Activate FAQ

Do you take any equity in the projects?
No. Activate is a fellowship program that supports people, first and foremost. We have a nonprofit mission to help you find the optimal path for your project to go to market, regardless of the specific business model. That said, many of our innovators find other ways to give back to the hard tech community.

What are your selection criteria? 
Our primary selection filter will be based on your individual strengths as a potential Activate Fellow. We are looking for entrepreneurial technical leaders who have the drive and ability to build a transformative technology and lead a team in its development. We also work to ensure that the initial project concept is technically sound, reasonably differentiated, and addresses a well-framed problem with potential for significant long-term impact on our Activate Areas and the missions of our fellowship sponsors. Read more about our criteria here.

Do I/we have to be incorporated to apply?  
Applicants are not required to have an incorporated entity in order to apply; however, selected participants will be required to establish an appropriate legal entity for their project if selected to receive support from the program.

What happens if I have a co-founder that is not eligible for the fellowship?
We have supported many projects for which one of more co-founder was not eligible. We understand it’s important for co-founders to stay aligned and mutually supported, and they are included in several Activate community events. In addition, your co-founder(s) and early employees can also work on-site at the host facility to further your project, pending access is granted from the facility.

I’m not sure if my project fits into one of the Activate Areas, should I apply?

We generally recommend that all individuals who meet the eligibility criteria and who are interested in the Activate Fellowship submit an application. We look for projects that have potential for impact in one or more Activate Areas when taking a long term view of potential market sectors or social impacts of the proposed technology. During the later stages of the application process, we will ask for additional information to assess your project’s impact potential and mission fit with our fellowship sponsors.

When does the fellowship begin? What are the expectations over the first few months?
Applicants will be selected as Activate Fellows in early to mid-March and quickly begin the onboarding process for a successful start to the fellowship. We expect all fellows to begin their two-year appointments by June 1, 2020. Fellows are also required to attend the fellowship kickoff retreat, to be held in early summer, 2020.

What if I ultimately decide that a startup is not right for me or my technology? 
That's ok. We believe that housing your effort within an incorporated entity provides the best structure to support you as an entrepreneurial innovator. That said, our goal from day one is to support you in finding the best path to drive your technology concept toward impact in the marketplace. That can take many forms, from high-growth venture to licensing or early acquisition. Or you may realize that the idea has a fatal flaw you didn't expect. In any case, our primary goal is your personal success and with it the impact of your idea, regardless of the form that takes.

Can I participate in the fellowship part-time? 
Fellows are expected to be working on their proposed project full time. As such, you will have to give up any other primary employment in order to become an Activate fellow. This does not mean that you are not allowed to work on your project using grants or other sources of funding. In fact, we actively help and encourage fellows to apply for grants, including SBIR/STTR, and raise private capital.

Do I have to move to the host city (Berkeley, CA or Boston, MA)? 
You do not necessarily need to move to the site of fellowship, but we do expect the substantive work related to your project will be done at the site, and fellows are expected to be present at most of the program’s weekly network events.

Some of my team is based outside of the host city, do they also need to move?
No. As long as the cohort participant is substantively in residence at the host laboratory, they can continue to work with collaborators elsewhere.

What if I am already affiliated with the partner lab (Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley or Lincoln Lab/MIT)?
Anyone meeting the stated eligibility requirements is eligible to participate and encouraged to apply. That said, applicants are required to disclose if a host lab has any financial interest in the applicant’s background IP or company so that potential conflict-of-interest issues can be identified and managed appropriately. 

What may limit my access to partner laboratories?

Generally, most applicants are able to access our partner laboratories in a timely manner through our normal onboarding process. However, citizenship status can sometimes impact access to our partner laboratories. In particular:

  • Applicants who are citizens of—or were born in—T4 countries (Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria) need DOE permission to work at Berkeley Lab, a process which can take 6 months or longer to obtain with no guarantee of approval. 

  • Applicants planning to work at MIT Lincoln Laboratory will be subject to a pre-employment background investigation and must be able to obtain and maintain a Secret level DoD security clearance, which requires US citizenship. Note: While only U.S. citizens are able to work onsite at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, we are building additional partnerships to support otherwise eligible fellows in Boston across all of our Activate Areas.

Will my applications materials be kept confidential? 
Your application will be reviewed by scientific and industry experts from Activate’s network. Based on summary application information, potential reviewers will be asked to recuse themselves from accessing any application that may pose a potential conflict of interest, and any selected reviewers will commit to not disclosing information outside of the formal selection process. We will not share application materials outside of the review process without your express permission. While we encourage you to be as open as possible in your application, we would advise against including any critically sensitive proprietary details. Finally, remember to mark all pages of your application with the footer “Confidential and Proprietary – Exempt from Disclosure.”

Where can I address other questions I have about the fellowship? 
Glad you asked. Here’s more information.