Once upon a time, in the formidable world of 6th-grade church basketball, there existed a team where I - ever so slightly towering and considerably more competitive - was the unspoken ace. Our team, an assortment of enthusiastic kids, bore a far-fetched resemblance to the Dream Team, but we held our own nonetheless. Every game, the ball found its way to my hands more often than not. I was the default shooter, the knight wielding the basketball sword, relentlessly charging at the enemy’s castle.
However, the scorecards and statistics have faded into oblivion. There’s no memory of the games where I single-handedly attempted to steer the ship. But what remained etched in the sands of time was a game that began just like any other but concluded on an extraordinary note.
That day, Coach Conlin, an individual of tremendous wisdom, decided to shift the tide. "Pass the ball more," he advised. I stood there, baffled and resisting. “But they're going to miss!” I protested. Coach Conlin simply smiled and said, "That's okay. be a team player."
Despite the reluctance churning within, I decided to trust his wisdom. I shelved my shooting instincts and switched to distribution mode. What followed was a spectacle like no other. In one specific drive, the ball was thrust back into my hands from the hoop time and time again, a bizarre ballet of repeated rebounds and countless chances. Each time, I passed it back, urging my teammates to take another shot.
In this frenzy, an unexpected revelation dawned upon me. The joy derived from rooting for my teammates, cheering them on, and watching the glow on their faces as they made a shot, surpassed the thrill of making a three-pointer myself. Yes, the adrenaline rush of shooting and scoring was exhilarating, but watching someone make a shot, who didn't anticipate they could - that was magic. It was the magic of giving someone else a chance and witnessing them thrive. And that magic, my friend, felt incomparably better.
Fast forward a few years, and the basketball court has been replaced by the expansive sea. I was a soldier in the Navy, a vessel in a massive fleet, merely obeying commands. Life was a series of orders; the game had turned into a mission. It was all so thrillingly simple until one day, the urge to break free, to become my own commander, started simmering within me.I traded my sailor’s hat for a student’s cap and set sail towards the shores of UC Berkeley, brimming with dreams of starting a business and basking in the glory of autonomy. But once I disembarked, I found myself an outsider in a new land, faced with the unknown, unfamiliar, and unexplored.
This landscape, filled with entrepreneurial possibilities, was simultaneously enticing and intimidating. It was a playground for innovation but only if you had the right keys - a startup network, local support, previous experience, and access to capital. Alas, my keychain was strikingly empty, and the locked treasure chests of resources lay tauntingly just out of reach. It was a monumental challenge that sent chills down the spine of my entrepreneurial spirit.
Navigating the labyrinth of resources at Berkeley was akin to traversing an intricate maze. It was clear that others, too, longed to explore the realm of entrepreneurship but were daunted by the lack of guidance and support. As I grappled with these difficulties, I found myself yearning to assist those around me, to help them unlock their potential. The true essence of being part of a community, a program, or a center is to fully exploit the available resources, to unlock every treasure chest you come across.
Yet, it was clear that the gatekeepers - the program leaders - were spread too thin. As I saw their struggle to manage their bandwidth, I felt a spark within me. That spark soon ignited into a flame, fueling a daring idea - to bridge the gap between aspiring entrepreneurs and the resources they needed.
With the spirit of an adventurer, I embarked on a quest, employing the fruits of my Naval service to finance the creation of Harness. Starting as a humble community platform to unite people for team-building and mentorship, it gained traction among the students of Berkeley and soon spread its wings to other institutions.
In time, the platform grew, and with it, so did my understanding of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. As I managed an entrepreneurship program and dabbled in venture capital, I saw the landscape from various vantage points. The more I saw, the more I realized the magnitude of missed opportunities. The question started to haunt me: How many potential innovators were left behind because they didn't get the resources they needed at the right time to take their shot?
The goal for Harness became clear - to eliminate those missed opportunities and empower people to take their shot. To achieve this, we had to innovate holistically. The system is a tapestry, a myriad of connected and interdependent threads. However, it remains largely manual and reliant on personal networks, inevitably leaving gaps.
Looking from a bird's eye view, the path forward for Harness is carved in three steps. Firstly, to support existing programs and centers with purpose-built tools to help leaders focus on mission-critical tasks. Secondly, to empower participants by providing tools that leverage the power of AI for learning, connecting, and growing their business ideas. Lastly, to engage corporations and investors, introducing them to aspiring entrepreneurs and opportunities they wouldn't have discovered otherwise.
At Harness, we believe in giving everyone a fair shot. We believe in the underdogs, the outsiders, the ones who dare to dream. We are here to cheer them on, to pass them the ball, and to see the glow on their faces when they make their shot.
Come join us, let's empower the next generation of innovators together.