Announcing: Xbootcamp

Harvard has tremendous resources in its schools, institutions, students, and alumni. We believe there is no better place to study the liberal arts, business, design, law, medicine, engineering, and almost anything else. On our Cambridge campus you are one, at most, two degrees away from a world-class expert, field-defining faculty member, or soon to be an industry re-inventing founder.

There’s just one problem. Our schools, institutions, students, alumni, faculty and founders can live in silos around the school. We can all collaborate more and build proverbial and literal bridges across the river. Harvard’s leadership knows this, and so created the One Harvard vision and campaign (video), as well as various interdisciplinary centers and initiatives, like the i-Lab, Berkman Center, and Stem Cell Institute, to name just a few. We want to help accelerate this grand unification and cross-pollination on the ground by connecting schools and students and inspiring growth mindsets. In fact, we’ve been building bridges together for more than 5 years.

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Xbootcamps bridges the intersections between schools, students, and faculty. It’s an experiment to accelerate “One Harvard” and increase the connective tissue between all of us by designing faculty and founder-lead, skill-building workshops and communities for entrepreneurial leaders. We aim to have Harvard graduates question default assumptions, take risks, and become entrepreneurial leaders in the private, public, and academic fields to improve the world, for this generation, and the next.

We see a future where Harvard graduates can embody and champion both a liberal arts mindset and an innovation mindset.

Xbootcamps can build bridges, share skill-sets, and change mindsets. This will not be easy and we need your help. We promise to:

1) Get out of the way. We help connect and design Xbootcamps, but they are all faculty and founder lead. After all, we can learn a great deal from experts who have mastered knowledge and skills through research and startup journeys, just like we can learn other skills from our peers..
2) Focus on quality and resourcefulness. These Xbootcamps, like Harvard, will be small, and demand dedication. Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
3) Evolve, and once we get it right dive head first into the unknown intersections. This is just a start and we will be heeding the advice we give our portfolio companies: to listen and learn carefully, and then evolve to solve the problem of our “users”; in this case the thousands of current and future students who pass through these gates to “Better thy country and thy kind” (link).

We are piloting the first iteration of an Xbootcamp, Building your Entrepreneurial Toolkit with HBS Professor Thomas Eisenmann, renowned for his pioneering teaching, research, and mentoring of Harvard founders. Tom will be joined by our team, HBS MBA Instructors, and distinguished guests from the world’s of venture, engineering, design, and entrepreneurship. Harvard Juniors and Seniors, please apply here.

bootcamp.xfund.com


Making Harvard (Robotics) Fly

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When disparate strands of thought intersect, the extraordinary is born: innovative inventions, breakthrough discoveries, and catalytic partnerships. This is precisely what happens when the Harvard Business School (HBS) and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) come together to discover and invent revolutionary ideas at the crossroads of engineering and entrepreneurship.

Earlier this month, we participated in the first steps towards the extraordinary by co-hosting one of the first collaborations between HBS and SEAS: Making Robotics Fly. At Xfund, we are passionate about promoting collaboration and innovation at the intersection of disciplines and industries, new and old. We were honored to play a small part in this landmark event, humbled by Harvard’s entrepreneurial spirit, and thrilled to be a part of the ongoing bridge-building efforts between HBS and SEAS.

H/T to the Drone Racing League & DigInovations for footage and editing:

Making Robotics Fly was a capstone event of HUBweek, a pioneering civic collaboration between Harvard, MIT, the Boston Globe and the Massachusetts General Hospital, showcasing the best of Boston’s research, art, business, and innovation.

A two-part event, Making Robotics Fly kicked off with a thrilling family-friendly Expo in Harvard Stadium featuring dozens of drone startups demonstrating capabilities in delivery, aerial photography, utility transport, and entertainment.

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Hugo Van Vuuren & Stadium Selfie
Dean Doyle, Sally French (Drone Girl), Paula Santana (Matternet), Dean Nitin Nohria
Dean Nitin Nohria (HBS) and Frank Doyle (SEAS) celebrating first Matternet ONE delivery with Sally French and Paula Santana

Harvard Stadium, a 112-year-old colosseum and National Historic Landmark, was inverted, as spectators sat on the storied field while the 50,000 seat stands turned into the arena for racing drones, as well as the stage for demonstrations of cutting-edge robotics technologies.

Robotics Demonstrators and Drone Pilots included:

  • DigiNovations, showing us what it takes to run an aerial production company.
  • CyPhy Works, demonstrating their innovative LVL1 consumer drone.
  • Top Flight Tech, wowing the crowd with their massive, gasoline powered, long-endurance drone.
  • Matternet, staging the first ever drone delivery in Harvard Stadium, allowing the deans of the Harvard Business School and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to deliver to each other t-shirts emblazoned with HBS and SEAS shields.
  • And, last but certainly not least, the Drone Racing League hosted a spectacular finale, with pilots Mr. Steele and UmmaGawd showing off their aerobatic skills in a thrilling drone race through the Stadium stands!

Along with the demonstrations, the audience was captivated by interactive presentations from leading Harvard and MIT engineering research labs, as well as talks by local aerial robotics experts. The event was expertly and energetically moderated by Sally French, a Wall Street Journal technology journalist who blogs actively on all matters drone-related as “Drone Girl.”

 

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MIT “Cheetah” on display at Making Robotics Fly

The MIT “Cheetah” in action from the BioMimetics Robotics Lab. H/T Prof. Sangbae Kim:

If you’re wondering about the logistical and regulatory challenges of coordinating such a spectacular event, you can read more from Aerotas’ Logan Campbell MBA’15, our co-organizer and drone whisperer, on the regulatory, insurance, and safety considerations of operating aerial robots. Good information to know if you’re planning to fly your drones close to a major international airport… as we did!

Following the Expo event, we convened at HBS where startup founders, scholars, and members of the local and global robotics ecosystem discussed the future of the robotics industry. No question was off the table as we debated the regulatory challenges, funding needs, and the role of Boston, the venture community, and research universities like Harvard and MIT, in growing this exciting and emerging field. This expert session was lead by our indefatigable HBS and SEAS senior faculty, Mitch Weiss — who played a superb role as co-curator of Making Robotics Fly, and David Parkes, Area Dean of Computer Science at SEAS and famed researcher cum entrepreneur.

The day concluded with the legendary Professor Bill Sahlman guiding a brainstorming and feedback session on how HBS, SEAS, and the city of Boston, can seize the massive opportunity ahead. Finally, we were treated to a fascinating keynote by Mick Mountz, founder and CEO of Kiva Systems (acquired by Amazon), and proud graduate of both MIT and Harvard, on his own entrepreneurial journey and the exciting robotics developments on the horizon.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences robotics faculty discuss their research and the opportunities they have for making a difference in the world:

The excitement and potential of robotics technology, and more fundamentally, the marriage of engineering + entrepreneurship in Harvard’s new Allston campus, left everyone inspired.

As Deans Doyle and Nohria highlighted in their Boston Globe Op-Ed after the event:

“Over the next several years, SEAS will expand from its current home in Cambridge into a new state-of-the-art facility on Western Avenue in Allston — just across the street from the HBS campus. The move will place Harvard engineers and scientists steps from its MBA students, and also from the university’s Innovation Lab, which has become a prime destination for Harvard entrepreneurs since it opened in 2011. The new SEAS campus will include an innovation accelerator and sit near an enterprise research zone where established technology companies and startups can claim space alongside health, science, and R&D labs. It sets the stage for other academic disciplines to join us in Allston in the future, joining a vibrant neighborhood that combines university, community, residential, commercial, and green space.
Throughout history, many of the world’s best businesses have resulted from putting the right combination of creative people into close proximity. Indeed, venture capitalists have come to demand that a promising startup have just the right mix of technical and business talent, because startups that lack one or the other are unlikely to get far.”

Harvard and MIT’s contributions to the startup and venture capital industries are legendary. Georges Doriot, an HBS professor and dean, recognized the obligation and opportunity that these schools’ inventors and entrepreneurs had in the postwar era. His American Research and Development Corporation (formed with a former president of MIT) funded breakout companies like Digital Equipment Corporation. In a way, you could say that collaboration between Harvard and MIT’s business and engineering schools invented modern startups and venture capital.

The growth of SEAS, a burgeoning center of engineering innovation where the Harvard Mark 1 computer and ethernet was invented, and where Bill Gates, Grace Hopper, and Mark Zuckerberg earned their hacker stripes, combined with its new location across from HBS and MIT, will cause an explosion of activity.

We foresee a golden era of collaboration to rival the post-war boom. At Xfund, we’re focused on accelerating that collision course between engineering and entrepreneurship, and are excited to be a catalyst!

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See more press coverage here: Boston Globe, Gazette, WCVB Channel 5, and the The Crimson.

Thank you to all the faculty, founders, volunteers, and students without whom the collaboration would not be possible.

Thanks to Perry Hewitt, Kristen Ostro, Robb Fitzsimmons, Sandra Stankovic, Scott Morris, Paul Karoff, Colin Maclay, Kate Wang, and Mitch Weiss for reading a draft of this and sharing in the adventure.


Stanford BASES + Xfund bring Experiment Teas to Stanford campus

Tea at Eliot with Harry Lewis

Beginning this fall, Stanford BASES in association with Xfund are joining forces to bring our Experiment Teas to the west coast.

Instead of the standard lecture-and-cocktails format, Experiment Teas invite an “Instigator” — a visionary leader in a field — to make a 10-minute, provocative, totally off-the-record statement to a small group of 30-40 students.  The students and the Instigator then engage in a meaningful, revelatory discussion for the rest of the hour.  Judging by past Teas, the group comes away enlightened and transformed by the experience.  In this age of scripted presentations, passive listening, and live Tweeting, these Teas are designed to intrigue, interrupt, shock, and force us all to think differently.

These events are open to Stanford students ONLY and require a sign-up form to attend.  Here are our Instigators for this quarter at Stanford:

Conor Dougherty, Tech Reporter for the New York Times: “Forget what you’ve heard: the Bay Area hates change and will lose the Tech Industry because of it.”
Thursday, October 22nd @ 4:30pm
RSVP sign-up form required and due by Friday, October 16th, at 5pm PDT
http://xfund.com/event/conordougherty

Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook: “If you have a Stanford degree, being gay is better than being straight in the workplace.”
Wednesday, November 4th @ 5:30pm
RSVP sign-up form required and due by Friday, October 30th, at 11pm PDT
http://xfund.com/event/alexschultz

Kate Black, Privacy Officer & Corporate Counsel at 23andMe: “Your DNA, Our Dollars?”
Thursday, November 12th @ 4:30pm
RSVP sign-up form required and due by Monday, November 9th, at 11pm PST
http://xfund.com/event/kateblack

For more information and to RSVP, please visit our events page.  Interested in becoming an Instigator for a future Experiment Tea?  Please contact tea@xfund.com.

We hope to see you there!


Xfund’s Annual Meeting & Experiment Assembly in 156 Seconds!

In May we hosted our first ever Annual Meeting and our third annual Experiment Assembly, featuring Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos!  Check out the highlight video and a few of our favorite photos.  We hope to see you again next year.  Our 2016 Experiment Assembly is scheduled for Wednesday, April 27th.  Please mark your calendars!

The hilarious full length video of Elizabeth Holmes being interviewed by Harvard Professor Jonathan Zittrain can be enjoyed here.

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Videos produced by Charles River Media Group.  Photography by Dean Shu.

 


The Experiment Guide to Harvard & MIT Courses

Every fall thousands of students arrive in Cambridge and wonder… what courses should I take this semester to get a good grade, learn something new, and complete graduation requirements? A special tribe of students within that group wonder… how best can I increase my learning per unit of time, meet like-minded founders and faculty to undertake bold experiments, and start or join the ranks of small startups or larger innovation firms that change the world? This guide is for that special breed.

Along with Neal Doyle and Gordon Jones from the Harvard i-lab, faculty from HBS and SEAS, as well as new and old friends from the MIT Media Lab, Trust Center for Entrepreneurship and various undergraduate houses, departments, and alumni*, we crowdsourced:

A selection of courses for the curious and passionate Engineers, Entrepreneurs and Designers in Cambridge, MA who want to build world-changing companies. #PayitForward

Please take a look at The Experiment Guide to Harvard and MIT (Fall,2013), become an editor and make it better, and then most importantly, share with your peers, mentees, faculty and students preparing to build world-changing companies.

This informal guide, which we hope to turn into a bi-annual tradition, will continue Cambridge’s habit of amplifying the good and discovering the new.

Please pay it forward and stay tuned for the Spring + J-term/IAP Edition.

Hugo

*Special thanks to all the faculty, founders, tutors and friends who contributed and continue to coach Harvard and MIT’s brightest minds.


Announcing Xfund 2

We are thrilled to announce the close of Xfund 2. But we really think of it as a new opening.

Formed in January 2011, Experiment Fund, LLC, was the first ever partnership between four of the nation’s most successful venture capital firms—NEA, Breyer Capital, Accel Partners and Polaris Partners. Experiment Fund, LLC was anchored  at Harvard.*  Since our founding we’ve been an early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in technically-gifted liberal arts entrepreneurs.  Xfund has always been open to everyone, whether or not you went to Harvard or MIT (or to college).

Since we began operations just under two years ago, over 3,500 founding teams from around the world have sought Xfund’s help. We managed to meet about a third of these teams and were privileged to work directly with a handful as investors, board members, and friends. With this new round of funding we’ve got the resources to help even more teams.

We are often asked what makes Xfund different from other venture capital firms. First, we have a unique structure—a combination of the nation’s top-tier venture firms and strong relationships with leading university faculty.

However, we stand out the most in the quality and type of founders we back.

At Xfund we believe technical talent is necessary, but not sufficient, to build incredible companies—that entrepreneurs with grounding in the liberal arts often make more insightful innovators and entrepreneurs.  Cherry Murray, Dean of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, tells a great story of a team of scientists who sought to build the perfect mosquito net: they painstakingly optimized the net’s mesh size, tensile strength, and concentration of insecticide to create an inarguably amazing product.  But when they manufactured and distributed thousands of them to villages in Uganda and Kenya, the nets went entirely unused: they were colored white, which in those cultures is the color of death.

The liberal arts cultivate thinking that is both practical and magical.  As Steve Jobs said, “technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.” With us you can be a hacker and a historian. You can be a techno-utopian and an aesthete.  We look for minds that stretch laterally and not just linearly.  We want the innovator who knows how to design an incredible mosquito net, and knows to make it black.

So if you’re able to connect to a real human problem and have an idea of how to solve it, here’s what you’ll get from Xfund: the support of a partnership of the nation’s most renowned investing groups, and with the launch of Xfund 2, a significant pool of capital powering a new class of companies that will make all our hearts sing. Drop us a line or come visit us in our original office in Cambridge or our new office in Silicon Valley and find out how differently we think.  And how differently we act.

Patrick and Hugo

* Xfund is a separate legal entity from Harvard and actively supports teams with no Harvard affiliation.  Harvard does not influence Xfund’s investment decisions.  

See our FAQ and read the official Xfund 2 Press Release.


Dean Murray awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Congratulations Cherry on being awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation!

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the Nation’s technological workforce. A distinguished independent committee representing the private and public sectors submits recommendations to the President.” link

“These scholars and innovators have expanded our understanding of the world, made invaluable contributions to their fields, and helped improve countless lives,” President Obama said. “Our nation has been enriched by their achievements, and by all the scientists and technologists across America dedicated to discovery, inquiry, and invention.” 



Accel and Polaris Partners Join Xfund

Today, Accel Partners, Breyer Capital, and Polaris Venture Partners join New Enterprise Associates (NEA) as partners of The Experiment Fund (www.Xfund.com), a seed-stage venture capital fund anchored at Harvard and designed to cultivate innovation and bold experimentation in the Boston area. Jim Breyer (Accel) and Alan Crane (Polaris) will join the Experiment Fund’s Investment Board.

Also announced today are several new advisers to the Fund, including former Harvard Law School professor and former Director of the Berkman Center John Palfrey, Facebook co-founder Andrew McCollum, noted entrepreneur and MIT researcher Hugo Liu, and an ex-officio post created for the President of Harvard Student Agencies. The Experiment Fund will be lead by Harvard-based partner and co-founder Hugo Van Vuuren.

Launched by Cherry A. Murray, Dean of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in January 2012, The Experiment Fund will increase its fund size to further its mission to seek out and support the best engineers, entrepreneurs and designers starting their companies and careers in Cambridge, MA.