Meet the Powerhouse Behind Top Cutting Edge Female Entrepreneurs

What do Gilt Group, LearnVest, Birchbox, Flour Bakery, HerCampus, OranJet and Rent the Runway all have in common? Each of these companies is one of the many female founded organizations that have pushed the boundaries and redefined their respective industries. Even more so, they have emerged from the Harvard College and Harvard Business School (HBS) community, and continue to challenge traditional business practices.

Harvard College and HBS are two of the largest powerhouses for developing exceptional leaders and companies that break new ground across a wide range of industries. It comes as no surprise that their entrepreneurship initiatives, Harvard iLab and HBS Rock Center for Entrepreneurship , consistently see 50% of their founders being women. A ratio that is by no-means an industry standard.

We consistently see that over 50% of Harvard iLab founders are women and this is all organic. It is not important if you are a female or male, we are here to foster innovation and that all starts with a great idea.” says Jodi Goldstein, Managing Director of Harvard iLab and HBS ’96.

Harvard Innovation Lab. Photo from

By encouraging the growth of female entrepreneurs, Harvard and HBS are also making waves to strengthen the overall landscape. In the tech industry, female-led companies have proven to have 35 percent higher return on investment and produce 12 percent higher revenue than those that are male-led, according to research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation.

So, what is Harvard and HBS’ secret to fostering the growth of female entrepreneurs?

Harvard iLab and the Rock Center celebrate its success with entrepreneurial programs by supporting students with resources unparalleled by any educational program.

It is a supportive environment where students can take risks. Many of the great HBS companies have emerged by trying, failing, and trying again,” notes Meredith McPherron, Director of the Rock Center and HBS ’93.

The Rock Center is the focal point of the HBS entrepreneurial programs on campus, and it also maintains relationships with entrepreneurial alumni well after they graduate. Their New Venture Competition, a business plan competition for both undergraduates and graduates, offers more than $75,000 in prize money, including in-kind prizes such as legal services for launching the startup and long-term space at the Harvard iLab. Their Rock Summer Fellowship program provides up to $6,000 in financial support for students who want to intern at a early stage startup for 10-12 weeks during the summer.

Inside Harvard Innovation Lab. Photo from

Harvard iLab is open to anyone affiliated with Harvard; undergrads, graduates, and students at the Divinity School, and facilitates programs for faculty, staff, entrepreneurs, and members of the Boston community. The iLab hosts a number of events, including meetups, career fairs, workshops, residency programs, and pitch events. Harvard Innovation Launch Lab, one of the programs of the iLab, is an incubator space open to any Harvard alumni working on a startup. The website states that it’s “A short term, time-limited, curated experiment of space, design, and resources for Harvard Alumni.” With approximately 10-15 ventures currently at the Launch Lab, they are a scale prototype for future Harvard alumni space.

When it comes to MBA programs, Harvard tops the list with 56 female founders receiving funding over the past five years,” as noted from Fortune.

Undergraduate students also participate in Harvard Ventures, a club that provides resources to help people launch and grow their startups. They offer activities on campus for undergrads that include founder and VC coffee meetings, workshops, panel discussions, pitch competitions, and social events. They also facilitate HackHarvard, which hosts weekly HackNights for developers to get together to code and socialize.

At the university level, we’re seeing more respect for women. It is incredibly inclusive within Harvard Ventures, with an equal gender split of the board and its members, ” said Lisa Wang, Cofounder of HelloToken and Harvard College ’16.

Women’s iLab will have a regular column written by current Harvard and HBS students that will showcase Harvard’s initiatives. It will feature startup companies that are founded by Harvard alumni across the entire community.



amandaAmanda Efithimiou is the senior editor of Women’s iLab. Katrina Melesciuc and Tara Chang are the co-founders of Women’s iLab.

Amanda is also the Director of Operations for Kite, an app that allows you to share news and articles. A graduate from George Washington University, she has a passion for organizing the #ArtsTech meetup and traveling the world.  Katrina is also the Manager of Strategy & Analytics at Visible Measures, a branded content data & distribution company.  A graduate from the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University, she has a passion for startups, music and urban culture. Tara acts as the VP, East Coast Sales and Emerging Markets at Visible Measures. With her education from MIT and research focus at the MIT Media Lab, she is passionate about social innovation, travel and the startup culture.

Originally posted 2015-03-13 13:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter