, saying, “When you’re not at Startup Tribe every Monday at 6 p.m., you can still ping someone to go get coffee.”
The Startup Tribe brings various speakers in to those weekly meetings, including, most recently, Rob Go, a partner at NextView Ventures. Yet, they’re still trying to keep it casual. “There’s a set level of commitment you need to bring as a Startup Tribe member, but we also want to have that online component,” Besvinick says. “Startup Tribe doesn’t end once you leave campus.”
And because of that, Besvinick hopes to see the word spread to other communities. “Startup Tribe will play a critical role in re-branding HBS entrepreneurship,” Besvinick claims. With a focus on early-stage companies, the organization is helping change the perception of Harvard Business School and the typical, financier-esque MBAs. “We need a broader perception of MBAs in general in the entrepreneurship world,” Besvinick admits. “That’s something we’re going to work on.”
As Harvard Business School’s newly-appointed director of the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship Meredith McPherron has said, “People here are doers.” For anyone who disagrees, one glance at the Startup Tribe will quickly change any opinions.