Casting aside anxiety

New Harvard Ventures podcast encourages, inspires student entrepreneurs

Jessica DeVilla and Virginia Tiernan

Harvard Ventures board members Jessica DeVilla (left) and Virginia Tiernan hope the student organization's new podcast inspires and encourages budding entrepreneurs. (Images provided by Jessica DeVilla and Virginia Tiernan)

How will the COVID-19 crisis affect the world of startups? A new podcast launched by Harvard Ventures (HV) poses that question to business leaders, academics, and alumni entrepreneurs.

The Bottom Line, launched on April 4 by the student-run startup and venture capital organization, seeks to explore business issues related to COVID-19, but also some of the most pressing topics in entrepreneurship and innovation, said co-president Jessica DeVilla, S.B. ’21, a bioengineering concentrator at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“We’re in a time where there is a lot of transition for students and the entire country. When we all got back to our homes (after the University transitioned to remote teaching), the Harvard Ventures board had a virtual meeting to discuss ways we could still encourage and support our community,” she said. “A lot of us found ourselves with extra free time since we’re now attending classes in a virtual format, so we wanted to make something of that.”

The students also thought, with stay-at-home advisories imposed across most of the nation, some of the most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs might have more free time on their hands, and be more willing to sit for interviews.

They were right.

In the first episode, DeVilla and Harvard Ventures director of community Virginia Tiernan, A.B. ’22, a government concentrator, interviewed entrepreneur, Dallas Mavericks owner, and “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban.

“One of the things I was surprised to hear from Mark Cuban—he said one of the best pieces of advice he could give to people right now is to be nice,” DeVilla said. “From what we see on ‘Shark Tank,’ he doesn’t seem to always be the most approachable person. So I was pleasantly surprised that he thinks kindness is something people should give top priority to, especially during this challenging time.”

Jessica DeVilla, Virginia Tiernan, Georgia Messinger, and Mark Cuban

Harvard Ventures co-presidents Georgia Messinger (upper right) and Jessica DeVilla (lower left), and director of community Virginia Tiernan (upper left) conduct a Zoom interview with Mark Cuban for the first episode of The Bottom Line. (Image provided by Jessica DeVilla)

The students plan to release a new podcast episode each week, and they intend to interview a wide spectrum of individuals.

The second episode of The Bottom Line featured Anne Dwane, co-founder and partner at venture capital firm Village Global. Future episodes will share pearls of wisdom from recent Harvard graduates who work for startups and evidence-based insights from Harvard Business School professors.

“Anne Dwane told us that investing is like starting from nothing, and working in ‘startupland’ is almost like alchemy,” Tiernan said. “I think that is a great metaphor for the state we are in right now.”

As the University’s virtual Commencement looms, many startup-minded students are feeling nervous about their futures and the lasting effects the pandemic will cause on the broader economy, DeVilla said.

She and her colleagues hope The Bottom Line can provide its listeners with some clarity about economic conditions, but also a sense of hope.

“We want to not only inform young entrepreneurs, but also inspire them,” she said. “Yes this is a very tough time, but there are still ways for you to grow and learn and succeed.”

Harvard Ventures board

The Harvard Ventures board decided to launch The Bottom Line to encourage and support their community.

Topics: Entrepreneurship, Student Organizations

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