(Team Six Foods. Image via Abby Fichtner)
Eighty-four startups have spent the past 12 weeks incubating out of the Harvard Innovation Lab, with students sacrificing their summer to bolster their business and pursue their passion projects.
As part of the Venture Incubation Program, entrepreneurs participate in weekly workshops and bi-weekly founder talks, as well as attend mentorship meetings with seasoned founders. The day-to-day work environment is diverse; twelve of Harvard’s schools are represented in the i-lab, organically creating a collaborative energy different from every other co-working space.
To help highlight that diversity, the i-lab held a Venture Incubation Program Demo Day on Thursday afternoon, inviting 10 of the summer’s startups to pitch in front of an expert “feedback panel” and packed crowd. The panel included: David Beisel, co-founder and partner at NextView Ventures; Pravin Chaturvedi, president and CSO of Napo Pharmaceuticals; Pat Kinsel, partner at Polaris Partners; Anna Palmer, founder and CEO of the Fashion Project; and Aaron White, partner at Venrock.
The companies chosen to present spanned various industries, and stood as a symbol for the progress a dedicated team can make over the course of one summer. Several are already coordinating pilot programs, while others are now preparing to raise financing.
Here’s a look at the 10 teams’ formal pitches with some informal commentary.
By Logan Campbell
The Pitch: YouFly is helping make unmanned aerial vehicles more accessible to both consumers and businesses by providing the right mix of product, service, support and repair in a way that is both profitable and strategically sustainable.
The Commentary: Ty Danco, co-founder and CEO of BuysideFX, might have said it best:
— Ty Danco (@tydanco) August 14, 2014
By Antonio Coppola, Jackie Lin, Sarina Siddhanti, Elsa Sze, Nada Zohdy and Ricardo Muniz-Crespo
The Pitch: Agora is an online town hall that offers local communities a smarter way to engage. By connecting verified users directly to decision makers, Agora makes democracies more interactive, accessible and inclusive.
The Commentary: Agora is focused on giving citizens a voice, which BetaBoston editor Michael Morisy said makes the venture sound similar to Localocracy, a Boston startup acquired by The Huffington Post Media Group in October 2011.
3) Aldatu Biosciences
By Ian MacLeod and David Raiser
The Pitch: Aldatu Biosciences is improving HIV patient care worldwide with better, faster and cheaper diagnostic tools. Our affordable drug resistance genotyping test allows clinicians to match patients with effective drugs, improving clinical outcomes and lowering the per patient cost of care.
The Commentary: Aldatu Biosciences won $40,000 in this year’s Deans’ Health and Life Sciences Challenge, hosted by the i-lab. The team has future plans to move their technology from the lab to the clinic, and begin pilots in South Africa.
(Team Experfy. Image via @innovationlab)
By Harpreet Singh, Yun Teng Zheng, Sarabjot Kaur and Jothi Periasamy
The Pitch: Experfy is a consulting marketplace with an HR compliant platform for companies to hire vetted experts for their big data, analytics and business intelligence projects. Experfy provides a self-service model for smaller firms and a high-touch concierge service for larger enterprise clients.
The Commentary: Experfy has already started attracting press, having been featured in the likes of Forbes, Mashable and TechCrunch.
By Rami Lachter and Itai Turbahn
The Pitch: For travelers who care about price and location and are going someplace new, Villy helps finding the best hotel. Villy provides personalized recommendations based on advanced algorithms and local expertise. Only Villy knows both you and your destination.
The Commentary: Beyond the customization benefits, Villy also has a partnership with Expedia. “So, if you can find a better price elsewhere, they’ll pay the difference.” Get excited, because 10 cities will be live on the site come September 2.
By Taylor Percival, Michelle Skinner and Jessica Yarmosky
The Pitch: CommonLit empowers middle school teachers and engages students by providing open access to high-quality short texts selected to stimulate thought and discussion. We eliminate barriers that inhibit teachers from obtaining curricula-aligned material, while allowing them to retain instructional autonomy.
The Commentary: According to the CommonLit team, teachers currently have seven different reading levels in their classroom. CommonLit is trying to better cater to every student, and offers reading and tools broken down by type, level and subject. Although the website is currently under construction, a beta version of CommonLit will be launched at the beginning of September.
(Team Potluck Energy. Image via @xnomagichash)
7) Potluck Energy
By Michele Lunati, Ankit Rauniyar, Chi Zheng, Kevin Bielawski, Sam Escolas and Anastasia Kostomarova
The Pitch: Potluck Energy brings together residents, investors and property owners to make solar energy a financially viable alternative for communities.
The Commentary: Potluck is aiming to build the first community shared solar installation for Cambridge- and Greater Boston-area residents. When asked whether there was a demand, the team pointed to Solarize Mass, a campaign to increase the adoption of small-scale solar electricity. Roughly 1,500 people applied to the pilot, but only 150 people had their rooftop qualified and could install solar panels. Given 90 percent of the people who were interested weren’t able, Potluck Energy sees local potential.
By Divya Dhar, Alex Pavlov and Lane Rettig
The Pitch: Seratis is a team transparency platform that enables care coordination for healthcare providers. Unlike pages and simple secure messaging software, Seratis captures the patient-centric context of each message, enabling powerful analytics.
The Commentary: Seratis posed a very valid question:
— Scott Kirsner (@ScottKirsner) August 14, 2014
Fifty-seven percent of healthcare providers currently use their cell phones to text each other about their patients, according to the team. Although unlawful, they want to make sure they’re up-to-speed on their patients and aren’t putting their health in jeopardy. Seratis launched a pilot at Beacon Health two weeks ago, and will be launching another pilot at Penn Medicine on Monday.
By Phil Strazzulla
The Pitch: LifeGuides.me helps users successfully navigate challenging life events, for free. Our platform hosts curated guides from authentic and credible mentors which focus on the challenges that millennials face when building careers and families.
The Commentary: LifeGuides, which you can read more about here, has been grown by 80 percent each month. Strazzulla is looking to raise a seed round this fall to hire individuals interested in marketing, product development and design.
10) Six Foods
By Laura D’Asaro, Meryl Natow, Rose Wang, Taylor Bowers, Johannah Cramer and Ferhat Rodoplu
The Pitch: Six Foods is introducing insects to the Western world as a more sustainable food, and our first product is Chirps Cricket Chips. We envision an ecosystem where insects can be grown in urban warehouses and be fed on food waste.
The Commentary: For anyone turned off by eating bugs, Six Foods wants you to know you’ve actually been eating them all along. Here are six foods with insects:
After coming off a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $70,000, the team has kept the momentum going. Three stores in Cambridge have already agreed to stock Six Foods’ Cricket Chips. … Oh, and then this happened:
— Abby Fichtner (@HackerChick) August 14, 2014