DI Student Spotlight: Elizabeth Haviland

Elizabeth is an RC student at HBS with a focus in tech-enabled entrepreneurship. Her interest and work experience are in building consumer facing companies selling a product or service through a premium customer experience. Elizabeth is passionate about the work that The Harvard Business School Digital Initiative is undertaking and excited to help make a difference in the Business School community and experience.

What do you see as the industries with the greatest potential for digitization and innovation?

The industries that excite me the most are those where I believe there is the greatest potential to efficiently and effectively improve the lives of a majority of people. An example of this is personal finance. The plethora of apps that have been developed over the last five years to teach financial literacy, such as HBS’s own LearnVest, or to allow individuals access to engage with the stock market, such as Robinhood which offers free stock brokerage online, is democratizing access to financial markets, personal wealth management and financial education.

Online fitness is another changing landscape that I am particularly interested in. The explosion of high-end, boutique fitness studios has been all over the news, but this obsession is only catering to the 1% of Americans who can afford to use the facilities and that live in urban areas next to the studios. An interesting off-shoot of this culture, however, has been the push to move this idea of personalized fitness online to create classes and regimes that people can do anywhere in the world with limited to no equipment. Look at the incredible rise of Beachbody On Demand, not only are the results of the online workouts and meal plans staggering successful, but women and men who find themselves particularly adept at the program can become Beachbody instructors making a staggering six figures a year helping others to be healthy, all through the digitization of fitness and dieting.

What resources do you find most helpful to learn about new companies and ideas?

A few years ago, access to information about developing companies, innovative ideas and groundbreaking individuals was difficult to come by, that was one of the differentiators venture capitalists had, through their networks, they had priority exposure to industry intelligence. Now, almost the opposite effect has occurred, the excess of information is so severe that trying to dig through it all can be time consuming and frustrating. Below are some quick hit resources that I find most helpful:

1. Email digests are a great way to have a daily pulse check on the start-up community and industry highlights. TechCrunch andCrunchbase are good intro digests.

2. VC Firm’s have become quite prolific in their blog posts, social media posts, podcasts and newsletters. Some that you might want to check out are, a16z, nextview ventures, Revolution Ventures, Fred Wilson’s AVC.

3. Product Hunt is an amalgamation of the newest ideas and technology, over a range of industries, update daily.

4. Find what is specific to your industry or geography, for example, VentureFizz does a good covering of the Boston tech scene.

What do you see as the role of influencer investors in funding rounds?

There is an interesting new trend in the start up space of celebrities and social influencers investing in companies. Whether it is Ashton Kutcher’s A-Grade Investments, Jay-Z’s newly launched Arrive fund, or Gwyneth Paltrow doing one off investments, the plethora of venture activity from public figures has increased dramatically over the last decade. The visibility that these investors give to the companies is significant and can help a start up to gain earned media that promotes the product or service as well as can help it to acquire new users. Strategic influencer investors can be very accretive to businesses as they try to scale and grow.

Elizabeth Haviland (HBS ’18) is a member of the Digital Initiative Student Advisory Board. You can follow along with her next big thing here and here.