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The expert in charge of the Harvard Innovation Labs alumni, also known as iLab, discusses what attracts them to a startup, how they set them up for success, and the importance of the ultimate mission of this entrepreneurship center, which is to create a group of program members who support each other over the long term.

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Meet Thara Pillai, Director of Alumni Programs & Engagement (LLX GEO) at Harvard Innovation Labs, an expert in marketing and business development with nearly two decades of experience in North America. She is a mentor and advises companies in Boston and is in charge of supervising the design and execution of the accelerator for Harvard iLab alumni, from where she supports them -along with other professionals- with their growth plans.

The Harvard Innovation Lab is an interdisciplinary ecosystem where innovation and entrepreneurship are explored, along with generating deep connections among all its members.

Thara tells us how they work from this innovation and entrepreneurship center, how they select, what they focus on, and where they would like to see each of the iLab members.

What type of startups are you looking for to integrate into iLab?

We are interested in entrepreneurs who are mission-driven, coachable (open to learning), and have demonstrated significant traction since their inception.

Why did accepting Mineral Forecast to the iLab and LLX GEO community make sense?

Outside of the previous elements, it is important when building our cohort that we identify founders who are willing to support each other. The Mineral Forecast team highlighted that meeting other founders and being part of a larger community was an important component of the program. Our hope is these cohort members will be able to support each other in the years to come.

What are the main benefits of being part of the iLab community?

The goal is to develop our founders in three areas: operational expertise, leadership, and fundraising. The way we do that is that we bring in experts and founders to host workshops and talks on a variety of topics from "scaling culture" to "building a sales team". We also host a number of pitch sessions where teams pitch to a group of founders and investors in a 3-minute format. Many of our teams have secured a $1 million or more in funding during this quick pitch format. Our hope is that we can set up our founders for success by giving them the tools, roadmap, and strategic frameworks to support their journey.

How do you imagine Mineral Forecast in a couple of years?

I believe Mineral Forecast will continue on its positive trajectory. It has a strong team, who are coachable and willing to learn. At the same time, they have contracts in the pipeline that will help them become a known quantity in the industry. 

How is iLab’s approach to accelerating the Startups of its portfolio?

We empower teams by providing them with programming, advising, and resources to propel them forward. Our model may not be unique but I believe the staff here go above and beyond to support our founders.

In your experience, what is the stamp you see in the Startups supported by the iLab?

The Startups that succeed are the ones that have grit and perseverance. Several of our most successful ventures have had near-death experiences, but they fought their way out to become sustainable, thriving, and profitable ventures.

Thank you, Thara for sharing with us!

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