Mens et Manus and Blockchain startup @ MIT Sloan #ideasmadetomatter

It is not a secret that MIT promotes the Mens et Manus, or mind and hand, approach. To me personally, that spirit means a great deal. Coming from Israel—the startup nation—I had considered MIT Sloan the best place at which I could start my own technology company, hoping to change the world; boy, am I happy with my choice.

For the past few weeks, I have found myself sitting in class, learning practical tools about Economics, Statistics, and Strategy, tools that I have been applying to a new startup.

Two members of the team

Only at MIT Sloan could I instantly find three team members who are as passionate as I am about technology, Blockchain and Digital Currency, social impact, and disruptive ideas. We are eager to democratize the student-loans market, using Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to create a new, competitive, and free market, from an economic point of view. I know that this might strike you as a stilted description, but I proudly stand behind it; here is why.

First and foremost, I would like to go back and address the implementation of class materials in real life, my real life. In Economics class for example, we had a case that required us to estimate demand and supply for a certain market, using real data. Working on the problem, I realized that I could and should try to estimate demand and supply for the market I was trying to revolutionize, using the academic approach I had just learned. My Economics professor was very responsive, providing me with important research data, on which I would have spent much more time looking for, had I searched it on my own. My Statistics professor was kind enough to chat with me about the academic process I should employ in tackling the problem, and how statistics can help me during the procedure. Speaking with both professors also provided intangible value to me; both were impressed by the idea, a reaction that to me corroborated the potential of the project. I can’t wait to finish the academic research and validate the findings, using just-learned class materials. If this is not Mens et Manus, what is? Moreover, in Strategy we learn about Porter’s renowned five forces. After a few classes, I realized that this is practical knowledge that I should apply in building our company; we started drafting the first assumptions, and already have learned numerous things about the industry we are trying to tap into.

Second, I would like to clear the air around the abstruse description of the project. The student-loans market is a big problem; in the U.S. alone it is a $1.45-trillion problem. From a preliminary research, we found some asymmetries in the market. Let us think about two MBA students: one is a U.S. citizen, and the other is international. Both come from the same professional background and recruit for the same companies. Alas, they do not get the same loan conditions. This scenario is not an example of a free market; after all, no one pays his or her loan from the money he or she had had prior to taking the loan, but from the projected income post MBA. So, the factor affecting the loan interest rate should not be estimated on past activities—dubious credit score, to name an example—but on future income estimations. Luckily, this information is widely public, so one can easily access it online. So how do we democratize a market? We identify all the stakeholders—loan givers and loan takers—and help them meet each other to make transactions. Enter Blockchain. By definition, Blockchain is a decentralized system that allows people to exchange information, e.g. values and even loans. So, what would be a better way to Democratize a market than using a decentralized system? Moving forward to the recondite digital coin, it is still a dilemma whether we need a cryptocurrency. How will we use it? How can we avoid volatility in value? What are the pros and cons of using it? What are the risks? All are good questions that we are working on as a part of our Primary Market Research. Shockingly, we have a class on that issue as part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Track. So, where would be a better place to research these convoluted, technological questions than MIT? Four other classmates from the E&I Track joined to help us answer these questions.

Third, MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund accepted us to the program and awarded us a generous grant to test our idea, bolstering our confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm.

I came to MIT Sloan to start my own technology company, hoping to change the world. I was, and still am, dead serious about it.


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