20 Dec 2010

Harvard Business School Launches Fund for Student Start-Ups

Awards support development of product prototypes

BOSTON—Harvard Business School's (HBS) Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship today announced the Minimum Viable Product Fund (MVP Fund), which will offer $50,000 in total awards to student entrepreneurs over the winter semester.

Proposed by first-year MBA students Dan Rumennik, Jess Bloomgarden, and Andrew Rosenthal, and funded by the Rock Center, the MVP Fund is based on the premise of the Lean Startup methodology, which focuses on rapid prototyping, a process that brings products to market as quickly as possible. This methodology was developed by Eric Ries, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at HBS this academic year advising students and collaborating with faculty members on research and course development.

"For entrepreneurially-minded students at HBS, this fund alleviates the financial barrier preventing them from building initial prototypes or test products. This is the greatest challenge for people with an idea but no money," said Rumennik. "It also encourages students to start businesses while in school and to connect with more of their peers who want to do so as well. Finally, it's a great opportunity for students to get experience managing a product as they go about the process of creating a business."

The Rock Center aims to give $5,000 awards to each of ten teams. Teams may request more or less funding, but awards will not be greater than $10,000. Funded teams will be required to meet with a faculty mentor on a monthly basis, attend a monthly gathering of other MVP teams, and present lessons learned from the MVP program and process at the end of the semester.

"Interest in entrepreneurship pervades the HBS campus," said Tom Eisenmann, the William J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration in the School's Entrepreneurial Management Unit. "Our MBA students are presenting us with a steady flow of innovative ideas, and we hope the MVP Fund will enable them to further develop their concepts from an idea into an actual product."

Some 50 percent of Harvard Business School alumni describe themselves as entrepreneurs 10 to 15 years after they graduate. Among the many HBS graduates who have founded successful business ventures are Marla Malcolm Beck (MBA 1998), founder of bluemercury; Michael Bloomberg (MBA 1963), founder of Bloomberg L.P.; Marc C. Cenedella (MBA 1998), founder, president, and CEO of TheLadders.com; Scott Cook (MBA 1976), chairman and cofounder of Intuit; Rajil Kapoor (MBA 1996), cofounder and former chairman and CEO of Snapfish; Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson (both MBA 2004), cofounders of Gilt Groupe; Christopher Michel (MBA 1998), founder of Military.com; Tom Stemberg (MBA 1973), founder of Staples; and Jeremy Stoppelman (MBA 2005), CEO and cofounder of Yelp.

About The Rock Center:
The Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship was created through the generosity of prominent venture capitalist Arthur Rock (MBA '51), who donated $25 million to Harvard Business School to support the entrepreneurship faculty and their research, fellowships for MBA and doctoral students, symposia and conferences, and outreach efforts to extend the impact of the School's extensive work in this field. HBS offered the country's first business school course in entrepreneurship in 1947 and, today, entrepreneurship is one of the largest faculty units at the School, with over 30 faculty members conducting entrepreneurship research and teaching. The Rock Center works closely with the HBS California Research Center in Silicon Valley on entrepreneurship-related research and course development efforts.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.