Peter Boyce ’13 wants you to be an entrepreneur. Well, maybe not you specifically, but certainly his Harvard College classmates. A co-founder of Harvard College Venture Partners, Boyce works to advance the group’s mission to create “a more venture-friendly culture on the Harvard campus and to form a community of entrepreneurs whose collection of skills and interests would help maximize the chance of launching successful ventures.”
“It’s been my passion to help students organize around entrepreneurship and pursue careers in startups,” said the Mather House resident. “So I’ve been helping as much as I can to run events, to connect students with entrepreneurs and resources here at Harvard and in the Boston community, to work more closely with the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), and to bring undergrads into that space to attend startup info sessions and talks. It’s what I do.”
Boyce’s vision of an entrepreneur-friendly campus took a big step forward on Friday, when he and hundreds of his classmates filed into the i-lab’s bright, open spaces for the second annual Start-Up Career Fair. An initiative of Harvard’s Office of Career Services (OCS), the fair was an opportunity for undergraduates to meet with representatives from some of the country’s most innovative and fast-growing firms, and to learn about jobs and internships.
“We understand that a startup job search can be difficult for students without the infrastructure in place for hiring as with other industries,” said the i-lab’s Jodi Goldstein, who helped organize the event. “We want to assist students with their search, and to make it easier for them to identify companies they might want to work with.”
Representatives of nearly 100 businesses, many of them technology firms, filled the i-lab’s first floor, offering pizza, chocolate, T-shirts, and other tchotchkes to grab the attention of undergraduates. Representatives from Tumblr, a blogging platform that allows creators to share content easily, said that they came to Harvard to recruit “technical hires.”
“We wanted to come in and make our presence felt,” said Tumblr’s Ari Shahdadi, a 2008 Harvard Law School graduate. “We’re at MIT this week too, so we wanted to come here and talk to people. We’re looking for engineers and designers.”
Many of the company representatives were Harvard alums themselves. Yoseph Ayele ’11 connected with Silicon Valley’s Inflection, a firm that aggregates public records and puts them online, at an OCS event last year. This year he was back on campus to sing his company’s praises and to help recruit future graduates.
“Last year, we recruited 11 students from the Class of 2011,” he said. “It’s really been fun to work here. It’s a very results-driven company. Very fast-growing. We have smart people in engineering, design, marketing, business development, and operations.”
OCS officials say that student interest in entrepreneurship soared in the past year. Director Robin Mount credited the new energy and enthusiasm to the opening of the i-lab and the visit of Facebook founder and former undergrad Mark Zuckerberg in the fall.
“Having Mark come to campus and having the i-lab as a physical presence has inspired a lot of students to pursue a path that’s innovative,” Mount said. “Undergraduates also love to cross boundaries and work with people from Harvard Business School and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. We saw students’ energy and enthusiasm and tried to capitalize on it.”
Mount could easily have been speaking about Ashtynn Baltimore ’13. The Mather House resident, who already comes to the i-lab once a week for a social entrepreneurship class, said she loved being around new businesses and the people who start them.
“When you’re around these people, the creative energy flows,” she said. “It gives me an opportunity to think about how I can make my idea better and add value to my teams in my different classes. There are so many different ideas flowing around here. It’s a great opportunity.”
Many of Baltimore’s classmates seemed to agree, since nearly 600 undergraduates attended this year’s fair — almost three times the 2011 number. Annie Baldwin ’13 said that the startup fair and the i-lab make the College an exciting place to be for young entrepreneurs.
“You get the sense that there’s a place for entrepreneurship to happen at Harvard. It’s great that they brought companies in to talk to students. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”