Hands-on with local tech startups
The Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab) course matches multidisciplinary teams of science, engineering, and management students across MIT with local startup companies. These student teams provide the companies with hands-on, targeted consulting in areas critical to new business ventures. The partner companies are typically tech-intensive, intellectual property-based, have fewer than 40 employees, and have at least one round of outside funding. Technology represented by past partners has included, but is not limited to: cleantech, life sciences, mobile, and online.
How E-Lab Works
One day a week, student teams actively work onsite with the top management of partner companies. While students gain hands-on leadership experience in launching and running a startup business, the companies receive assistance with crucial aspects of growth. Past projects have included consulting on such vital decisions as: choosing initial markets, approaching new customers, and communicating product value.
The E-Lab Process
The E-Lab course process begins well before the start of the semester, when both companies and students register and begin to learn about each other. Prior to class starting, students may begin to select company projects and form teams, while company managers often reach out to students with relevant skills and backgrounds. The final match-up takes place the first Monday of class, and teams meet with their host companies the very next day.
The first task for the team and the host company CEO, is to agree on and sign a brief project plan. For the remainder of the semester, the students work on that plan, frequently interacting with senior management. Running in parallel with the consulting projects are classes held at MIT Sloan. The content of these classes aligns with the hands-on projects and helps students build and actively apply pertinent skills.
At the end of the semester, each team presents its findings and recommendations to the senior management of the partner company.
“It was really rewarding that they wanted to know what we thought. We left there being fairly certain that they will do some of the things that we suggested.”
“I knew about American business, but not enough about what’s really become a global economy. … You can read about it all you want, but there’s no substitute for being there and seeing the context and seeing how completely different these [other countries] are.”
“At MIT Sloan you have a lot of opportunities to explore entrepreneurship. Especially in a place like Kampala where you have a lot of development, entrepreneurship can be very exciting.”
“I love being in a place that is such a nexus of people and ideas — people coming to learn something new and to define themselves. Being a part of that process is a real honor and a real gift.”
“These companies are really excited to work with MIT students.They reach out to the community to set up these projects and are great to work with. They give us access to all their resources and are very open to us.”
“Our mission, along with the mission of MIT Sloan, is to both develop leaders who make a difference in the world, and also to make a contribution to thinking about the topic of leadership.”
“Because of the diversity of our backgrounds, when we hit the ground in Tanzania it almost was a natural play where different people assume different roles.”
“The conditions in the neighborhoods we were visiting were different than what we realized before getting there. Beyond that, what was surprising was that there weren’t surprises!”
“One of the reasons I came to Sloan was because I wanted to be at a top MBA institution worldwide. But I also wanted access to working with the latest innovations and the highest technology that was coming out of the MIT labs.”
“The assistant to the CEO was like our host mom while we were there. She arranged our housing for us, she took us out to her friend’s game farm, and we got driven around in 4x4s. She was just wonderful to meet, and we developed a personal as well as professional relationship with her.”
“We’re very interdisciplinary. Among the faculty in the group are an economist, a political scientist, a sociologist, and an industrial relations specialist. We’ve always made a big effort to be open to a variety of perspectives, but also to go beyond being open to them, to want to bring them in, because it makes for a richer environment.”
“You could talk about watershed management and conservation of energy all you want. But until you put numbers to it and financial analysis to it, you’re not going to get much done. I came to business school to speak that language, speak with people in terms of numbers, financial numbers so that I can get projects done.”
"After we gave our recommendations, the great part was that the very next day the CEO was in the boardroom implementing them with his top vice presidents."
“For 35 years, we’ve been studying how companies get value from information. … We try to help organizations take a more holistic view of what they are trying to do.”
“During the mid-1980s there were only five women faculty, and we used to have regular dinners together. The number of female faculty members has greatly increased since then, and students will have several of us for classes in the first year.”