Community Guidelines

The guiding principle for participants throughout this process is to enthusiastically support each other’s ideas and progress, while always upholding the Community Values of Harvard Business School:

  • Respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others
  • Honesty and integrity in dealing with all members of the community
  • Accountability for personal behavior

Our values guide all that we do, wherever we are, and with everyone we meet.

For those concerned about sharing early-stage ideas within the HBAP community and publicly, we share the following advice: 

  • Generally, unless intellectual property is involved or it is a really new product, there is no great benefit in keeping the idea a secret. Sharing high-level details is generally helpful without giving away the “secret sauce” (algorithm, food recipe, etc.). As teams move forward with their ideas, pitching the idea, talking to experts, and gathering feedback are all necessary and important aspects of the process. 
  • If there is already a comparable idea on the market, being the first to get attention on the idea is in the best interest of the team. 

Creating new ventures is a complicated process and involves negotiating between multiple stakeholders on the team. We encourage students to carefully consider each team member’s roles and responsibilities and come to an agreement that is fair to everyone. If issues arise, we encourage students to work through those issues between the team, the program will not mediate disagreements between team members.

Entry requirements

  • All HBAP students enrolled as of May 2021 and alumni are invited to participate.
  • Students who enroll in HBAP after May 2021 can join an existing team or form a new team, initial pitch decks must be submitted by the end of phase 1 (see the milestones page). Some workshops and events will be open to all students, whether or not they are participating in the competition.
  • Students can only be on one team (one student cannot be on multiple teams in supporting roles, not even as an advisor).
  • Students who previously submitted an idea to the ideation activity or pitch competitions but were not selected as a finalist or winner may submit a more developed version of their idea, but must be able to show that they’ve iterated on or honed their idea since the prior submission.
  • Previous finalists and winners of the pitch competition and ideation activity are not eligible to submit the same idea to the competition but can join with a new idea. They are also welcome to participate in the workshops and support events leading up to the competition to further develop their prior idea but are not eligible to enter the competition with the same idea.
  • Students are permitted to work individually or in teams of up to 4 people. We encourage students to team up with peers to strengthen their founding team. One student must be named as the founder/CEO and main point person. Teams can include non-HBAP members but those members may not be able to access workshops or other program resources.
  • Students are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the pitch competition program throughout the timeline. Teams must submit their initial pitch deck at the end of phase 1 to be considered a qualified entry.
  • The pitch competition organizers reserve the right to restrict access to workshops/resources if participants do not adhere to the policies or miss submission deadlines.


Throughout the timeline, support will be offered to teams in the form of:

  • Various workshops related to the topics outlined below and networking opportunities. 
  • Office hours with Rana el Kaliouby Ph.D. and Teaching Fellows Lauren Moores Ph.D., and Marily Nika, Ph.D.

Phase 1: May-October 2021 (5.5 months)

  • Sign up for the upcoming workshopBuilding the Founding Team taking place on Friday, July 9 at 12:30 p.m. ET. This session will be led by Marily Nika, Ph.D. and Lauren Moores, Ph.D.
  • Optionally submit your early-stage team and/or idea to the DI Platform. Identify needs your team has (ie. expertise in certain areas, new team members, etc.) to generate interest among the community.
  • Build the founding team utilizing Slack, networking events, and other program tools. Team members can be added up until submission of the initial pitch deck at the end of phase 1. Please note, a CEO/co-founder will remain the point of contact for the team for the duration of the process. 
  • Determine value creation and measurement. 
  • Identify problem space and market fit by performing market research, user interviews, and creating surveys. 
  • Consider human capital and recruitment efforts necessary for the new venture. 
  • Begin prototyping the solution.  
  • Build the pitch deck. Workshops will be offered to help teams create and perfect their pitch deck. 
  • Submission of initial pitch deck at the end of phase 1, September or October 2021. The exact deadline to be communicated at least 1 month in advance. At this stage, team members should be confirmed. Submissions will not be evaluated at this stage, they will be used to match each team with a mentor. 

Phase 2: October 2021-February 2022 (4.5 months)

  • At the beginning of phase 2, each team will be assigned a mentor to meet with several times before submission of the final pitch deck. The pitch competition planning team will do their best to match each submission to a mentor with related expertise. 
  • Learn about intellectual property. In particular, the basics of patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, when to use a nondisclosure agreement and when not to.   
  • Learn about funding rounds, go-to-market, and various financial aspects of new ventures including forecasting and capital structures. 
  • Submission of final pitch deck for finalist selection in March 2022.

Phase 3: March-April 2022 (2 Months)

  • Selected teams will participate in two practice pitch sessions with the pitch competition planning team. 

Final Pitch Ceremony, May 2022