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Friday, January 27, 2012

Early Stage Venture Fund Launches at Harvard In Hopes of Keeping More Talent on the East Coast

The country’s oldest institution of higher learning is getting some new money today. With the help of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), a new early-stage seed fund has been launched through backing from storied venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. Called the Experiment Fund, it will support student startups and give them the resources they need to build on their visions.
Co-founded through close collaboration between venture capitalist Patrick Chung, academic and entrepreneur David Edwards, and scholar-turned-entrepreneur Hugo Van Vuuren, the Experiment Fund will provide seed capital to selected startups, set them up with SEAS faculty members and connect them with advisors from both Cambridge and Silicon Valley. They’ll make seed investments on a case-by-case basis, but do encourage on their website, “Contact us, and let’s talk.”
Anyone can take advantage of the Fund, despite their University affiliation, as it’s designed to attract engineers, entrepreneurs and designers from various backgrounds and empower them to build ideas in three core areas: Information, Healthcare and Energy Technologies. Each new venture will receive up to $250,000, but the trio does plan on investing broadly on the East Coast.
“Cambridge has always seeded and cultivated brilliant minds and entrepreneurs, and now they’ll have another reason to stay rooted in and draw strength from these fertile soils,” said Chung, who is co-head of New Enterprise Associates’ consumer and seed-stage investing practices, in a press release.
Hugo Van Vuuren, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and fellow at theBerkman Center for Internet and Society, said, “The Fund is looking for smart and resourceful people, zealous full-time teams, and experiments in need of seed funding and hands-on help to get off the ground.”
The team intends on adding more investors to their list soon, but have already granted money to a few companies, including Harvard-based Tivli, who spoke at today’s conference.
To Harvard undergraduate Zachary Hamed, this will be “a huge leg up for Harvard in entrepreneurship.” Although it was emphasized this fund will help other schools, as well, like Babson, Boston College and MIT, students at Harvard will now be able to walk out of their class and into a nearby room to pitch their idea to a VC.
“There was no seed fund to go to before,” Hamed said. “This will make the process of getting funding easier. It’s a huge step.”
And this huge step could bring the city one step closer to retaining its talent and fostering future entrepreneurs.

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