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Shared vision: Alumna donor, PhD student explore employee ownership in green tech firms

Mary Ann BeysterMary Ann Beyster

A Team Effort
In May of 2008, Mary Ann Beyster, SM ’90, president of the Foundation for Enterprise Development, presented a generous gift of $100,000 in support of the MIT Sloan Initiative for Sustainable Business and Society. With this gift, she not only helped fund important research on the effects of employee ownership in emerging clean and green technology companies, but also formed a dynamic working relationship with MIT Sloan PhD candidate Joe Hsueh.

Beyster, who has years of experience in the clean tech sector, approached MIT because she was interested in developing a model that would help students navigate organizational choices and financial ownership models within the clean tech industry. “I am a big believer in systems dynamics,” she explains. “It seemed a very logical path to see what MIT, a leader in this field, could bring in developing a model to help students think about questions like who they are going to hire, how they are going to compensate people, and who is going to own the enterprise.”

From the start, Hsueh was the ideal candidate for the job. Recommended by Professor John Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management, for his analytic rigor and his interest in human well-being, Hsueh began applying his expertise in systems dynamics to a wealth of data on clean tech startups. The end result is a management flight simulator that enables future entrepreneurs to explore a wide range of management strategies as they plan the structure and culture of their new companies.

While this model allows users to simulate business strategies to address long sales cycles, innovative product development, and a competitive market, it is unique in its correlation of decisions made about financing and the direct effect on human capital—a company’s ability to attract, motivate, and ultimately retain its employees.

Built on Dr. David Miller’s PhD dissertation on clean technology ventures, and serving as Hsueh’s current PhD dissertation project, the simulator has already been used in Sustainability Labs and Sloan Innovation Period workshops at MIT Sloan. There are also plans to make it available for free online to academic institutions across the globe. It is an example of the impact MIT Sloan has on the world, and Hsueh reminds us that the data analysis needed to create the simulation would not have been possible without the support of Beyster’s generous gift.

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