11 Feb 2022

Get to Know Past NVC Winners: Vaxess


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) Finale right around the corner and in celebration of the competition’s 25 years at Harvard Business School, we caught up with some of the past participants across the three tracks (Alumni, Student Business, and Social Enterprise) to learn more about how NVC and their time at HBS helped shape their entrepreneurial journey.

Tickets are now available for the NVC 2022 Finale on March 31, 6:00 – 7:00 pm.


Michael Schrader, CEO and Founder, Vaxess

NVC team:
Michael Schrader (MBA 2012)
Kathryn Kosuda
Livio Valenti (MPP 2013)
Patrick Ho (JD 2012)

What inspired you to start your company or organization?
We built Vaxess to solve the problem of inequitable vaccine access. More than 2.4 million people around the world are dying from diseases for which we have a high-quality vaccine. Vaxess's technology combines shelf-stability with a patch-based delivery system to simplify vaccine delivery around the world.

How has HBS helped with your entrepreneurial journey?
Our team came together through an HBS class called Commercializing Science (now Lab to Market) and we used a tremendous number of HBS resources to launch. We were the first company in the Harvard i-lab and then the first company in the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab. We were fortunate to win the NVC twice, as a student team and as an alumni team. We supplemented that with additional funds from winning the Harvard President's Innovation Challenge. Many of our early advisors, such as Professor Vicki Sato, came from HBS. Two of our earliest investors, Aaron Sandoski and Ann DeWitt, were both HBS alums. Vaxess would not exist without the amazing support from HBS.

What part of the NVC journey was most helpful for your team?
The business plan that we built for the NVC ultimately led to our first VC financing round. The intense Q&A process helped prepare us for future VC discussions.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The best question I was asked early on was, "If you're still doing this in 10 years, are you going to be excited about it?" That was 10 years ago and, fortunately, I couldn't be happier. While many ventures go bust early and a rare few have early exits, many will take a long time to realize their vision, so make sure you're up for that journey.

What is a failure that you experienced as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it?
We had an investor back out of a financing two weeks prior to the closing, which collapsed the round. Fortunately, we had other investors step in to ensure we could survive the challenge. Get great investors in your corner and work your tail off for them. They'll return the favor when you need it.

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