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Ideas Made to Matter

Where are they now: Catch up with 19 of MIT’s smartest startups


More than 500 tons of garbage, 10 pilot cities, two major medical initiatives, one “unicorn.” In 2017 MIT Sloan alumni reached long-term goals, broke molds, and improved the lives of many people along the way. Here’s a look at some significant steps taken in the past 12 months.

Altaeros Energies 
Altaeros lifted off in 2010 as a provider of industrial blimps — called aerostats — to areas of the developing world to help with energy generation. Altaeros’ new product, dubbed the SuperTower, is designed for telecommunication services, and is expected to launch in 2018. The company was founded by Adam Rein, MBA ’10, and Ben Glass, SB ’08 SM ’10, and has attracted enough interest to land a $7.5 million investment from SoftBank.

Spinning out of MIT Sloan in 2013, Bevi allows consumers to cut bottle drink consumption through its smart beverage machines that deliver flavored water straight from the tap. Four years later the machine is available in both countertop and standup models, and more than 1,000 locations are dispensing water in a dozen flavors. MIT Sloan 2013 graduates Sean Grundy and Frank Lee, and Eliza Becton, are co-founders of the beverage supply chain disruptor.

Depict Depict describes itself as "a museum for your home," and in 2017 the company unveiled a 4K Ultra HD digital canvas to showcase museum-quality artwork in a private residence. Kimberly Gordon, MBA ’13, started Depict in 2012. Depict’s customers can display their own photos and images, or subscribe to and display art from Depict’s collections. 

The Depict Frame displays artwork purchased through an online marketplace.

dot Learn  An alumni team from last year’s MIT delta v cohort, dot Learn is delivering full-length educational video courses to students in Africa for less than the cost of an SMS text message. In countries where internet costs can be too expensive to support streaming video services, dot Learn’s solution is helping educate more than 5,000 users in its first year. Co-founders Sam Bhattacharyya, MBA ’16, and Tunde Alawode, PhD ’17, plan to expand into the Nigerian market to reach a broader audience of potential student customers. 

An end to the thermostat war? Embr Labs might have the white flag with its Embr Wave, a wearable invention that helps regulate thermal comfort for its wearers when they feel “too hot” or “too cold.” Embr Labs was created in 2014 by four MIT students, Matthew Smith, PhD ’12, Sam Shames, SB ’14, David Cohen-Tanugi, PhD ’15, and Michael Gibson, PhD ’16. Backed by Bose Ventures, the Embr Wave is set for release in early 2018.

Greentown Labs 
When four MIT students were looking for affordable space to keep building their startups and prototypes after graduation, they joined forces and in 2011 opened Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts. The 33,000-square-foot office space is geared toward clean technology entrepreneurs. Greentown plans to expand its campus in the coming months by adding more than 58,000 square feet of additional co-working and prototyping space, giving it the ability to support 100 additional startup teams. Leadership at Greentown Labs includes MIT Sloan alums Jeremy Pitts, Adam Rein, and Emily Reichert.

LiquiGlide’s patent for a permanently wet, slippery surface has allowed the 6-year-old company to slide successfully into the packaging business. Under CEO J. David Smith, SM ’11, the company raised $16 million in funding in 2017, with plans to accelerate commercialization into the industrial and food manufacturing markets. 

Ministry of Supply 
Ministry of Supply continues to innovate in the realm of high-tech fabrics and 3-D production techniques to design and make men’s and women’s performance clothing for the workday. The company was founded in 2012 by Gihan Amarasiriwardena, SB ’11, 2013 MIT Sloan grads Aman Advani and Kit Hickey, and Kevin Rustagi, SB ’11. Ministry of Supply now operates eight stores nationwide and developed a “fabric printer” that knits a custom blazer in 90 minutes.

Mountain Hub 
This year brought a new mission and name to the company started by Brint Markle, MBA ’14, and James Christian, SM ’14. In 2017, Mountain Hub ( formerly Avatech, an avalanche prevention technology) focused its information sharing software on sharing maps, routes and weather conditions, to hiking enthusiasts worldwide. Thousands of end users now regularly use the app and the 4-year-old company has its first partnership with outdoor gear company Black Diamond. 

Co-founder Shireen Yates, MBA ’13, returned to MIT Demo Day in September to share the story of Nima’s 4-year journey from delta v to the company it is today. Scott Sundvor, SB ’12, is also a co-founder. Nima released its gluten sensor in 2016 and the company was named to CNBC’s “Upstart 25” list. Nima plans to release its next sensor for peanut allergies in winter 2018. 

PillPack is the only independent nationwide pharmacy and expects to break $100 million in revenue in 2017. In September Forbes named PillPack one of the 25 “Next Billion-Dollar Startups,” a list compiled from nearly 200 different venture capital firms around the country, a very easy pill to swallow for a company that had a fairly humble beginning at an MIT hackathon. TJ Parker and Sloan graduate Elliot Cohen, started the company in 2013. Since then the online pharmacy has grown to more than 500 employees and delivers prescriptions to tens of thousands of customers in every U.S. state but Hawaii.

Only one year after bringing the Podimetrics Mat to market, the company announced in 2017 a landmark study showing their mat had 97 percent sensitivity in predicting diabetic foot ulcers more than a month earlier than clinical presentation, a key factor in providing early treatment to those suffering from diabetes. Jon Bloom, MBA ’12, David Linders, MBA ’13, and Brian Peterson, MBA ’13, are cofounders of the wireless, in-home remote temperature monitoring system that collects foot temperature scans to detect foot ulcers. Podimetrics was founded in 2012.

Everyone wants to be the rarest of the rare in the business world: a “unicorn” company with a valuation of $1 billion or more. In 2017, Okta, co-founded by Frederic Kerrest, MBA ’09, achieved that status and went public, hitting a peak market cap of $2.8 billion in mid-September.

Okta was founded in 2009 and provides a secure connection for its customers across software platforms and devices. Kerrest is an active member of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

2017 saw Ori pilot programs in 10 cities including Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Vancouver. MIT graduates Hasier Larrea, Chad Bean, Ivan Fernandez de Casadevante, Carlos Rubio, and Olaide Olambiwonnu, are the minds behind the 2015 “robo-furniture” startup formerly known as MorphLabs. Nearly 1,000 systems are expected to be in rental units across the country by the end of 2018. 

Powered by modular robotics, Ori Systems' product is dresser, desk, and bed all in one.

Ricult  A member of the 2016 delta v cohort, Ricult has a mobile platform for developing world farmers, providing access to credit, goods, services, and buyers. Pakistan is their first market for rollout. In May, the United Nations recognized the company with its “Innovative Ideas and Technology on Agribusiness” award. Ricult’s leadership team includes Usman Javaid, MBA ’15, Jonathan Stoller SB ’16, Jiang Xu, SF ’15, Gabriel Torres, SB ’08, and Aukrit Unahalekhaka, MBA ’16. Soko
Ella Peinovich, MArch’12, helped found this ethical jewelry company in 2012. The company connects marginalized artisan entrepreneurs in Africa to a worldwide consumer base using supply chain innovation and mobile tools. The company is based in Kenya and San Francisco and is a partner with the United Nations Trust Fund.

After completing the delta v accelerator, Solstice received an $800,000 grant from the Department of Energy and was selected to be a member in the prestigious Techstars Boston 2017 program. The company started in 2014 as the Solstice Initiative. Its founders include Sandhya Murali, MBA ’15, and Steph Speirs, MBA ’17. By providing shared community solar access to all, Solstice is helping subscribers save money on their energy bills through nearly a dozen different solar farms across the eastern United States.

TVision Insights 
TVision Insights uses computer vision to track when a viewer’s eyes are actually on the television screen, second by second, providing real feedback on what content garners attention. Co-founders Yan Liu and Dan Schiffman both graduated from MIT Sloan in 2015, a year after founding TVision Insights. 

In September, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, MBA ’12, was recognized by the Lagos state government for her 5-year-old startup. Adebiyi-Abiola launched Wecyclers, a company that awards prizes to households recycling their waste, and employs a fleet of workers who ride cheap, locally assembled cargo bikes, called “wecycles,” to collect materials from homes and deliver them to the company’s sorting hubs across Lagos.

For more info Meredith Somers News Writer (617) 715-4216