Action Learning

E-Lab

MIT Sloan's Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab) teams work with the founding teams of high-tech startups on projects of strategic importance to the venture.

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E-Lab

Welcome

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15.399 Entrepreneurship Lab

MIT Sloan’s Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab) student teams, drawn both from MIT and Harvard, work with the founders of high-tech startups on projects of strategic importance. The goal is for students to gain experience with fast-paced startup companies, and to apply their academic knowledge to the problems faced by entrepreneurial firms in a context of uncertainty, extreme time pressures, and decision making based on limited information.

Startups are typically tech-intensive, intellectual property-based, massively scalable, have fewer than 40 employees, and have at least one round of outside funding. Popular sectors include (but are not limited to) software, hardware, robotics, cleantech, and life sciences. 

Recent startups have worked on:

  • AI
  • Autonomous drafting software
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
  • Cryptocurrency regulation
  • Educational STEM projects
  • Hockey product
  • Machine learning
  • Personalized cosmetics
  • Sustainability - decarbonization

E-Lab 15.3991, the undergraduate version of this course,  is now part of the MIT Entrepreneurship & Innovation (E&I) Minor. 


 

WATCH: Professor Christian Catalini on Entrepreneurship Lab

E-Lab

Projects

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Scaling Up Startups

E-Lab students work with startups in a wide variety of industries, including software, hardware, robotics, cleantech, life sciences, and others.

Recent companies include:

  • Airworks
  • Aisling Organics
  • Build-it-Yourself
  • Clean Crop Technologies
  • Cures Within Reach for Cancer
  • Dyad Medical
  • Floating Point Group
  • Graviky Labs
  • Mindmarker
  • Multiscale Systems
  • Rezztek
  • Spatio Metrics
  • Tunnel
E-Lab

Info for Students

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How E-Lab Works 

Students learn quickly about a new industry, technology, or market and strengthen their ability to develop entrepreneurial strategies, to analyze technical feasibility, to identify early-adopters and the right target market, to set pricing, and to define a path to commercialization, ultimately delivering real value to the startup.

Teams of science, engineering, and management students participate actively one day a week with the top management of high-tech startups. The students gain hands-on experience about starting and running new ventures. The companies gain assistance with an urgent aspect of their businesses; examples include choosing initial markets, approaching initial customers, and communicating the value of the product. 

The E-Lab process begins well before the start of the semester. Companies apply to become hosts by registering candidate E-Lab projects on this website. The course teaching assistants, or TAs, work with the companies to identify projects that will fit well in the course and bring substantial value to the host companies. Students register through the normal MIT course registration process, or they can attend the first class to help themselves get enrolled. 

Once the faculty has selected the most promising E-Lab projects, the TAs give registered students access to information about the host companies. We encourage students to take a look at the companies' profiles before the first class, because the projects will be pitched to them during that class. 

Then, in the following week, students submit their top company preferences, and we form them into teams and match the teams to startups based on their interests. 

The first task is for the team and the host company CEO to agree on and sign a brief project plan. For the remainder of the semester, the students work on that plan, frequently interacting with the company's senior management. 

At the end of the semester, each team presents its findings to the course faculty in a confidential session, and then presents to the company's senior management. 

Interested In Enrolling?

E-Lab is open to any student who can register for classes at MIT. Participants in E-Lab typically include, but are not limited to, MIT Sloan MBAs, Sloan Fellows, Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM), MIT masters and PhD students from various disciplines, Harvard students, and Wellesley students.

Please make sure to attend the first day of class since startups will pitch to you that day, and we will start matching you to startups immediately afterwards. Even if you are not officially registered, you are welcome to attend the first day of class and we will help you get officially enrolled.

Course details can be found in the syllabus 

Student Voices🔗

  • MIT MBA Student, E-Lab Fall 2016🔗

    “The project team comprised of a PhD student, a visiting MBA, a visiting MBA fellow, a Sloan MBA, and an SDM fellow. It was due to our diverse viewpoints and experiences that we created value for our client. Our analysis of the autonomous vehicle market gave the AI startup the knowledge on how to position itself in the market through its business model and partnerships.”

E-Lab

Info for Hosts

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The Benefits of Becoming a Host Startup

E-Lab host startups have a unique opportunity to work with management, science, and engineering students to address crucial challenges, such as:

  • Choosing initial markets
  • Approaching initial customers
  • Communicating product value

What Makes A Good E-Lab Project

We suggest that in identifying potential E-Lab projects, companies start with the following criteria:

*For the Fall 2020 semester, due to COVID-19, all interactions between the host companies and the students should be conducted virtually online. 

  1. The topic must be extremely important to the CEO. In particular, it must be important enough that the CEO and top managers will be happy to provide substantial time and access to the E-Lab students who are working on the project. Students need substantial in-person contact with senior managers of the companies. Either the company can be close enough to Cambridge for students to visit without missing their other classes, or senior company executives from more distant companies can be in Cambridge enough for the meetings to be held here. 
  2. The project should have an appropriate time frame – short enough to meet the importance/access criterion above, but long enough that it makes sense to wait for the students results at the end of the semester. (The students will keep you informed of their progress during the term, but you will receive the main results in a presentation at the end of the semester.)
  3. The topic should be one on which the students can make a substantial contribution. In almost all cases, good topics involve bringing your product to market rather than dealing with primarily technical problems. Examples: We have a great technology. We want the E-Lab team to identify and evaluate possible initial markets in which our technology can provide value to customers and to quantify the value proposition. We have a great technology and an initial target market. We want the E-Lab team to develop a go-to-market strategy for our product in that market and to quantify the value proposition. 
  4. The project must involve research and direct contact with customers and prospects. E-Lab has a very strong customer orientation. We believe that a foundation of customer understanding is required to choose markets, make specific decisions (such as pricing or sales approaches), and evaluate competitors. If for some reason you do not want students to have access to your customers/prospects at this time, we suggest that you wait for a future semester to participate in E-Lab.
  5. In particular, the project should involve an explicit, quantified statement of the value you will provide to your customers. In some cases, the team does the initial development of a value proposition. In other cases, they use and build on a value proposition that the host company developed previously.

Startups: How To Apply

Thank you for your interest in offering a project opportunity for a small team of our savvy students. We would be delighted to have you participate in the MIT Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab) as a host company. We promise our best efforts to make it a highly rewarding experience for your firm.

Apply to be an E-Lab host

The deadline to apply to participate in the Spring 2021 semester will be in mid-January 2021. 

Email us with any questions at elab-ta@mit.edu


Host Timeline

  1. Before the start of the semester, startups apply on our website. This course is offered in both spring and fall semesters.
  2. Once faculty choose E-Lab projects, they are pitched to students on the first day of class.
  3. In the first week of class, students will submit their top preferences, and faculty will match teams with hosts.
  4. The student team and the host startup CEO will agree on and sign a project plan. Students will work on executing this plan for the rest of the semester, frequently and regularly communicating with senior management.
  5. Teams present findings to the senior management of the host company.

 

Host Voices🔗

  • Founder of a Stealth AI Company, E-Lab Fall 2016🔗

    “The E-Lab really helped us develop our market strategy and scale the business. The students are top notch, and the work they deliver is of the highest caliber. It’s an invaluable asset to any company and can help you take your startup to that next phase.”

  • Founder of Another AI Company, E-Lab Fall 2016🔗

    “I am pretty impressed by how practical the class is and how awesome the team members are. We got a lot of valuable feedback through their interviews with industry, policy maker, and researchers. They not only helped us to shape our goal and product by better understanding the needs and thoughts of other players, but also help us connect with a few people who are willing to help us.

    Thank you for your help! We are very lucky to get involved in this class, and I wish the class can keep going so that we can keep working with awesome team from this class.”

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