【TEXT】Harvard Business School Starts Program for Alumni in New York
Harvard Business School (HBS) is one of the most famous graduate schools in the world.
Part of Harvard University, the Boston, Massachusetts-based school has offered programs leading to master’s and doctorate degrees since 1908.
And earlier this year, a Harvard education took some future business leaders to a city outside Massachusetts.
The school opened the Harvard Business School Startup Studio in New York City in January.
But the Startup Studio is not actually for current Harvard students. It is designed to help recent HBS graduates develop their ideas into actual companies.
Competition in the business world can be fierce. That is why some cities are seeing a growth of companies with the stated purpose of helping other businesses get their start. These companies, often called incubators, are very common in the technology industry.
Incubators can reduce barriers for small, young companies with little money. They provide resources, work space and other services to the companies. In return, these “startups” often give some of their profits to the incubators if they are successful.
However, the Harvard Business School Startup Studio has no interest in sharing the profits of any startup company.
Avani Patel is the director of the Startup Studio. She says the purpose is to provide business advice and work space. Another reason is to bring together the many former Harvard students living in New York.
“We have over 8,000 alumni here, and so we thought it would be a great place to put down a stake especially with all the entrepreneurial activity happening here…”
The program’s offices are in the Union Square neighborhood of Manhattan. Inside, employees from several startups work on everything from healthcare to media, while sharing the same office space.
There are several requirements that a startup must meet before the program accepts them. The company must already have secured at least $500,000 in financing from an outside source. Also, at least one person in the company must be an alumnus of Harvard Business School.
Each company gets enough work space for up to seven people. They can stay as long as they like. But Patel predicts every company in the program will grow and need to find its own, bigger space at some point. This enables new companies to enter the program.
Member Joshua Haas founded Bubble, a computer programming tool that lets people create application software without learning how to code. Haas says one of the most difficult parts of starting a company is knowing how to move the business forward.
“You’re responsible for everything, and you have to make stuff happen.”
Before working in the Startup Studio, Haas worked from his home or in coffee shops. He says being in a community of other startups helped him improve.
“If you have people you can show off what you’re working on to, that’s motivation to get up in the morning to do it.”
Creating relationships with other companies and business people is very important for new businesses. That is why director Patel says the program connects alumni with people working in different fields.
“So when they are thinking … they need to speak to a digital expert, we have access to people who they can speak to. Or if somebody’s fundraising, we’ve got the relationships with investors…”
Alex Dulac is now starting to get money from investors for his wedding website for men, called the Plunge. He and other program members agree that starting a business is difficult. But the program and its large network of connections helps with finding employees and other daily needs.
Dulac says running a startup can be lonely work. But the program creates a great environment for entrepreneurs to work together.
“Day to day, one can be really disconnected from the alumni network and the community, but this really brings that all together under one roof.”