I-LAB Course: Cultural Entrepreneurship in New York City - Harvard Business School MBA Program

I-LAB Course: Cultural Entrepreneurship in New York City

Course Number 6075

Professor Thomas R. Eisenmann
Visiting Lecturer Beth Altringer, Harvard School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
January term; 1.5 credits applied toward Winter Term requirements
Enrollment: Limited to 15 HBS students, who will join 25 students from other Harvard schools
Program fee and travel costs (see details on financial aid eligibility)

Overview and Career Focus

This weeklong January term trip to New York City will focus on cultural entrepreneurship: new ventures in fashion, food, fine arts, design, etc. We will explore how new ventures in the creative arts are launched, and how proximity to NYC's rich ecosystem of established companies, investors, and supporting organizations (e.g., universities, foundations, trade press, industry associations) influences the ventures' evolution.

The course is tailored for students who plan to found or join a startup upon graduation-especially those who aspire to innovate in the creative arts. Sponsored by the Harvard Innovation Lab, the course will offer HBS students the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship by building relationships with peers from other Harvard schools-Law, Design, Education, SEAS, College, etc.

Educational Objectives

We aim to build students' understanding of: 1) the distinctive attributes of the booming NYC startup ecosystem; and 2) the unique challenges confronting entrepreneurs in cultural industries. These objectives are intertwined. Compared to their counterparts in Silicon Valley, NYC entrepreneurs are more reliant on partnerships with established corporations. The imperative to build such partnerships is especially strong with cultural entrepreneurship, which takes two forms: 1) business model innovations, in particular, new forms of distribution for existing products (e.g., Rent the Runway; Art.sy); and 2) category innovations that introduce fundamentally new art forms (e.g., graphic novels; rap music; street art). With both forms, entrepreneurs must influence industry incumbents. Business model innovators must persuade designers, artists, authors, etc. to sell through new channels. Category innovators must establish their new art form's value with customers, corporate partners, and intermediaries (e.g., gallery owners, talent agents, trade press). Our trip will explore ways in which cultural entrepreneurs manage these challenges.

Course Content

The trip will feature visits to: 1) startups focused on the creative arts (e.g., Birchbox, Kickstarter, Etsy, Bonobos, Friends of the High Line, and Makerbot were among the destinations during the January 2013 trip-see full schedule here); 2) corporations and other established organizations that support cultural entrepreneurship (e.g., DVF, Fashion Institute of Technology, James Beard Foundation, W Magazine, JWT, PPR Group); 3) venture capital firms that invest in cultural industries; and 4) a startup incubator (e.g., General Assembly). In addition, we expect to reprise January 2013 meetings with alumni mentors who helped students with their startup ideas and career planning issues, and a workshop on design thinking led by consultants from IDEO. This 3-minute video captures highlights from the January 2013 trip.

Course Requirements

In addition to spending spending January 13-17 in New York, students will be asked to attend two evening planning sessions at the i-lab during the Fall; to complete team exercises and presentations during the trip; and to submit, after the trip, a 1,000 word essay summarizing what they learned.