Pilot Funds

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About the Pilot Funds

Pilot Funds are for early stage ideas in education innovation. Teams can apply for one round - or all four rounds of funding. They can apply for the same idea each round, or they can pivot each round to try out a new idea. 


Pilot Funds were designed to help students take early-stage ideas off the page and into the real world. We believe that thoughtful experimentation is an essential component of building an innovation mindset in education. The goal here is to democratize innovation in education and encourage small ideas (and even big ones!) to get started - to engage with real students, parents, and communities to refine understanding of the problem area and begin building and testing tractionable solutions. 

What you get as a Pilot Fund awardee:

Up to $1K each funding round





AWS Educate

$500 promotional credit per team


Free premium website for 1 year

Pilot Fund Guidelines

Pilot Fund applications should address education-related issues broadly for any community or population globally.


Pilot Funds are open to all Harvard University full-time and part-time students in degree-granting programs. While this does not disqualify other Harvard affiliates from applying, at least one collaborator must meet this criterion in order to be eligible for funding. Students should feel welcome to reapply to any and all of our four rounds of Pilot Funds. 

  • Include more than one person – use our Startuptree network to find teammates!

  • Strong priority will be given to cross-school and cross-university teams. All teams must demonstrate that they are cross-functional - i.e. members represent a diverse range of experiences, perspectives, and skills.

Teams must

How to Apply

There are two steps to your Pilot Fund application: a brief online application and a 30-minute meeting with a SMART Fellow. The reason for this is so that we want to make sure that everyone gets feedback and encouragement, regardless of funding decisions.

Our rubric for selecting ideas: