ODF Labs

Apply your research to real world problems

ODF Labs is a track within the On Deck Founder program for doctoral candidates (ABD), researchers, post-docs and assistant professors who want to build off their research & expertise to start a company.

Transition from academia to entrepreneurship

Explore ideas, meet collaborators, and gain conviction on a venture. You can join while working, finishing your research, or taking an academic sabbatical but if you want to leave your job, we'll support you with $25,000.

After exploring, if you're ready to build, we'll fund you through ODX.

Leverage a diverse set of practitioners and thinkers to validate your ideas

A community of world-class founders, operators, and investors

Sector-specific frameworks and knowledge

$25,000 to cover personal runway (if needed)

Modules to move you from academia to entrepreneurship

Leverage On Deck’s sector networks across deeptech, climate tech, longevity, biotech, health, and more.

Here's how it works

The process

Apply, explore ideas, and get access to ODX and a $125k check when you're ready to build.

Apply to the program

We review applications on a rolling basis, but the sooner you apply the better your chances. We accept applications across all academic disciplines.

Join our curated community

Our program begins in April, 2022. You’ll get access to all of the On Deck network and we’ll help you go from “curious” to “co-founder”.

Experience our signature onboarding

Form meaningful connections with hundreds of curated builders from day 1. By joining ODF Labs, you’ll have access to distinct modules designed to bring your research from the lab to the real world. 

Continue exploring or commit

Explore markets, validate ideas based on your research, and find a co-founder through our programming. You can join ODX when you want to commit full-time or stay at your university until you are ready to make the switch (for up to 12 months).

Draw up to $25,000 to cover living expenses

If you need to cover living expenses while you explore, you can draw up to $25,000 from our Access Initiative via ODF Advance. If you build conviction to start a company, the $25,000 converts to 1% equity, and we'll invest another $125,000 via ODX. If you don't, we only ask you to pay it forward to the next founder by contributing back to the Access Initiative.

Learn more about ODF Advance

If you’re ready to build, we’re ready to back you

We believe in you and your ideas. When you join, we commit to this handshake deal: if you start a company within the next year, you'll join ODX, and we'll invest on our standard terms of $125,000 for 7%.

On Deck Fund

Apply to ODF Labs

We've helped hundreds of people become founders. If you’re thinking about starting a startup, apply here.
Apply Now


Who is this for?

ODF Labs is for doctoral candidates (ABD), researchers, post-docs and assistant professors who are looking to explore ideas and are in a position to work on this full-time within 12 months.

What does it cost?

There is no upfront cash cost to participate in ODF. When you join the community, we commit to this handshake deal via a Memorandum of Understanding: if you start a company within the next year, you'll join ODX, and we'll invest on our standard terms of $125,000 for 7%. There's no penalty or cost if you decide not to. Put another way: by joining ODF, you’ve already gotten your first firm investment commitment, even if you’re pre-traction, pre-team, or pre-idea.

What is the time commitment?

ODF Labs follows the ODF schedule. How much time you invest is largely up to you. For your first month, we recommend spending at least 4 hours per week attending onboarding sessions and getting to know your cohort. After that, ODF is flexible. Some weeks you may want to spend 20 hours taking calls with fellows or attending sessions. Other weeks you may choose not to do anything. Many ODF fellows are working around families and jobs, and we fully support and respect these commitments.

When are applications reviewed?

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. There is no cutoff date, and if accepted, you will join the upcoming cohort. New ones kick off quarterly.

Can colleagues from my university join as well?

Yes and no. Due to our Confidentiality Guiding Value, we limit our support to Founders who have been accepted in ODF. Therefore, your colleagues can individually apply to ODF and join if accepted.

What is the difference between ODF and ODF Labs?

ODF Labs is a track within ODF. If accepted, you will be officially in ODF, but will have access to sessions, resources and a micro community specifically focused on academia and research.

Is ODF virtual or IRL?

ODF is “local first, global always”. We want founders to meet in person, but take their relationships with them wherever they go. For ODF17, we strongly encourage all founders to join the 3-day kickoff summit in San Francisco. After that, all programming will be remote-friendly (though there will be some IRL-only opportunities in San Francisco, New York, and other tech hubs).

Can people from outside the US join ODR?

Absolutely! We believe that talent is distributed evenly around the world, and a big part our mission for ODF is to elevate and support founders outside of Silicon Valley. We accept applicants from anywhere in the world.

What happens if I decide to start a company?

On Deck commits to backing you earlier than anyone else. If you decide to start a company and build full-time, you'll be automatically given a seat in ODX. ODX support you with $125,000 and an intimate 12-week program, an All Access Pass to On Deck for you to hire talent, raise money and find customers, plus a dedicated Build Partner who will work with you hands-on to hit your next milestones and raise your next round of capital. You can learn more about ODX here.

What happens if I don’t start a company?

Sometimes, the conclusion of your exploration in ODF is that you’re not ready to start a venture-scale business. That’s completely fine! We want all members of the community to make the decisions that are right for them. If you leave ODF without starting a company, there’s no penalty and no cost. You also get to remain a member of the community as an alum, and we can help you as you transition towards the next exciting phase of your career.

Will anyone else know that I joined?

Participation is held in strict confidence. Even if you’re happy to share, you are requested to respect the privacy of other members who aren’t ready to make their plans public.

At what stage in my ideation should I be looking to join ODF? 

ODF is for founders who are not ready to start building or don’t have conviction yet. If you need help developing an idea, finding a co-founder or timing prevents you from being ready to work on a company full time, ODF is the right program for you. Once you have an idea and are ready to build, we will fund you through ODX.

What academic disciplines are a good fit for this program? 

The program is a good fit for all individuals looking to translate their research into a scalable business, whether you’ve focussed on natural sciences, humanities, technology or so on. If you have a unique set of insights, network, or expertise that you’ve developed through your research and you’d like to explore building a startup, then this is the program for you.