Early-stage incubator launches at Harvard

The Experiment Fund, a seed-stage investment fund that is backed by New Enterprise Associates, is opening its doors at Harvard. Its goal is to support students' ventures.

If there had been an early-stage incubator at Harvard when Mark Zuckerberg was starting Facebook, the world's largest social-networking company might not be based in Silicon Valley today.

There was no such investment fund back in 2004, but today, there is. In an announcement this morning, Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) launched the Experiment Fund, a new early-stage seed fund that is being backed by New Enterprise Associates, one of the world's largest venture capital firms.

NEA venture capitalist Patrick Chung, one of the people who helped get the Experiment Fund off the ground Daniel Terdiman/CNET

According to the fund's Web site, its mission is to be "a bridge between America's oldest universities and storied venture capital firms. Whether through the scientific method, artistic discovery, or lean optimization, we help tomorrow's technology leaders build and realize their visions today. We support these founders with seed capital, consistent guidance, and unparalleled access to experts."

The site also said that the incubator is hoping to assist "brilliant and resourceful people, zealous and complementary founders, [and] experiments in need of first seed capital."

Although the Experiment Fund was co-founded by Cherry Murray, the SEAS dean, it is designed to invest in early-stage ventures throughout the Cambridge, Mass., area. That should mean that students from the region's wide range of universities will be able to turn to the incubator for help. Schools there include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College, and of course Harvard, as well as many others.

As part of the program, SEAS faculty members will advise young entrepreneurs about the fund, and will point them to other local "opportunities and resources, such as the new Harvard Innovation Lab."

"The idea to provide an intensely local company-building resource to young innovators originally grew out of close collaboration between [NEA VC] Patrick Chung, academic and entrepreneur David Edwards, and scholar-turned-entrepreneur Hugo Van Vuuren," according to a release touting the new incubator.

 

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