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Open to students, faculty and alumni of Harvard. 

Apply to win $1M or $250k for your startup or idea.

Application closed. Semi-finalists announced by April 8th.
started at harvard

We believe many of the strongest solutions to the world's greatest challenges will emerge out of universities.

The most transformative ideas across software, hardware, AI, robotics, climate, biotech, and more are forming inside research labs, MBA programs and undergraduate dorm rooms.

Yet, funding options remain bleak. Grant programs are broken, slow, cumbersome and risk-averse. Investors are often gun-shy, unwilling to make a bet on a big idea before a founder is ready to graduate, drop out or spin-out.

We delight in the messy, the raw science, the moonshot opportunity that’s still a kernel of an idea.

We’ve backed companies with Harvard origins including PathAI, Kula Bio, Verve Motion, Thymmune, Quadratic 3D, Acelab and more — is yours next?

It's never too early to start building
around a moonshot idea.

who should apply

Moonshot Idea:
any idea with the potential 
to change the world.

At least one member of your Founding Team must be a Harvard undergraduate, grad student, postdoc, faculty or alumni. All ideas are open for consideration. 

Application closed on March 22nd, 2024

All investments are in the form of an uncapped SAFE with no discount (what is this?)

What you win

$1M or $250K for your startup in the form of an uncapped SAFE

Mentorship from industry experts (optional) 

Access to customer introductions (optional)

Business planning support (optional)


March 22, 11:59PM ET: Deadline to Apply

By April 8: Semi-finalists notified

April 9-16th: Semi-finalists meet with Pillar VC

April 18th: Winners notified

Two SAFES will be awarded — one for $1M and one for $250K. A Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) is a legal contract used in startup fundraising to postpone the determination of a company’s valuation until a future priced equity round occurs.

In the case of an “uncapped SAFE,” there is no predetermined valuation cap. This means that when the SAFE converts to equity in a future financing round, the investor’s conversion price (in this case, Pillar VC’s) is solely based on the valuation of that round, without any upper limit.

This means that this investment will convert at the price of the first round you raise.

We are happy to answer any specific questions you have about SAFEs.

Our goal with this program is to put founders solving the world’s most challenging problems on the fast-track to success. To move fast and break things, you need capital; we’re here to provide the financial fuel for big ideas.

We’re navigating a time of vast global challenges. We believe the solutions to many of the world’s most complicated problems – a warming climate, a chaotic geopolitical environment, labor shortages, a healthcare crisis, and more – are often born in university settings or research labs.

Any company or idea where at least one member of the Founding Team is a Harvard undergraduate, grad student, postdoc, faculty or alumni.

VCs often tell founders they need to have graduated before raising money. We believe it’s never too early to start building. We will happily award the money to students, graduate students, postdocs and faculty who are still finishing their degrees or actively working on university research.

We welcome all companies / ideas to the competition. Pillar VC is a generalist fund that invests across the spectrum of software, hardware, AI, robotics, climate, biotech, and more.

It is never too early — we really enjoy brainstorming with founders early in the process and encourage you to apply if you think starting a company or commercializing your research is the path for you.

You do not need to be incorporated to apply. However, you will need to be incorporated if you win. We are happy to help you navigate this process.

Yes. Pillar VC is focused on pre-seed and seed stage investments, so this opportunity is primarily focused on companies at the early stages of building.

Apply via this application form by 11:59PM ET on March 22nd, 2024

Your application will be reviewed by the Pillar VC Investing Team.

Semi-finalists will be announced by April 8th, 2024, two weeks after the application closes. 

The winner will be announced by April 18th, 2024.

If selected as a semi-finalist, a member of the Pillar team will reach out to you by April 8th to schedule a 20 minute meeting. Finalists pitches will be 45 minutes on April 16th. If you’re based in Boston, we’d love for you to visit our office for an in-person meeting.

There will be one winner for the $1M SAFE and one winner for the $250k SAFE.

5 competition finalists will also be awarded:

  • Office space in the Pillar VC office
  • 3 Months Free TriNet
  • Team Headshots
  • IP Office Hours
  • Legal Office Hours
  • AWS / Google Cloud Credits

Yes, startups from outside of the US can apply.

The winner will receive tailored support from the Pillar VC investing team, advice and mentorship from a network of thousands of operators, and access to Pillar’s Founding CEOs.

There is no catch! We truly believe that Harvard is overflowing with promising ideas and inventions, which is why we’re offering an MFN SAFE (Most Favored Nation) – no cap, no discount.

There is no discount – the $1M Moonshot is structured as an MFN (Most Favored Nation) SAFE; Pillar VC as an investor will convert to the most favorable terms granted to other investors in the subsequent financing round.

Not a problem! If you raise money from angels or friends & family after accepting the Moonshot SAFE, we’ll work with you to ensure compliance with its terms. You may need to offer Pillar VC the opportunity to receive the same terms as new investors, or seek amendments if necessary.

Pillar VC is a seed-stage venture firm co-founded by the CEOs of 22 of Boston’s strongest companies, including the leaders of Ginkgo Bioworks, Exact Sciences, Iora Health, Wayfair and DraftKings. Over half our investments have university origins, including Harvard-rooted companies PathAI, Kula Bio, Verve Motion, Thymmune, Quadratic 3D, and Acelab.

You can learn more about our approach, and the way we support founders on our website.

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Frequently asked questions

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