MIT Sloan’s impact on innovation showcased in San Francisco alumni event

Published: February 21, 2014

Founders, funders gather to discuss startup companies and ideas

MIT Sloan alumni and friends gathered in San Francisco Feb. 13 for MIT IMPACT: Making Innovation Real, an event showcasing the evolution of innovation and entrepreneurship across the MIT campus.

Associate Dean for Innovation Fiona Murray discussed the new MIT Innovation Initiative, an Institute-wide effort to, in the words of MIT President Rafael Reif, “magnify the creative power of the people at MIT.” Murray is co-director of the initiative.

Bill Aulet, SM ’94, explained the concept of “disciplined entrepreneurship,” detailed in his 2013 book of the same name. Aulet, the director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, dismisses as myth the idea that entrepreneurship cannot be taught. In his book, he argues that any successful new venture must follow a series of 24 deliberate steps, from market segmentation to developing a product plan.

Aulet moderated a panel discussion with recent MIT Sloan graduates who founded successful companies. The panel featured, from left to right: Rene Reinsberg, MBA ’11, whose Locu business listing startup sold to GoDaddy for a reported $70 million; Shireen Taleghani, MBA ’13, co-founder and CEO of 6Sensor Labs, which is developing a gluten-tester for food; and Frederic Kerrest, MBA ’09, COO and co-founder of identity management service Okta, which has raised $79 million in funding.

Lotus Development Corp. (makers of Lotus 1-2-3 and Lotus Notes) co-founder Mitch Kapor gave a keynote address titled “The Future of Entrepreneurship and the Role of the University.” Kapor argued that to have true social impact, startups must be “gap-closing” and disruptive.

The event also featured a panel of MIT Sloan alumni who are Bay Area-investors, including Rich Wong, SB ’91 Engineering, SM ’92, a partner at Accel Partners.

A “rocket pitch” segment of the event showcased companies founded by current MIT Sloan students and alumni from the Class of 2013. Brint Markle, MBA ’14, co-founder and CEO of AvaTech, showed his company’s equipment for assessing avalanche risks.

Nearly 200 alumni attended the event. Similar upcoming events include Digital Economy: The Second Machine Age April 4 in New York City and Finance Forum: Financial System 2.0 May 16 in Boston.