Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates' and Zuckerberg's

Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates' and Zuckerberg's

Summary: Harvard University has announced a new start-up fund for budding student entrepreneurs.


Harvard University has announced a partnership with New Enterprise Associates to begin a seed-stage venture fund which may entice the next Zuckerberg to stay and complete a degree at the prestigious academic establishment.

It must be grating that both famous Harvard-dropouts, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, decades apart, decided to take flight from Harvard before going on to build two of the most significant and well-known technology companies currently in existence.

However, in an attempt to keep the next generation of entrepreneurs with this kind of potential in academia, Harvard and New Enterprise Associates have introduced 'The Experiment Fund' -- a new funding initiative designed to support and encourage start-ups while they complete their degrees.

The Experiment Fund calls itself an agile seed investor, and 'a bridge between America's oldest universities and storied venture capital firms', who supports would-be business founders 'with seed capital, consistent guidance, and unparalleled access to experts'.

The Experiment Fund will operate independently of Harvard University, although it will receive support from the institution. Harvard owns no financial stake in the project. NEA, founded in 1970, is one of the largest venture capital firms in the world, and is known for its early outsider investment in Groupon -- of which they now own a 14 percent stake.

The current projects NEA is involved with include Tivli, an online web service, and start-ups such as Omada Health.

By offering a reported 4-6 start-ups with a maximum of $250k each over the next two years, there are hopes that the funding will provide a more extensive support structure for entrepreneurs, and allow them the capital they need to launch their businesses.

The initiative will focus on business ventures in the Cambridge, Mass. area close to Harvard, which also includes many other schools such as MIT.

According to the Harvard Crimson, Co-founder of NEA, Patrick S. Chung, outlined the concept behind the fund, indicating it will fill a void in innovative spirit on the campus with "support, capital, and expertise that have not existed on this campus ever before."

Another co-founder of NEA, Hugo Van Vuuren, explained the difference between this option in funding and other alternatives would-be Zuckerberg's could apply for:

"We are not an incubator or a grant giving organization. We ultimately invest and help them grow with seed capital, consistent guidance, and unparalleled access to experts."

A few years ago, starting a company wasn't as acceptable as it is today. Whether this is due to an increased need for innovative solutions in a rapidly-digitizing industry and way of life, or simply a desperate move by qualified members of the labor force who can't find employment, the attitude to becoming an entrepreneur has changed. It can only be beneficial if there is more support for these people trying to break in to business.

The particular institutions and advisers involved in the project are yet to be announced, however, there is no doubt that venture capital firms can benefit from being involved in the next big idea -- who knows if this fund could help create the next Facebook or Microsoft? In the current economic climate, entrepreneurs need all the help they can get.

Image credit: Will Hart


Topics: Start-Ups, iPhone, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Silly me...

    And I thought this would be a startup fund for the poor, homeless, and abused children of our society to get into school and stay there. Silly me!
    • RE: Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates and Zuckerbergs

      @jamesintro What would that fund do ?
    • That "startup" is already out there, and it's called,

      the public school system, where each and every student gets a "free" education, and they even get a High School Diploma after the 12th grade, which offers the possibility to land a job and opens the door to higher education where they can attain a degree and the possibility for a well-paid career. That education is worth a lot of money, and it could cost anywhere between $120,000 and $150,000 or more, depending upon the school system of choice.

      So, why should school kids need any other special incentive to get into school and stay there? Most of them understand the value of education before they graduate or drop out. Tossing more money at education has not proven to solve any of the problems with the education system.

      Basically, the opportunities are there, and people need to understand how to take advantage of them.
  • RE: Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates and Zuckerbergs

    Same old approach, same old club, same old results! 4-6 start-ups with all this fanfare? Incredibly short-sighted. Shooting for out-of-the-park home runs instead of helping smart people build sustainable life-style businesses - where the jobs are! -is where all this high-profile support should go. Give $50K each to 5X the number and nuture them along the way. Show them they can build businesses responsibly and sustainably, even though it might take more than five minutes to get to that billion-dollar valuation. Geez, just look at the statistics! This is no longer rational, and certainly not what we need right now. The media, too, shouldn't be pushing for the next Microsoft or Facebook. It's irresponsible to fill new entrepreneur's minds, then irrationally support them, with these essentially unattainable visions of grandeur. If they are to be great, they will be, but not with support like this.
  • RE: Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates and Zuckerbergs

    This can, by definition, NEVER WORK!
  • Since we no longer care to provide jobs

    preferring instead to give them to foreigners, let's jabber up entrepreneurship!<br><br>Attaboy Ivy Leaguers.
  • RE: Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates and Zuckerbergs

    Gates - yes. Jobs - yes. Zuckerberg - one is far too many.
  • RE: Harvard announces fund for next generation Gates and Zuckerbergs

    Great article, Charlie. Even though many comments are aimed at the essence of this "new start-up", I found your article concise and to-the-point style which is quite nice to see from a young person nowadays. Keep the good work. Looking forward to future articles.