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Should You Apply to Catapult Incubator as a High Schooler?

If you have an interest in entrepreneurship and business management, and especially if you dream of starting your own business, then incubator programs can be a solid option to invest your time in. Incubators provide a realistic experience of the startup hustle, giving you an opportunity to bring your business idea to life and understand the challenges faced by any entrepreneur. Programs like Catapult Incubator, the subject of today’s blog post, can not only provide a practical education but also add a unique element to your college application by demonstrating initiative, creativity, and leadership.


What is Catapult Incubator?

Catapult Incubator is a specialized, 5-week incubator program designed to foster young entrepreneurs by helping them turn their startup ideas into reality. 


It’s an intense, hands-on experience where you will get to learn directly from seasoned entrepreneurs and be exposed to the rigors and excitement of startup culture. You will experience everything from developing your startup idea, to ideation, prototyping, iterating, selling and pitching. 


The program is structured to accommodate high school students of all grades and includes both founders with startup ideas and those interested in joining a startup team. Throughout the five weeks and the four locations where you will experience it, you can expect a comprehensive entrepreneurship education, mentorship from industry leaders, and a collaborative environment conducive to learning and innovation.


How is it structured?

The Catapult Incubator spans six stages and four locations, in addition to remote preparation periods and a “Demo Day” pitching experience. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you will experience:

  • Remote Prep (June 1-21): The initial phase of the incubator, where you spend your time in remote workshops, seminars and lessons to learn the fundamental skills and mindsets required for entrepreneurship. You’ll get to learn directly from hand-picked industry advisors with diverse and vast experience across different levels and industries.

  • Santa Barbara (June 25-28): The discovery, ideation and team formulation phase of Catapult. You’ll be pairing up with other equally passionate peers, brainstorming together, and finally forming a team once you have the kernels of a plan in mind.

  • Silicon Valley (June 28-29) and San Francisco (June 29 - July 1): In this phase, you’ll be doing the groundwork of bringing your business idea to life. You’ll ideate, and then start prototyping a minimum viable product while conversing with customers to understand their requirements and accordingly iterate on it.

  • Remote Engagement (July 5-17): Now that your MVP is in place, you’ll be doing a lot of testing and iteration as you attempt to sell your product or service to real customers.

  • NYC Demo Day Week (July 18-23): Once you’ve attained the full experience of taking your idea from inception to sale, you’ll be invited to New York for a full investment pitch experience called “Demo Day” on 22nd July. This is the culmination of five weeks of effort, where you will pitch your business idea with a complete strategy, financials and outlook to one of the industry-expert judges to compete for victory and possibly even funding.


Is it prestigious?

While Catapult Incubator is an expensive program that naturally limits its intake, it is still a moderately prestigious opportunity. It was the birthplace of startups like mXers Audio, Emoji Health, and Maidbot, and alumni of the program have successfully launched numerous ventures, with some securing significant funding and others gaining admission to top universities based on their entrepreneurial experiences. It has advisors from numerous startups and organizations weighing in and providing you exposure and insights that are hard to find elsewhere.


Who is eligible for Catapult Incubator and how do you apply?

To apply for Catapult, all you need to be is a high school student (from freshman to graduating senior) and have a strong desire to learn, improve, and grow a startup. No prior experience is required, all you need is a strong interest in entrepreneurship, teamwork skills, and a problem-solving mindset.


Application is completely online.


How much does the Catapult Incubator cost?

The 2020 iteration of the program charged $4,000 for tuition, and another $4,500 for rooms, meals, activities and local transportation. You can either pay $7,950 up front or $2,125 / month for 4 months.


Limited financial aid is available. Their needs-based scholarships and merit-based tuition awards provide aid up to $1,000 per batch, and a full-ride scholarship called The Laurel Award is available for a single qualifying female applicant. Beyond that, Catapult recommends various methods of securing funding such as crowdfunding, local scholarships, and scholarship recommendations.


Pros and Cons to consider

Pros:


  1. An intense, real-world experience: Catapult provides you direct exposure to the startup ecosystem and practical entrepreneurial skills in an intense, competitive environment. There’s no better way to learn than by doing, and this applies triply so to entrepreneurship.

  2. Great networking opportunities: Throughout the five weeks of lectures, seminars, brainstorming, and of course final pitches, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to connect with industry experts, potential investors, and like-minded peers.

  3. Decent geographic exposure: By spreading the sessions across Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and New York City, Catapult ensures that you are exposed to the startup world in some of the most important cities in the country and receive guidance from a variety of experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders.


Cons:


  1. It is extremely expensive: At nearly $8,000, Catapult is one of the most expensive incubators in the country. Even though financial aid is technically available, it is still highly limited with respect to the cost of the program.

  2. There’s no guaranteed award: There’s no guaranteed prize at the end of it. Whether you’ll get funding or not, or to what extent, is entirely dependent on the nature of your submission and its assessment.


Our review

The Catapult Incubator offers a unique opportunity for high school students to dive deep into the world of startups and entrepreneurship. While it is incredibly expensive, it’s a good fit if you’re eager to step into entrepreneurship and eager to learn the practical ways of establishing your own business. By participating, you not only gain real business skills but also enhance your college applications and lay a strong foundation for future entrepreneurial endeavors. If these aspects resonate with you and you can afford the steep tuition, Catapult Incubator could very well be your next big step towards a successful career in business.



Young Founders Lab

If you’re looking for an incubator program that helps you establish a developed startup in high school, consider the Young Founders Lab! 

The Young Founders Lab is a real-world start-up bootcamp founded and run by Harvard entrepreneurs. In this program, you will work towards building a revenue-generating start-up that addresses a real-world problem. You will also have the opportunity to be mentored by established entrepreneurs and professionals from Google, Microsoft, and X. 

You can access the application link here!



One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in business or related fields, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


Image Source: Catapult Incubator logo

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