Wow! That’s Such a Cool Job!

Cool jobI have recently been catching up with colleagues from companies past, and when I let them know what I am doing now, I often get the reaction, “Wow! That’s such a cool job.” And it is … I’m fortunate to be the director of delta v, MIT’s student venture accelerator. Each year, we guide a new group of startups through “entrepreneurship boot camp” and help them to launch their startup ventures into the real world. This past summer, I worked with 21 startup teams as they were striving to either gain traction or make the tough decision to regroup. It was an amazing group of students with ideas that address real world problems.

But, I also thought I had a cool job at age 12 when I cleaned up after dogs at a kennel. I had a sense of purpose, got to fulfill a passion of mine by working with animals, and met some great people as well.

trish-cotter_real-estate-innovation_croppedThe organization I worked at most recently, prior to MIT, was IBM – a company that is trying to bring data analytics insights to companies, so they can address real world problems. The complexity of what both our MIT startups and IBM are doing, albeit in different ways, struck me. Are they so different? I have deep respect for IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, who is moving a company the size of a small nation. However, the leaders of the MIT three-person startups are also scaling difficult challenges and placing bets with tremendous odds of failure.

The Three Constants of a Cool Job

I started my career at Honeywell – a big company for sure, where many people (mostly men) took me under their wing as an apprentice in engineering. This laid the foundation for my career, and I learned skills that I call on to this day. Why did I work from 4 am to 4 pm shifts to test chemical baths? —because I loved the people I worked with, we were doing interesting work, and I had mentors who were willing to share their time with me. As my career went on, and I worked with smaller companies, I saw the same trend… great people, interesting work, and mentorship. This is when I started to spend time mentoring others.

New Challenges Every Day

demo day 2Is MIT any different than a corporation? The complexities of a university rival corporations, but the opportunity to be immersed in new technology brings me back to my days at Honeywell. Working with our startup teams, I feel like a first year engineer every day. The teams in delta v are addressing new science for medicine, solutions for water scarcity, addressing the lack of open spaces, and use of AI to improve workers skills to name a few. These students range from undergraduates through post-docs, from all engineering disciplines to business. It is the team that matters most in start-ups. After reminiscing with my colleagues from Honeywell, Computervision, Sun Microsystems, Stratus, Visual Networks, Netezza, and IBM it is also the teams and the challenges they overcame that they most fondly remember. We took on challenges together and broke down those challenges into manageable parts, then worked together to achieve a goal. The other key item was leadership. Great vision and a lot of latitude to solve the problem for customers (clients, suppliers, internal organizations) reflected on inspired leaders.

Comparing this to our student ventures, they are all focused on solving a customer problem or addressing a new market – the same thing all successful companies focus on. You solve those problems with a team approach—you don’t have all the answers, but you learn, assess the new information, and address the issues.

The Greatest Success comes from People

Are huge corporations and startups all that different?  Sure, they both have their challenges in infrastructure – which is sometimes a help and sometimes a hindrance. But, at the end of the day whether you are a 300,000-person company or a three-person company, the people in a company need each other. (Maybe you can hide in a corporation, but if you want to do satisfying work is that really working?)

At this point in my career I have seen big, medium, small, and now micro-small companies. All of them have their own struggles but the greatest success comes from people. My realization is that any job can be a really cool job, as long as you are working with people who will challenge you, lift you up, and inspire you to do your best.

This post was originally published on the MIT Sloan Experts blog at:  http://mitsloanexperts.mit.edu/wow-thats-such-a-cool-job-trish-cotter/

This video will give you a glimpse of what we do at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT.

MIT delta v 2017: Ready to Change the World!

demo day pic 2017Are you ready to be inspired? MIT’s student venture accelerator, delta v, revealed itself to the world at our 2017 Demo Day on September 9. It was a fantastic culmination to this year’s program and our students are ready change the world with their startup companies.

I want to thank the students, our speaker Shireen Yates from Nima, the staff at the Martin Trust Center, and our live and online audiences at Demo Day. I invite you to watch the video and view the entire program to see our entrepreneurs pitch their startups.

This year, delta v hosted the largest cohort to date with 21 teams.  In addition to bringing a wide range of skill sets to the program, our 2017 cohort was the most diverse in gender and ethnic background, and had a worldwide perspective with representation from many different countries. This had a tremendous benefit in terms of networking and the teams helping each other solve challenges, supporting the philosophy that diversity fuels innovation. The teams took their skills in science, technology, design, management, and entrepreneurship to tackle everything from fresh water scarcity, climate change, and different ways of producing energy to the opioid crisis, soaring healthcare costs and gender inequality in healthcare to global financial transparency – all big problems in need of innovative solutions.

At delta v, our goal isn’t to tell the students how to do things, our goal is to lead them to their own conclusions. We are looking for students with the “heart of an entrepreneur” who are looking to solve the world’s really hard problems. We give them the opportunity to fail and get feedback in a safe environment. Plus, they learn from each other. Our value add is to help guide students who are ready to positively impact the world.

demo day 2Here’s a brief overview of each startup that presented at Demo Day (in alphabetical order). Remember them. It’s likely you’ll be able to point back and say, “I saw them when they were just a startup at MIT…”

 

 

Alba

Focused on empowering women to achieve their goals, Alba is a care giving marketplace for parents in Latin America.

Biobot Analytics

Biobot’s mission is to equip cities with data to build healthier and safer communities. Biobot Analytics’ first application is generating a new type of data on the opioid epidemic. (See recent coverage of the team in Boston Magazine.)

Blockparty

Blockparty tackles food insecurity through fun, engaging cooking classes where young professionals can learn a new recipe while also providing meals to our neighbors in need.

Bloomer Health Tech

Bloomer Health Tech is transforming heart health and quality of life for women suffering from, or at risk of, heart disease. Bloomer delivers effortless and comfortable medical-grade sensors embedded in a woman’s bra to monitor multiple biomarkers using patent-pending advanced fabrics and algorithms.

Divaqua

Divaqua is committed to making water scarcity yesterday’s problem. They are developing and commercializing higher performing, safer, and more cost-effective technology to treat wastewater.

InfiniteCooling

Power plants, the US’ largest water consumer, use 139 billion gallons of fresh water every day, which amounts to 50% of total US freshwater withdrawals. Infinite Cooling captures water in evaporative cooling tanks and reintroduces it into a powerplant’s cooling cycle.

Klarity

Klarity’s vision is to provide widespread access to concise and trustworthy legal advice through intelligent technology using machine learning to reduce the time spent on contract review.

Mayflower Venues

Mayflower Venues enables customers to create one-of-a-kind weddings and events while helping preserve unique open spaces across New England.

Mesodyne

Mesodyne is bringing portable power to those who need it most. Its breakthrough technology enables ultra-portable, reliable, and affordable energy generation for the military and beyond.

Octant

Octant’s data curation platform uses deep learning to accelerate autonomous vehicle (AV) development. Equipped with Octant’s solution, innovators can spend less time collecting and managing data, and more time improving the future of mobility.

Pine Health

Pine Health helps patients follow through on doctor’s orders by using patient data to trigger conversations with an AI-augmented health coach.

ReviveMed

ReviveMed is a precision medicine platform that aims to improve people’s health by unlocking the value of metabolomics data, allowing the right therapeutics to be delivered to the right patients.

Roots Studio

Roots Studio is a for-profit social enterprise that curates, digitizes, and markets culturally iconic artwork from indigenous and isolated artists to a global marketplace.

Sigma Ratings

Sigma Ratings is the world’s first non-credit risk rating agency and helps companies more effectively and efficiently navigate increasing regulatory challenges.

Sophia

Sophia connects patients with the right therapists for them using a data-driven matching process, creating stronger therapeutic relationships.

TradeTrack

TradeTrack aims to improve personalized customer services in the fashion industry. Their solution increases brand loyalty and helps to improve customer retention.

W8X

W8X helps athletes to become their best and strongest selves with strength training equipment that adapts to their specific needs. Inspired by robotics, W8X has developed a weight lifting system that creates resistance electrically.
Waypoint

Waypoint uses augmented reality (AR) to help frontline workers rapidly capture, access, and scale expert knowledge.

The delta v teams also present to alumni and investors in New York City and San Francisco – quite the exciting month!

See more coverage of Demo Day in the MIT News and MIT Sloan Management newsroom.

demo day 1

Paris Reflections: Entrepreneurship Past, Present and Future

Paris reflectionsI recently had the incredible opportunity to deliver the keynote presentation at the Paris School of Business’ symposium on Entrepreneurial Research: Past, Present and Future. First, I’d like to again thank the school for this experience and my gracious host, Dr. Adnane Maalaoui, for introducing me to his students and giving this first-timer a glimpse of Paris.

I had promised to share what I learned at the symposium, and I will attempt to give you the highlights. I found that there is tremendous research being done by doctoral students who want to make an impact on entrepreneurship education as well as to share the work of the researchers who came before them. (Interestingly, entrepreneurship as a research field has only existed for the past 30 to 50 years.) The students at the Paris School of Business and affiliated universities in Europe provided a look into the future of entrepreneurship education during the symposium, and it is bright:

  • The educational ecosystems is vibrant with dedicated students and educators sharing and building on entrepreneurship research;
  • Students globally continue to be interested in entrepreneurship, but the ecosystem isn’t developed enough to deal with failure and risk in many regions;
  • It is important to remember that although at MIT we focus on innovation-driven entrepreneurship, there are entrepreneurs around the world creating small sustainable business that support families and change the lives of many (but are not necessarily innovation-driven);
  • Current cases taught to students could be updated to better reflect the changing entrepreneurial ecosystem;
  • Financing ventures continues to be a struggle particularly outside the USA;
  • Food and wine can be enhanced by rigorous debate, even in France;
  • The Eiffel Tower is even beautiful in the rain, as I learned from our final night with a dinner cruise on the Seine with students and faculty.

As an entrepreneur in a vibrant MIT ecosystem where we teach students through experience, it was inspirational to meet some of the global educators and Ph.D. students who are continually doing research that helps prepare entrepreneurs to make an impact in the world.

When I decided to pursue my doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, I had already been an entrepreneur and business executive, but I joined UPenn’s Chief Learning Officer program and focused on work-based learning and closing the 21st century skills gap – this led me to my current role at MIT which is all about creating a learning environment for entrepreneurs. The Ph.D. students and faculty I met in Paris are developing competencies in new venture development, resource management, micro, social and strategic entrepreneurship using analytics/statistics to evaluate interventions and outcomes based on those responses.  I was able to connect with so much of their research both on an academic and practical level.

Another exciting development for French entrepreneurship was the election of President Emanuel Macron on May 7, just before the start of the symposium.  President Macron ran on a platform to make France globally competitive and is enthusiastic about startups in France. Macron’s pro-technology and pro-entrepreneurship views are discussed in this  article and this TechCrunch interview  conducted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January Las Vegas, attended by 190 French startups (at the time, Macron was France’s Economy Minister). It will be interesting to watch how the French startup ecosystem progresses under this new president.

I’m also sharing some resources that may be of interest:

  • My presentation from the Symposium:

How Paris & Boston can learn from each other’s Entrepreneurship Communities,
by Trish Cotter

  • A presentation by Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship that also shares ideas on:

The Past, Present and Future of Entrepreneurship Education, by Bill Aulet

  • Great accounts to follow on Twitter:
    Paris School of Business @PSBeduParis, Grenoble Ecole de Management @Grenoble_EM, and Ecole de Commerce @EDCofficiel (The first is in in English, the second two are in French – but Twitter has a handy translate button.)

    Also, make sure you are following the Martin Trust Center at MIT … @EshipMIT !

In closing, I’ll share the words of Jean-Baptiste Say the French economist who first coined the word “entrepreneur” around the year 1800:

“The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.”

Bonne chance to all of our entrepreneurs!

 

Chasing Unicorns or Planting Trees?

Quote

unicorn12967178What does Entrepreneurial Success Look Like?  

In the business world, privately held companies valued at $1 billion or more are known as unicorns. Like unicorns, the billion-dollar startup was once only a myth. Now, all that has changed.

Fortune now publishes “The Unicorn List” that includes 174 unicorns. Uber tops the list, with Airbnb, Snapchat, and Pinterest also in the top 10. The Wall Street Journal also publishes a dynamic “Billion Dollar Startup Club” graphic that shows unicorns with their current value and region of origin – Uber’s current $68 billion valuation is by far the highest of the group.

Some rankings use just one criterion, such as venture capital funding to measure success. Although not necessarily the best measurement, it is an easy, publicly available figure, and there have certainly been unicorns that have failed. But, should valuation or the ability to raise money be the only measure of success?

What about the important success factors such as profitability, revenue, job creation, and even intangibles such as social good – giving back to the community or the world. The combination of these metrics provide a more holistic view to measure success.

MIT has been measuring entrepreneurial success for years, and our figures take into account job creation and revenues. According to our last update, companies founded by living MIT alumni have created 4.6 million jobs and generated nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues – that’s about the same as the GDP of the world’s 10th largest economy.

While the trajectory of the unicorns is impressive, a great number of unicorns aren’t profitable. Many startups and entrepreneurs have focused on “growth at all costs,” often operating at a loss to grab market share.  It’s not a surprise to learn that some unicorns are terrified when they have to think about profits for the first time.  (For more in-depth analysis, check out this blog post by well-known venture investor Bill Gurley.)

All of these issues are things that we think about deeply here at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. We certainly want the startups that we help launch to be successful, not just in venture capital raised or achieving unicorn status. More importantly, we want that success to be sustainable and we want the entrepreneurial skills that we impart to be deeply rooted.

Think about trees for a second. Yes, much less magical than unicorns, but a tree has deep roots, a solid foundation, and branches that grow over time. We believe that with the tools that we provide to our students: from the proven framework of courses; to state-of-the art facilities; to advisory services; to our own delta v student venture accelerator, we are planting the seeds to help that tree grow. Obviously, drive and passion are important characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, but we know that entrepreneurship can be taught with a systematic, disciplined approach.

In fact, learning solid entrepreneurial skills might be even more important than launching a successful first startup on your first shot.

How does MIT produce so many successful entrepreneurs? We believe it’s all about planting a tree, rather than chasing a unicorn.

 

We’re on Fire!

mittrustcenter2-bwMIT’s Martin Trust Center: Quietly Educating and Empowering Students to Positively Change the World

Our fantastic team at MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship was recently selected for a BostInno 50 on Fire” award recognizing innovative individuals and organizations in and around Boston!

We were excited to join BostInno’s year-end celebration, held at the Moakley Courthouse on the waterfront, which recognized the city’s inventors, disrupters, luminaries, and newsmakers. Over 800 nominations were submitted for the awards, which were culled down to a list of 150 finalists. From those finalists, 50 were selected by a panel of judges to claim the title of “50 on Fire.” Here’s a list of all the winners, and the finalists in the Education category – our kudos to BUILD, Panorama, and Shorelight Education, the other winners in our category.

When MIT’s Martin Trust Center was announced as a winner, a cheer rose up from our staff. It was a powerful reminder that while we celebrate our students all year round, once in a while we need to celebrate the staff for the time and effort they put into creating and executing innovative and thought-leading programming.  A quick overview for those of you unfamiliar with the Trust Center …

The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, as the name implies, fosters entrepreneurship at the Institute. It serves all students across all schools and disciplines.  At the Trust Center, we provide MIT students proven frameworks, a global network of experts and a dynamic home to develop their skills using our curriculum and programs. Our goal is to be entrepreneurial leaders by advancing the field of entrepreneurship at MIT and around the world.

In June, the center unveiled its remodeled and expanded co-working digs, which can better accommodate startups on campus, host larger events centered on entrepreneurship and has a new makerspace called Protoworks. The Trust Center is also home to “delta v,” MIT’s student venture accelerator. The accelerator provides a capstone educational opportunity for MIT student entrepreneurs preparing them to hit escape velocity and launch into the real world, culminating in the accelerator’s Demo Day.

Our team at the Trust Center includes: Bill Aulet, Alicia Carelli, Elaine Chen, Eliza Deland, Pat Fuligni, Sorin Grama, Donna Levin, Tommy Long, Leah Lovgren, Erin Martin, Nick Meyer, Laurie Stach, Marvin Wilma, Greg Wymer, and all those that have gone before us…. The center is a rotation of folks who bring fresh perspectives and raise the bar on our thinking.

We believe it is important to view entrepreneurship as a craft, and we provide apprentice-like experiences for our students. These students want to make a positive impact in the world, and we enable that through our innovative, well-executed programming, along with the community support that makes the Trust Center so special.  We don’t shed a spotlight on it too much, but once in a while it is nice to shine a light on a creative team that executes in a world-class manner…that is the Martin Trust Center, and I’m proud to be a part of it!  Entrepreneurship is a craft that can be taught. Want to see more? This video captures all the winners clowning around during the photo shoot. Thanks to BostInno for showcasing the innovative talent we have here in Boston!

P.S. I’d also like to give a shout out to friends of the Trust Center who were at the awards including Drift, Pill Pack, Melissa James, Coach Up, Paul English, and Katie Rae, just to name a few …

Celebrating Sisterhood at “The Stevies”

31136830665_7f234bfc57_o-2There is something empowering about being in a room with 650 women celebrating accomplishments …  I was recently nominated for a Stevie® Award, and attended the awards ceremony in New York City with my sister.  This got me to thinking about sisterhood in the broader sense, and how much we all have to be thankful for.

I was honored to receive a Gold Stevie award for the “Mentor of the Year” category at a non-profit organization. At MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, I work with an amazing team that makes going to work every day a pleasure. As a mentor and lecturer it is a privilege to work with students at MIT from around the world on projects and companies that are making a positive impact in the world.  Given the state of the world today, working with such a bright and talented group of entrepreneurs makes me hopeful for the future, and is something I wish everyone could experience.

Although I have been previously honored in my career as a corporate executive, my role at MIT is still relatively new, so recognition that I am on the right track was significant to me.  One of the comments in the judges’ feedback was especially meaningful, because it seemed to capture why I chose this role:

“Trish Cotter is a testament to the spirit of ‘paying it forward.’ Instead of continuing an impressive career as an entrepreneur, she decided to change course and share her knowledge, passion and drive for entrepreneurship with the blossoming business women and men of today. She takes a hands-on approach to help these young entrepreneurs succeed, and is with them every step of the way. We all got our start by someone giving us a chance, Trish is an exemplary pillar of that message.”

The Stevie Awards are the world’s premier business awards. They were created in 2002 to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals worldwide. More than 1,400 nominations were submitted for this year’s awards from 31 nations and territories. This celebration was streamed across the world, and was also shared in person with family and friends.

At our table, my fellow honorees included Jenny Feing (Coach Training School), Shannon Beurk (Founder Engage2Learn), and Melinda Durkee (Proforma Durkee), and each brought family and friends to share their evening.  I’d also like to send a shout out to Steph Speirs from Solstice (a company from the MIT delta v accelerator), who was a finalist as Female Executive of the Year for her community solar company.

In this season of gratefulness and giving, I’d like to thank all of those who have helped me along the way. As a mentor and coach, I hope I am doing my best to pay it forward and give others a chance.

P.S. What could be better to experience the Stevies, and then see the unveiling of the Christmas windows at Macy’s?!  A true evening of sisterhood, accomplishment, empowerment, and hope for the future!

 

It’s a Wrap: MIT’s Educational Accelerator Demo Day 2016!

mit-gfsa-demo-16

Congratulations to all of the teams that presented at our Educational Accelerator Demo Day! We kicked off MIT’s campus-wide t=0 celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation, which will continue through September 18.

If you couldn’t join us, this post gives a quick recap; and you can catch all of the presentations on video as well. For an overview of the companies presented, check out this BostonInno article – “These are the 17 Startups MIT Kept Hush-Hush this Summer.”

First of all, in my last post I had let you know that our Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA) would be changing its name. We are now MIT’s delta v accelerator.  Why the name change? The derivative of velocity is acceleration!  Hence, the MIT Acceleration Program delta v.

delta v literally means a change in velocity, and we believe this truly captures what happens to these students when they join us for MIT’s accelerator program.

The delta v Demo Day is focused on MIT students, and students filled the auditorium and were even sitting in the aisles. Our Managing Director Bill Aulet kicked of the program and explained how these startups have reached “escape velocity” and have been “kicked out of the house” so to speak.

Bill was followed by keynote speaker Dharmesh Shah, the CTO of HubSpot and an MIT grad. He talked about increasing the success for these student startups – how to get started, why you should avoid stealth mode, why speed matters, how to find a co-founder, attract amazing people, and give yourself crazy ambitious goals. He tells students to take advantage of all your classes to hone your skills… and he says he has never heard of a single entrepreneur who regrets taking a shot at a startup (even if it failed).

Governor Charlie Baker also joined us at Demo Day, and spoke about the amount of wizardry that comes out of MIT and the staggering contribution that MIT has made to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the country and the world.

It was then on to the student presentations. Fourteen startups made it through to Demo Day, and their company ideas covered topics from mental health to virtual reality.  We saw compelling videos from farmers whose lives have been changed because of MIT students, transportation in Rwanda and Mexico that will reduce costs for carriers, a way to make freight transportation more efficient and increase the income of truck drivers, and several ways to improve the environment.  We learned about innovations could change the lives of families dealing with cancer treatment and students in Africa.

Interested in learning more? Check out the companies that presented. They are listed below, in alphabetical order, along with links to their websites.  And, if you have a bit more time, check out the teams presenting in our Demo Day video recording.

Alfie
Armoire
Deepstream
dot Learn
Emerald
Factory Shop
FleteYa
Hive Maritime
kiron
Kumwe Logistics
Lean on Me
Leuko Labs
perch
Rendever
ricult
Solstice Initiative

I think everyone who attended Demo Day was inspired and impressed by the power of entrepreneurship at MIT. Now, we’re onward and upward, with t=0 this week with a full schedule of activities every day. Later this month, the delta v teams will be heading to New York City and San Francisco to meet with alumni and investors.

We hope you are inspired too!

Join us September 9th for MIT’s Educational Accelerator Demo Day!

demo-day-banner

I’m wrapping up “boot camp” with this year’s MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA) cohort this week, and wanted to let you know about our Educational Accelerator Demo Day on September 9th! As Associate Director of the Martin Trust Center and the Director of the GFSA program, it’s been an amazing summer for me, helping to shape our teams of entrepreneurs and guiding them as they prepare to present their companies.

Sign up Now

On Demo Day, each of the groups that have been working in the accelerator will reveal their company to a live audience. This event is free and open to the public – just register here and then join us at MIT Kresge Auditorium; the program runs from 4 – 7 pm, and Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of HubSpot will be our keynote speaker.

Demo Day is the culmination of three months of intensive work and focus by our student teams in the educational accelerator. It’s the first chance to present their world-changing products and services to an audience of MIT students, mentors, friends, investors, and potential customers.

Who are this year’s Entrepreneurs?

Our 2016 cohort is bigger than last year with 86 entrepreneurs on 17 teams. We can’t reveal the companies or their concepts until September 9th, but innovative ideas will be presented by the fantastic teams – in vertical industries from healthcare to energy to logistics. To give you an idea of what Demo Day involves, here’s a round-up of inspiring startups from Demo Day in prior years.

As the premier university student accelerator in the world, the MIT GFSA provides a capstone educational opportunity for MIT student entrepreneurs and prepares them to hit “escape velocity” and launch their companies into the real world. We hope you can join us for this amazing event.

We’re Live Streaming too!

Can’t be there live? You can still watch the live stream. (Visit now and mark your calendar.)

After the Boston event, we’re on to New York on September 15 and San Francisco on September 22 to present Demo Day in those cities as well.

 

P.S. We’ll also be announcing a name change for the GFSA program at Demo Day … stay tuned.

Some of the Best Academic Accelerator Programs in the U.S.

In my role as Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT and Program Director for MIT’s Global Founders’ Skill Accelerator (GFSA), I’ve been researching accelerator programs worldwide, and I thought I’d share some of that research in a series of blog posts. This is the third post in the series; read the other posts starting here.

 MITThe accelerator community in the U.S. can be broadly divided into two segments: The accelerators owned by university campuses and the independent accelerator programs. Educational accelerators, driven by universities, bring unique capabilities and access to talent.

In my work with MIT, I’ve observed a very ambitious group that was also very aligned with the MIT community culture, which supports the teams through its educational process and ecosystem.

Naturally, I’ll start with MIT, but also highlight other excellent accelerator programs.

The Martin Trust Center at MIT has played a pivotal role in fostering a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship among the student community. According to reported estimates at the end of 2014, 30,200 active companies were founded by living MIT alumni—employing 4.6 million people and generating annual world revenues of nearly $2 trillion. These MIT alumni startups collectively represent the 10th largest economy in the world (you can get even more stats here).

The Martin Trust Center offers a series of entrepreneurship courses for undergraduates and graduate students, hardware infrastructure, collaborative workspace, meeting rooms, videoconference system, and even coffee and snacks to inspire young innovators. The advisory panel boasting the brightest minds in the industry is available to provide guidance; while the MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (MIT GFSA) and events like Speaker Series’, Roundtable sessions, or MIT $100K competition are additional facilities to boost entrepreneurship around the campus.

The Harvard Rock Accelerator Program serves both student entrepreneurs and student investors who work together to grow and sustain a startup operation. This one-year long program offers 10-20 founding teams with each funding $8,000 in seed capital, excellent mentors, and peer exchange sessions till completion.

Stanford’s StartX Accelerator Program helps Stanford’s top entrepreneurs through a combination of empirical studies and collaborative expertise. This unique accelerator program does not charge any fee and takes zero equity from student companies. This program has managed to attract funds from leading investors like Greylock Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, boasts over 200 mentors who are field experts—including individuals from Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and other luminaries in Silicon Valley, delivers custom education, and offers the latest technological resources.

The Babson College Butler Venture Accelerator Program has packed in seed-funding, advising, workspace, mentoring, and even self-assessments and peer support in a highly focused program. Additionally, this program includes the Glavin Office of Multicultural & International Education, where immigration attorneys offer work authorization guidelines to international students with restrictive visas.

In 6 college startup programs beyond Harvard and MIT, Beta Boston provides a roundup of some serious accelerator-program owners beyond the likes of MIT and Harvard, who offer strong accelerator programs in Massachusetts.

Does your college or university offer an accelerator program? How do you think it stacks up? Let me know below under “Leave a Reply.”

If you want to read my next post in this series check back here on my blog or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Colleges and T-Shaped Training: Build it and They Will Learn?

Though the idea of T-shaped management is gaining traction on American campuses, there are some important roadblocks along the way. Some of those roadblocks are ivy covered. In some ways, the relationship between colleges and major tech corporations is beginning to look a bit like ju jitsu. Ju jitsu, roughly translated, means that when you get pushed, pull, and when you get pulled, push.

fieldofdreamscorn-400In principle, most business colleges clearly want better partnerships with major corporations. Most colleges accept the importance of using business analytics, T-shaping their students, and embrace change when it comes to education, at least in concept. In reality, however, change seems to move at a glacial pace in the halls of higher learning.

In 2011, the president of New York University observed that monumental change in America was something “people love to talk about,” while also referring to universities as islands of stability in that sea of change: “(W)e should not lose sight of the fact that, of the 80 institutions that existed 500 years ago and still do, 75 are universities.”

And while NYU’s president praised university longevity, he also said that academia continued to do some things badly, in the same old way, over and over again. Specifically, he noted universities still hadn’t come to grips with T-shaping their learning: “One thing the proprietary institutions do that is not a good thing is delivering an ‘I-shaped’ education (depth in one area) as opposed to a ‘T-shaped’ education (broad learning, with depth in one area).”

Academic resistance to T-shaped training often seems to be over matters of control, and fears about giving it up. It is true that the enormous potential influence of corporate technology giants, who are donating massive sums of money and expecting nothing less than drastic changes in what universities teach, cannot be overlooked.

The “Gates Effect”

While Bill and Melinda Gates are not the only major influence on university reforms, they are big enough to have a gravitational effect. In the context of their almost $500 million in donations to universities, this is to be expected. In a July, 2013 article, The Chronicle of Higher Education (which has also received Gates Foundation support) noted that the bulk of these donations (over $300 million) have come in since 2008. That’s a lot of money. And a lot of influence.

One example of how the Gates Effect is transforming the future of college education is seen in a sprawling ConAgra plant in Troy, Ohio. Employees there are participating in an Gates-funded program that awards college credits — not for conventional course work — but for mastering “core competencies.”

Working through the University of Southern New Hampshire and taking online course work, students are assessed in such areas as “logic, reasoning, and analysis,” which help the student solve real-world business problems.

Everyone seems to like the potential of this approach: except for entrenched college executives.

“Build it and they will learn”

In the movie Field of Dreams, the apparently crazy idea of turning a cornfield into a baseball field is justified based on the mantra, “Build it, and they will come.” The threat to American competitiveness, in terms of highly desirable T-shaped employee skills, is that there is a whole lot of T-building going on — elsewhere in the world. Until recently, Poland’s national education system was widely perceived as falling apart, regarded as suitable only for low-trained, low-tech, and low-paying jobs. This view changed with the successful adoption of innovative T-shaped education strategies there.

Interestingly enough, critics of the Gates approach have claimed the Gates Foundation is approaching the “problem” as something that “engineering” can measure (through technical algorithms) and fix . Yet the Gates Foundation seems to be hewing very closely to the Polish model of making T-shaped students. We know through example that it works. Confusing the necessity for a better, T-shaped core curriculum with the need to accurately measure that curriculum is confusing cause and effect.

The lesson for America from Poland is the benefit of every college developing a core curriculum that leverages that specific institution’s unique offerings in such a way to develop T-shaped skills. The shift from a traditional, “I” shaped curriculum to a T-shaped one is very much in evidence in what the Gates Foundation has done with the Southern University of New Hampshire. Whether crossing that “I” to get a “T” will happen in the next decade or not may rest on the influence of a new era of outside-the-box, dotcom entrepreneurs. Will it be enough for the U.S. to compete globally? Or will it be too little, too late? We shall see.