At i-Lab, Business Students Create Guides to Life’s Biggest Transitions

A group of Harvard Business School students has set out to help people navigate life transitions through LifeGuides.me, a collection of free online courses that allow students to learn from the experiences of mentors who have already been through similar challenges.

“We all have goals,” course mentor and Business School student Xiao Wang said. “The problem is that those goals tend to be very aspirational and very far away. That’s where Life Guides plays a role.”

To make their idea a reality, Life Guides founders and Business School students Phillip M. Strazzulla, Mohit Rajani, and Nicholas R. Christman joined the Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program this semester. Earlier this year, they also began to bring together mentors who had been through significant life experiences and were willing to reflect on them.

Mentors design courses that guide users through challenges such as applying to business school, transitioning from military to civilian life, and successfully navigating a long-distance relationship. The site gets about 50 hits per day, half of which are repeat visitors, Rajani said.

Strazzulla said that the idea for the site came from an undergraduate summer internship at a financial firm that he did not enjoy. Mid-summer, he wrote a letter to remind himself of his unhappiness—that note later helped him overcome pressures to return to the lucrative job.

“Two minutes writing that memo saved two years of my life working at a job that I would not love,” Strazzulla said, noting that past experience allowed him to make the right life decision in this case. Life Guides seeks to provide access to mentors with these experiences to share, he said.

According to Wang, who is a mentor for a personal fitness course, Life Guides facilitates a change in mindset by giving individuals an “initial set of guideposts” to move them in the direction of their goals.

After pitching their idea to a group of entrepreneurs, Life Guides was accepted this semester into the Venture Incubation Program, in which teams share their ideas and get feedback from industry specialists and experts. Teams also receive a mentor for long-term guidance beyond the 12-week program.

“Many new entrepreneurs do not appreciate the number of things they have to juggle and how frequently they are out of their zone of expertise,” Patrick A. Kinsel, an entrepreneur and Life Guides mentor, said. “For that reason, the i-lab is hugely important because the speakers, panels, and other teams help each other work through issues so much more quickly than they could on their own.”

Looking forward, Rajani said that the Life Guides team hopes to provide a course for “every possible problem that you could face”—hundreds of courses, each with dozens of mentors.

Kinsel noted that the biggest challenge in the near future will be getting enough qualified mentors together to create effective, high-quality courses. “They will excel at really understanding the motivation behind people sharing their experiences,” he said. “It is a durable process once you get it going but hard to get off the ground.”

Strazzulla said that the mentorship and resources provided by the i-lab were instrumental in overcoming the hurdles faced by the entrepreneurial endeavor and will continue to ensure that Life Guides can improve the lives of thousands of users.

“If you had someone’s actual life experience in your back pocket, you could save yourself time, money, and stress,” he said.

–Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at karl.aspelund@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

—Staff writer Marco J. Barber Grossi can be reached at mbarbergrossi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @marco_jbg.

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