Dozen alumni-led ventures selected for startup accelerator

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Julia Pearl (from left) with founder of Rise: The Membership Julia Starr, and Narmeen Haider. Photo by Daniel Pinnolis

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On Tuesday, the Harvard Innovation Labs announced the 12 ventures selected to participate in the second annual Launch Lab X program, a nine-month startup accelerator for Harvard alumni-led companies.

“When designing the Launch Lab X program, we had many conversations with Harvard alumni who were founding companies about the need for a startup accelerator that offered a longer-term, more tailored approach to helping them grow viable businesses,” said Jodi Goldstein, executive director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “Seeing what the first Launch Lab X cohort accomplished in the last year validated our hypothesis that ventures could make significant progress in an accelerator that didn’t just last longer than a typical program, but also placed more of an emphasis on developing the leaders of the ventures.”

Launch Lab X is an equity-free accelerator designed to support ventures — with an emphasis on nurturing leadership teams — as they progress from seed-stage startups to sustainable businesses with real-world impact. During the program, ventures participate in three 90-day sprints. Each sprint culminates in a pitch and 360-degree feedback session with investors, prospective customers, and industry leaders, giving teams the time and guidance necessary to improve.

Throughout the program, ventures receive dedicated space, participate in tailored programming, and work towards meeting the goals on the milestone-based roadmap designed explicitly for their businesses. Launch Lab X participants also compete for $100,000 in non-dilutive funding as part of the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge Alumni Track, with prize money funded by The Bertarelli Foundation.

“We hit an inflection point mid-2019 at Surround Insurance, where we went from two people and an idea to a team of 10 with business partners, technology, and capital,” said Kate Terry, chief operating officer and co-founder of Surround Insurance. “We thought that the mentorship, the opportunity to work side by side with other entrepreneurs, and the staged structure of the Launch Lab X program would provide the support we need on the next stage of our journey. And so far, we’ve been right. We’re proud to be part of this community.”

More than 150 ventures applied to 2019 Launch Lab X program. Founders represent nine Harvard schools, and are working on a wide variety of products and services, from an augmented reality system for assisting surgeons to an application that helps businesses in West Africa grow.