As a student at HBS, Nicole Bucala (MBA 2015) could not stop thinking about a much-discussed but hard-to-address challenge: the need to bolster American STEM education. That interest inspired a startup—Eureka Ed [eurekaedapps.com]—that is building a mobile app to teach STEM skills through entertaining, interactive videos.
“Young children are naturally curious and want to learn how their world works, but all too often they become discouraged and lose interest early on,” says Bucala, who serves as the organization’s CEO. “Our goal with Eureka Ed is to reach the kids who have been demotivated and provide learning tools that will give them the skills necessary for success in a digital world.”
Bucala worked on Eureka Ed as an Independent Project (IP) in the fall of her second year, in addition to entering the plan in the HBS New Venture Competition. In the Independent Project, Bucala and four Harvard students surveyed parents, teachers, and students to determine customer demand and gain a clearer understanding of educational needs when building their app. With a human-centered approach to design, they used the customer feedback to complete prototypes of the user interface and content.
“The opportunity to really focus on this idea enhanced my learning in 100 different ways,” she says, “and our faculty advisor, Steven Rogers, was an excellent sounding board for advice on the business plan and team management.”
“The bottom line,” Bucala continues, “is that working on Eureka Ed enabled me to apply what I learned in courses like The Entrepreneurial Manager and Entrepreneurial Finance in a very tangible way. And having the support of a Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship [add link to program page] has made a real difference in my ability to pursue the opportunity further.”
Bucala also launched a new venture focused on healthcare, serving as CEO at MIFCOR [www.mifcortx.com], a biotech company pursuing therapies for damaged heart tissue that recently received early stage funding. “I’m the sort of person who likes having more than one thing to do,” she says, while emphasizing that neither startup would have been possible without faculty support. “Bill Sahlman, Vicki Sato, and Gary Pisano are an amazing group of mentors who really believe in our team,” Bucala says of the advisors behind MIFCOR.
“Whenever I meet someone who is considering HBS, I tell them that this term, ‘networking,’ is so much more powerful in a place where faculty have an open-door policy and are willing to tap into their personal networks to provide support and guidance,” she adds. “That level of support for both startups has made it possible to keep pushing ahead.”