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Donor Profile

Allan R. WillAllan R. Will, SM ’81

Allan R. Will, SM ’81

Founder and Chairman, The Foundry
Managing Director, Split Rock Partners

  • Founded The Foundry, a medical device incubator in 1998
  • Held the Foundry's first liquidity event in October 2009, converting the ownership equity of one of its early firms into a gift to the E-Center
  • Lectures at MIT Sloan's Entrepreneur Development Program (EDP) each January

Allan R. Will was graduated from MIT Sloan without ever taking a class in entrepreneurship, but caught the entrepreneurial bug shortly thereafter. Now, more than two decades later, he has run, built, and sold two successful startup medical technology businesses, co-founded more than 10 companies, founded an incubator, lectures on entrepreneurship, and is a major donor to the MIT Entrepreneurship Center (E-Center).

After stints in strategic planning, marketing, and general management at a large company following his time at MIT Sloan, Will joined a medical device startup, Devices for Vascular Intervention (DVI). “I was intrigued by the smaller and ‘nimbler' parts of large companies,” he recalls. “With entrepreneurship, a great deal of your skill base is learned on the job. In my first CEO role at a startup, there were 16 employees when I started and over 600 when I left eight years later. Going into this role, I didn't know how to manage options budgets, when to sell a company versus continuing independent growth, or how to motivate and incent small teams to achieve great things.”

Since DVI, Will has nurtured entrepreneurial pursuits, making his first of many gifts to the E-Center in 2000. “I appreciate the fact that the E-Center focuses on teaching students how to practice entrepreneurship in early stage companies,” he shares. “The principles are difficult to teach from a classroom; but by combining classroom preparation and direct interaction with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Ed Roberts (David Sarnoff Professor of Management and founder of the E-Center) and Ken Morse (former managing director of the E-Center) have created a great program.”

Currently, Will is a managing director at Split Rock Partners, a venture capital firm focused on the medical device and software/Internet services industries, and is chairman of the Foundry, a medical device incubator he founded in 1998. The Foundry pulls together seasoned entrepreneurs who devise solutions to clinical problems, and then form teams to carry out their ideas.

“Running a startup medical device company was my perfect dream job,” he says. “But at this point in my career, investing in startup companies and mentoring young entrepreneurs is the best thing for me to do.” Since The Foundry was established, 11 companies have been formed.

In 2009, Will made his most recent gift to the E-Center of $30,000. When starting The Foundry, Will pledged a portion of his ownership to the E-Center. This pledge will deliver its first gift later this year as a result of the $450 million acquisition of The Foundry's first company, Evalve (by Abbott Laboratories). He also lectures at the Entrepreneur Development Program (EDP) each January, a one-week course designed for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop or strengthen a climate of entrepreneurship in their organizations. “It is a chance for me to reflect on the things that I've done and learned,” Will says. “Just as the E-Center has been doing, I am able to impart some of the lessons I've learned and mistakes I've made to those, who like me at one point, are transitioning into a career in entrepreneurship.”