"You can literally walk into any laboratory or any office at MIT – any part of MIT – and ask, 'What are you guys doing?' ”
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.
“We are very much an action-learning environment. The way to learn leadership is not only through reading cases, not only through learning theory — in fact we don’t want people to regurgitate the theory. We want people to take theory and to live it, use it.”
“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.”
“I came to Sloan because of its high rankings within the sustainability community, specifically the professors. The S-Lab class itself is part of what drew me to Sloan. And the reason I came to business school was to learn the business speak that really is what connects with people."
"The relationships that we forged helped us to turn out a better project. We were able to test our hypotheses with the people that we spoke with every single day. And really, I think the friendships that you develop really propel the work that you’re doing."
“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 concept behind enterprise architecture is that you have all these machines, you have all these business processes, you have all these people doing things, how do you make sure they all come together and achieve business objectives that make you more competitive.”
“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.”
“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.”
“[The India Lab] program is one of the reasons I came to Sloan. ... The hands-on learning that MIT offers was a huge differentiator.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Getting an education from MIT is like taking a drink from a fire hose.”