Harvard University wants the in on the booming startup scene that is in Massachusetts and particularly Boston right now. According to Business Journal, Harvard is contemplating adding a new specialty to the institution in August. This, among other ventures helping startups on the east coast, is working to change the idea that Boston is not a place where consumer web ventures can thrive.
Harvard has already invested $20 million into the startup community in Boston by creating the Harvard Innovation Lab. It’s a 30,000 square-foot building Harvard built that will be used to help startup companies “hatch and scale” at the university, reports Business Journal. Gordon Jones, the director of the Harvard Innovation Lab was quoted saying, “It’s a great time to be getting into the game in an institutional way. Our hope is to be able to grow the pie of students interested in entrepreneurship, and have the impact felt in the greater Boston innovation community.” With the launch of the Harvard Innovation Lab Friday this week and the university’s first ever Startup Weekend Scramble that took place this past weekend, the university hopes to build a reputation of spinning out new companies, much like MIT.
In comparison with MIT and its company ventures, a lot of people think that Harvard has the potential to succeed. The Business Journal points out that MIT is engineering at its core and that goes along with startup companies very well. On the other hand, Harvard is focused on liberal arts so there may be a better chance for the university to help produce the consumer web types that are associated with New York and Silicon Valley. Though it is clearly a competitive move for Harvard to invest so much in the startup scene, the Innovation Lab offers something unique and different to Boston. Michael Roberts, executive director of Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship was quoted saying, “There are people who we’d like to attract who, I’m sure, do believe we are oriented to big companies and Wall Street.”
According to Joans, the Lab will be free and open in the day for any Harvard student to use. The goal behind this is to give students from all different majors and industries the opportunity to come together and possibly work together on a new venture. It is their goal to “induce structured spontaneity” claimed Joans. In addition to providing a work space for possible future startups, the building holds 250 seats, 4 conference rooms and an 80-seat classroom where entrepreneurship-focused Harvard courses will be taught. “The goal in February will be to add another layer for startups looking to go commercial; the plan is to give those ventures three months of dedicated space in the center, Jones said.”