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The Silver Lining (continued)

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THE RIGHT PEOPLE

American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once stated that teamwork “is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

“Right now, you have all these terrific people who are available to get together and start a company,” says Tim Rowe, MBA '95, co-founder and CEO of the Cambridge Innovation Center, a flexible office space facility in Kendall Square that houses 200 small companies on 10 floors. “Funding without the right people won't get you anywhere, and you can't do anything without the right people around you.”

With the U.S. unemployment figures continuing to rise, with a high of 9.5 percent as of July 1, there are more of the “right people” available than there have been in over 20 years—and some will clearly choose to start their own ventures, or to work within them. Today's labor supply is strong as a result of corporate and organizational layoffs as well as buyouts taken by “bright, capable people,” according to Dingee.

“This is an excellent time,” agrees Williams. “There are a lot more people available who do not require huge resources. I know a fellow who started a company in 2002 who was able to get people to work for him for almost two years without any cash payments. They were getting paid in stock. Now another friend is starting a company, and it is amazing the number of talented people he has been able to tap.”

NECESSARY RESOURCES

Few places, if any, can rival the cultivation and entrepreneurial output of a place like MIT—and few know more about this than Roberts.

A serial entrepreneur, Roberts holds four degrees from the Institute. He was a driving force behind the MIT $100K Competition, the MIT Entrepreneurship Center (E-Center), the Entrepreneurship & Innovation (E&I) track at MIT Sloan, and the world-renowned MIT Enterprise Forum, which today boasts 24 chapters worldwide.

“There's a totally different world of entrepreneurship today at MIT,” notes Roberts. “The kids at MIT have no idea what entrepreneurship was like here 15 years ago.”

But Roberts certainly does, having watched the number of students taking entrepreneurship courses increase from 200 to 1,500—and the number of professors and lecturers rise from two to 30.

“We now have 30 courses and infinite clubs,” Roberts says of the expansive range of offerings available to budding entrepreneurs. “In addition, the $10K Competition is now the $100K Competition—and that is a misnomer since we gave away a total of nearly $500K this year in categories that include nanotechnology, biomedical technology, and clean energy.”

It is for this very reason that MIT's Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) was launched in 2000 by co-founders Dingee and MIT Professor David H. Staelin as another means “to support entrepreneurial activity throughout the MIT community” by students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Through VMS, a group of more than 100 volunteer mentors helps budding entrepreneurs with everything from business plans to customer and product development.

“A place like MIT provides an enormous amount of resources that you can lean on and borrow,” says Roman Lubynsky, SM '89, an entrepreneur and senior venture advisor at VMS. “The ecosystem that is there to support entrepreneurs is great, and VMS is just one of the examples. You can come to our mentors, and they will explain the different aspects of entrepreneurship and offer advice on how to keep moving forward.”

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