Overheard @ Startup Bootcamp

Emily Heaton, Campus News Editor

Over January 12-19, 188 first-year MBA candidates participated in the 2018 HBS Startup Bootcamp. Below, you can hear from 26 Bootcamp teams directly about their startup ideas, their greatest lessons learned over the course of the Bootcamp, and the startups that they have on their radars.

Digital platform providing retail investors with access to institutional wealth management
Team members:  Sud Murugesu (HBS ’19), Dimitra Taslim (HBS ’19), Michael Zhang (HBS ’19), Ahmed Alimi (HBS ’19).
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Drill down on customer segmentation and resulting go to market strategy

B Better
Provides health and wellness solutions to companies that depend on top talent to remain competitive
Team members:  Nicolas Kernick (HBS ’19), Paula Vich Serra (HBS ’19), Sophie Weihmann (HBS ’19), Maria Creixell (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Don’t over-hypothesize… go out and test!


Bristle targets the DIY at-home painter and streamlines the purchase process by offering guidance, supplies and a simplified color choice. We deliver paint + primer in one can, and all the supplies you need in one box directly to your door
Team members:  Stephanie Schwartz (HBS ’19), Amy Jackson (HBS ’19), Alex Johnson (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Test fast! And bootstrap if possible
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Casper – we want to be the Casper for paint!


Compound Insurance
Compound is the easiest way to compare, buy, and manage insurance for small businesses
Team members:  Eli Lebovits (HBS ’19), Rashik Adhikari (HBS ’19), Yingjia Wang (HBS ’19), Stephen Lantz (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  1) It’s all about the customer 2) Test, validate, test, validate, and never stop
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Lemonade, Betterment


Conscious Crust
Delicious pizzas that are not only tasty but make you feel good by replacing the traditional dough crust with one made from low-carb vegetables, like cauliflower, zucchini, and pumpkin (half the calories, 10x fewer carbs). Targeted at health-conscious millennials who eat on-the-go / in the office a lot
Team members:  Romina Nair (HBS ’19), Nick Matthews (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Online research can only get you so far (read: not far at all). Speak to industry experts, investors, channel partners, customers – you’ll be amazed at the insights you can get from them
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  STRIVR, Carbon, Jumpcut


Cozy Life
Cozy Life is a full-service, convenient, and easy-to-use online marketplace that removes the hassle of buying and selling second-hand furniture. Our target market is 20- to 30-year-old middle-class professionals who have busy schedules, who value convenience, and who furnish their apartments with top-end furniture, ideally at an affordable price
Team members:  Lilian Chen (HBS ’19), Spencer Fertig (HBS ’19), Radu Cret (HBS ’19), Bruno Marcolini (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Even if something feels fairly capital intensive to beta launch and test out, there are ways to hack together a minimum viable product to test the business assumptions and begin building traction. For example, although our business will be fairly capital intensive to scale (cost of renting storage space, moving trucks, and movers), we’ve successfully built a website (https://www.mycozylife.co/) and are hacking together a solution to build supply and demand at a low cost using Craigslist / Facebook Marketplace, our basement in Cambridge, and U-Haul trucks
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Feather, which rents furniture to millennials (recently raised new funding)


We make cryptocurrencies easily accessible to the masses; target market: 20-to-40-year-old professionals
Team members:  Pascal Kriesche (HBS ’19), Michael Reichard (HBS ’19), Jeth Soetoyo (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  You must be able to state your value proposition in fewer than 10 words, otherwise it is not clear and requires additional testing and focus
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Those in the field of Blockchain


Dropcloth Art
We are reinventing the retail art gallery: We are a retail art gallery with no art inventory on site. Unlike the traditional gallery, we are a welcoming, educational space showcasing floor-to-ceiling high-def digital versions of our curated art selection. We cater to inexperienced art buyers looking for work in the $1 – 15K range, who are dissatisfied with the current gallery and online offerings
Team members:  Katie Spies (HBS ’19), Pritee Tembhekar (HBS ’19), Dan Ross (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  1. We got a lot of practice in knowing when to trust and relentlessly remain focused on our vision, versus knowing when to listen, be flexible, and pivot; 2. Know thy customer and TEAM TEAM TEAM TEAM
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Second Measure (analytics within companies), Pirch (reinventing the appliance showroom experience), Skipping Rocks Labs (sustainable packaging), ClaraLabs, Pymetrics


Gather is a crowdsourcing platform for innovative group activities. We design and test events with community participation, then scale the most successful ones through a network of entrepreneurs
Team members:  Byron Edwards (HBS ‘19), Joe Moriarty (HBS ‘19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Diverging is healthy. We diverged and converged over and over again!
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive:  Farmers Business Network, Boom Technology, Planetary Resources, Made in Space, Magic Leap, Coinbase, Natilus, Zipline


Glowly provides women powdered drink solutions for their health and beauty aspirations
Team members:  Emilie Fournier (HBS ’19), Gina Seguiti (HBS ’19), Kayco Zhou (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Selling, selling, selling! Entrepreneurs need to constantly sell and negotiate in every aspect of their business
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Robo Investing solutions, like Betterment and Wealthfront, are disrupting a stuffy old school market and allowing people who are not financial experts to intelligently invest their money


We built a two-sided platform to digitalize the menu, ordering, and payment process for all restaurants. We help diners decide what to order by providing them with more information, and we help restaurants to drive sales and cut labor costs
Team members:  Jerry Liu (HBS ’19), Ted Lisitsyn (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  During the office hour, we had the opportunity to speak with entrepreneurs who worked for our competitors and to get to know the dynamics of the industry. We also gained first-hand tips about go-to-market strategy, customer acquisition, and prototyping
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  AR, Big Data, AI application in traditional industries


A platform to connect brands with social media influencers in South-East Asia
Team members:  David Maher (HBS ‘19), Sarawut (Card) Cheewarattanaphan (HBS ‘19), Nam Phatraprasit (HBS ‘19), Padaree (Now) Utsahajit (HBS ‘19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  You need a great idea and then you have to get out there and launch it!
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Consumer tech in South-East Asia


KeyTime offers targeted networking to participants in business events, conferences, and meetings
Team members:  Levent Sarioglu (HBS ’19), Boris Resetarits (HBS ’19), Daniel Benzecry (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Team credibility and agility regarding the business idea are both highly important
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Volute


LoLo aims to reinvent frozen food by making nutritious, tasty meals that consumers can trust and look forward to eating. We are targeting the health-minded and busy, on-the-go consumer who doesn’t want to sacrifice nutrition for convenience
Team members:  Lily Sassoon (HBS ’19), Emily Saltz (HBS ’19), Gustavo Resendiz (HBS ’19), Maggie LaFalce (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  It’s important to take one step at a time and focus on the questions immediately in front of us, not the issues that may come up way down the line
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Impossible Foods, Byte, Halo Top


LovePack is a platform for 20-to-40-year-old, upper-affluent Chinese people who live away from home to buy wellness-related products for their parents
Team members:  Swan Lu (HBS ’19), Sam Xu (HBS ’19), Maple Feng (HBS ’19), Anton Zhang (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Execution to trial and error is the most important thing. Learn by doing it and don’t be afraid to pivot
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Blockchain-related startups and Autonomous Vehicle startups


Marrily Along
Marrily Along aims to provide busy, professional brides (and couples) with the key information, comparisons, and analysis needed to select a wedding venue, all in under 30 minutes. We are focused on bringing transparency to the industry’s broken, fragmented, incomplete information space propagated by venues and vendors currently holding all pricing power
Team members:  Sarah Rosenak (HBS ’19), Anisha Vachani (HBS/HKS ’19), Caroline Hunting (HBS ’19) Ruby Lakshmanan (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  How to transition from analysis to action through MVP testing + quick iteration of messaging
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  AI + Autonomous Vehicle startups, Wine industry-based startups, Health/fitness/wellness/genetics startups


Our business provides solar energy solutions for rural Nigerian consumers who currently do not have access to electricity
Team members:  Caroline Dunn (HBS ’19), Danny Marquez (HBS ’19), Stefan Zlatev (HBS ’19), Anthony Tayoun (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Launching hardware-related products in developing markets is very complicated and the experience varies widely between different countries / dates
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  OffGrid Electric, Mobisol, BlackStar Energy


MIPSync helps small physician practices transition to value-based care
Team members:  Ali Evans (HBS ’19), Caroline Dougherty (HBS ’19), Ashley Shipley (HBS ’19), Brian Yang (HMS ’19), Kevin Brady
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Building a company is all about the team. We feel blessed to have assembled a great MIPSync team!
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Amino Health, Omada Health, Robinhood


MyToolBox is a B2B construction services startup trying to help workers find better/more work and contractors find better/more workers
Team members:  Wil Eyi (HBS ’19), Steven Staples (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Learning that you need to do something that makes you happy – the scariest part would be the startup working out and you not wanting to be a part of it for 10+ years; Walking through the various stages of company-building
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Joist, Faber Connect, Slack, Uber, Go-Jek, Didi, Catalant

Personal wealth management for middle-class Indians
Team members:  Shruti (HBS ’19), Azeez Gupta (HBS ’19), Nivedita Sunil (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  We learned to focus strongly on the customer pain (and not gain/ good-to-have things) and design the solution to address it head-on
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  There are several interesting fin-tech startups in the USA and China that have built robo-advisors for wealth management. Betterment and Acorns are two that we find very compelling


For price-conscious, independent travelers dissatisfied with expensive, unreliable, and troublesome accommodation options, Perch is a simple, self-service lodging solution. We offer convenience, cleanliness, and privacy at an affordable price unlike hotels, hostels, and Airbnb
Team members:  Cindy Ju (HBS ’19), Chloe Ho (HBS ’19), Harshit Sedani (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  There are hundreds of ways to test demand before you start building
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Drift


Perfect Chill
The product is an “ice fan” with a detachable unit that stores ice packets that can be put into the freezer. The fan was designed specifically for babies under the age of 3 with a focus on new mothers and built to clip onto the stroller, car seat, and even crib
Team members:  Eerik Helmick (HBS ‘19), Briana Richardson (HBS ‘19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  How quickly you can make progress on an idea when you put your head down with others and focus on building your idea rather than just thinking about your idea
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Alert Innovations – A retail tech startup that has the potential to change the retail grocery store format


Remmy is a low-cost remittance platform powered by blockchain that targets low-income Latin American immigrants sending money home to support family members
Team members:  Luis Vidal (HBS ’19), Andres Gomez (HBS ’19), Sijun Yang (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Your target market’s true need and pain points can vary wildly from what you expected them to be
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Circle Pay, Coinbit, Analytical Space, Baseload Energy


Fresh looks at your fingertips
Helps users create a digital wardrobe and provide online styling and shopping advice based on this. Target market: People in the U.S. aged 20 – 45
Team members:  Anusha Rajadorai (HBS ’19), Michelle Sterzovsky (HBS ’19), Monika Mazur (HBS ’19), Jason Chang (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Designing an insightful product test and feedback loop is an essential first step
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  StitchFix, Cladwell, Finery


Venuefly simplifies event venue booking.  We match bookers with unique event locations.  We take the guesswork, time, and headaches out of planning for both bookers and venues
Team members:  Clare Simonis (HBS ’19), Josh Hoffman-Senn (HBS ’19), Jorge Echarte, HBS ’19
Bootcamp lesson learned:  Getting to know your customer is key
Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  Startups that solve big problems and make lives happier are neat. The vertical farming company, Plenty, is doing neat work around transforming agriculture in urban areas


Wash Day Salons
Wash Day salons is a premium chain of hair salons for black women, who have traditionally been underserved through the current channels in which they get their hair professionally styled
Team members:  Diamond Richardson (HBS ’19), Poni Bepo (HBS ’19), Alaa Taha (HBS ’19), Justine Hong (HBS ’19)
Bootcamp lesson learned:  One of our biggest learnings was thinking about how we could build MVP tests using a minimal amount of resources to maximize the amount of learnings and insights we could walk away with. We’ve learned that even with a brick and mortar concept like ours, there are always ways to test our value proposition (messaging tests, one-day pop-ups, etc.)


Which startups do you find particularly interesting/disruptive?  We have our eye on Tress – a social community through which black women can discover new hair styles and how to replicate them (whether on their own or via a stylist). Given our idea, we’re interested in keeping an eye on how the aspect of community plays into black women’s hair care choices.

Emily Heaton (HBS ’19) is the Campus News Editor for The Harbus. Though she grew up in San Diego, California, she gradually moved east – calling both Chicago and then New York City her home – before arriving at HBS. Prior to HBS, Emily worked in investment banking and private equity. In her recently obtained free time, she enjoys watching soccer (Arsenal, in particular), eating pizza, and talking about her passions for investing and gender equity (and, of course, investing in gender equity).

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Professor Thomas Eisenmann for helping to make this article possible.