Tuesday Sep 24, 2013 by Veronica Richter - Contributor, VentureFizz
Now that I’ve graduated and am exploring the startup/tech college scene in Boston, I’ve made it my mission to personally get to know each ecosystem I neglected as an undergrad: the culture, the people, anything and everything that could touch entrepreneurship and tech. I’m embarking on a tour of Boston colleges in search of everything cool and innovative, and recently, I made my first stop at MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship.
Established in 1990, the Center acts as a nucleus for entrepreneurship at MIT, connecting likeminded entrepreneurs and hustlers from all five schools within the college at both the graduate and undergraduate level. As I walked into the Center, I immediately recognized the buzzing creativity and enthusiasm I’ve grown accustomed to seeing at startup-populated shared working spaces around the Boston area, but with an MIT twist. The walls within the meeting room I visited acted as whiteboards filled with scribbles and the clock marked the time with mathematical equations. “Here, our buildings are numbered but our printers have names!” Kyle Judah, the Center’s Program Director, mentioned enthusiastically.
I spent my time at MIT discussing entrepreneurship with Kyle and quickly picked up on MIT’s flavor, which happens to align perfectly with their motto: “Mens et Manus” (mind and hand). The Martin Trust Center offers a mix of 40+ inter-disciplinary classes and extra curricular, hands-on startup experience. These classes are sometimes offered at the graduate level only, but are often open to grads and undergrads. This dynamic creates a unique environment of collaborations between schools, disciplines, and levels. “We just want to create an environment for students to collide and make crazy things,” Kyle explained.
While working at the Martin Trust Center, Kyle has the opportunity to help budding entrepreneurs blossom and watch their ideas become full-fledged products. Some of these are nothing short of science fiction, “And they’re building it here! It’s exciting and mind-blowing, it engages students and outsiders and encourages them to discover their passions,” he explained. Yet he acknowledges that taking an idea from thought to fruition is an arduous, mentally and emotionally exhausting process; the road to a product launch is filled with “unknown unknowns” for every entrepreneur. But at the Center, student entrepreneurs are surrounded by fellow founders maneuvering startup life along with their schoolwork. Together, they form peer cohorts that provide a strong support network for the times of uncertainty and unexpected chaos associated with building a company.
Though everything I’ve mentioned thus far sounds pretty cool, the most incredible thing (in my humble opinion) about the Center is its extensive and active network of alumni entrepreneurs. It offers mentorship resources, which range from mentors in various stages of startup development as well as access to “entrepreneurs in residence,” experts who have excelled at startups in various industries that advise students on their various ventures. According to Kyle, this network exists because so many amazing startups came out of the Center, recognized its impact, and decided to come back and pay it forward for the next generation of innovators.
Despite the specifics that give entrepreneurship at MIT its own distinct flavor, the excitement and passion I saw scribbled on the walls of the Center and heard in Kyle’s words was sweet and familiar. It’s that same palpable spark found throughout the startup/tech scene in Boston that brings us all together to help each other make amazing things. “Building the future of innovation here, at MIT, in Boston, that’s really important to us,” Kyle expressed before I left. Needless to say, I had a great time at MIT and I’m pumped to check out their student-run StartLabs and #hackingArts! I’ll admit that I’m starting out very MIT-heavy, but rest assured, I want to hang out at *your* school (I’m talking to you: Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern, Emerson, Babson, Boston College, Boston University, Bentley, Berklee…). So get ready, my tour has only just begun!