1. Do I have to know how to code?
No. Teams will be asked to build a series of prototypes, and to test those prototypes with prospective customers. Your earliest prototypes are likely to be paper sketches. During the January sessions, some teams may develop higher fidelity prototypes that simulate your solution's functionality.
2. Is there a fee?
3. Will I earn academic credit? Will this appear on my transcript?
No and no.
4. What is the time commitment?
Students are required to attend a Design Workshop on Nov. 3 or Nov. 17 (9 AM - 6 PM each day) and all January Bootcamp sessions (also 9 AM - 6 PM). In addition, during the January Bootcamp, teams must devote time after dinner to assignments that are due at 11 pm each evening.
During November and December, teams should budget time to complete customer interviews, prototype reviews, and other deliverables that are required for admission to the Bootcamp.
Finally, students are expected to complete some pre-reading for the Design Workshop and Bootcamp, but this should take less than two hours in total.
5. Is there a platform/forum that connects concept owners who wish to expand their team with students who wish to join a team?
Yes. We will hold a team assembly event on October 11th (4:00-5:00 Batten Hives). Students can also use our team assembly spreadsheet to search for teams and team members.
6. If our idea is very raw, or if we are still choosing between multiple ideas, can we still apply?
Yes, but you'll need to quickly move a concept to the point where you can conduct the customer discovery interviews, prototype reviews, and other work that must be submitted by Jan. 4.
7. What happens if we decide our idea is not viable between now and early January?
Most early stage concepts turn out to not be viable; abandoning a bad idea without over-investing is an important skill for an entrepreneur. In that spirit, if we see from the deliverables you submit that high quality design work led you to abandon your concept, we'll be comfortable that your team has mastered the design skills we aim to teach this fall, and you can join the Bootcamp with a new idea. We'll expect that you'll be motivated to do similar work on your new idea before the Bootcamp starts on Jan. 18—but you can use the MLK weekend to fill any gaps.
Let Prof. Austin or Mnookin know ASAP after your team has abandoned its concept, if you wish to pursue another.
8. Is this program better suited for ventures in certain sectors?
Ventures in most sectors should be viable for the Bootcamp. However, a concept that requires a great deal of long-cycle scientific research—e.g., a medical diagnostic test—would not fit as well, but might still be viable. For such a concept, the customer discovery research work we will conduct could be very useful. Building a working prototype wouldn't be possible, but there are still ways to get feedback on the envisioned solution.
If you have questions about whether your idea is right for the Bootcamp, contact Prof. Eisenmann.
10. What if the venture is located in another country?
Do your customer interviews and prototype reviews using Skype. If this is not possible, then the Bootcamp will likely not be a good fit. If you have a contact in that country that can help you line up respondents, then you should be able to conduct remote interviews. It has been done before.
11. How much work on the venture concept can be completed before applying?
It's a good think if you have done some market research and thought about solutions: that will reduce the odds that you discover your idea is not viable between now and early January. However, if you have a working product, you are probably too far along and should not apply to the Bootcamp. A team with a working product that is acquiring customers will almost certainly lack the patience to retrace steps and repeat early design work required by the Bootcamp.
12. I'm working on a venture concept with team members who are not HBS 1st-year MBA students. Can they apply?
No, sorry — they cannot apply. We are happy to have team members who are not RC students work with you during afternoon studio time, but they cannot attend morning class sessions or the Nov. 3 Design Workshop.
13. We're a team of two HBS RC students. Or a team of 5. How should we apply?
Sorry, you'll need 3-4 team members: no more or less. We're trying to make the Bootcamp available to as many students as possible, which rules out teams of 1 or 2 — as does the amount of work your team will need to complete. At the other end of the spectrum, teams of 5 tend to be difficult to manage; the coordination that big teams require tends to offset the work that additional team members can deliver.
14. Will there be activities during the January 19-21th MLK Holiday weekend? What if I plan to be out of town that weekend?
Over the holiday weekend, we won’t have required class sessions, but we’ll run optional studio time with instructors/mentors present. We expect that most teams will work intensively through the weekend to push their concept forward.
If you plan to be out of town over the weekend, two scenarios may be relevant:
If you are your team's leader, then your absence would be a problem, since your team would be both underpowered and lacking leadership.
If you have team members who are 1) comfortable with your absence and 2) able to self-direct without you, then your absence should be less problematic. Your team, short-staffed, would make less progress over the weekend, but it wouldn’t drift due to a leadership vacuum.
15. Will "joiners" (i.e., students who did not originate their team's concept) get equity or intellectual property rights in their team's venture?
No, unless all parties agree on such arrangements. It's REALLY important that you review and are comfortable with the points on our Requirements page before applying.
16. Will Harvard get equity in the venture?
No, but please remember us in your charitable giving plans after your IPO ;)
17. Do we sign non-disclosure/non-compete agreements?
The Bootcamp does not have as all participants to sign NDAs prior to the program starting. In the unlikely event that you bring an idea to the Bootcamp that builds upon pre-existing proprietary intellectual capital (as with a biotech concept, for example), you are welcome to ask those who join your team to sign an NDA agreement.
Likewise, we do not encourage concept owners to ask other team members to sign non-compete agreements. We trust that joiners will not clone the concept owner's idea after the Bootcamp. If anyone does this, the faculty will deal remember this violation of community trust in dealing with the student in the future.
Ultimately, you must be comfortable disclosing details of your venture with peers and the Bootcamp's guest instructors and mentors. The value of feedback you'll get is almost always exceeds by a great margin the insurance value of keeping an idea in stealth, to protect it from copying.