2018 is so last year. Here’s what eight entrepreneurs are focusing on professionally in 2019.
Mick Batyske — DJ, startup investor, brand ambassador
Batyske spoke at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship this year, and told students his goal has always been to “never sit behind a desk that isn’t mine.”
Batyske said the book “The Obstacle Is the Way,” has shifted his mindset on handling problems, and that’s something he’ll be taking into 2019.
“[I want] to adopt a more stoic, balanced approach to things that happen to me, both personally and professionally,” he said.
Mike Brady — CEO, Greyston Bakery
Brady said he will be working with his team to advance open hiring and provide dignity and opportunity to everyone who is a part of the bakery’s community.
During this year’s MIT Sustainability Summit, Brady shared that the bakery’s hiring practice does not require a background check, references, nor an interview.
“Personally, I will be focusing on working collaboratively with other business leaders and change-makers to drive the inclusion agenda,” Brady said. “Inviting others to join our mission for a more inclusive economy that enables all people to find employment.”
Clara Brenner — managing partner, Urban Innovation Fund
Brenner’s firm invests in startups that are shaping the future of cities. She said 2019 will be about continuing to help those young companies.
“I want to focus on finding more high-potential startups for our portfolio from diverse backgrounds and geographies,” Brenner said.
Brenner’s co-founder and managing partner is another MIT Sloan alumna: Julie Lein, MBA ’12.
Natalya Brikner — CEO, Accion Systems
The 2015 PhD graduate set her New Year’s resolutions to reflect the trajectory of her company’s ion engine — up.
In November, the company’s first ion engine was launched into space as part of a payload that included a satellite destined for Venus. The engine will help propel the satellite to the planet.
“Accion is ready to move into the next phase of the company,” Brikner said. “My resolutions are all related to learning how to do that. I need to build out the leadership team, refresh our scientific advisory board, and start putting in place the people and processes for larger volume production.”
Frederic Kerrest — COO, co-founder, Okta
Kerrest said he’ll be recommitting to the same resolution he’s had since 2017 (when his cloud software company went public): fully signing off for one full week of family vacation, at least once a year.
“In 2010, I spent an entire ski trip in a hotel room closing Okta’s first round of funding and I couldn’t let my friends know what was going on,” said Kerrest, MBA ’09. “That was back when Okta was two people — me and my co-founder Todd McKinnon — and I was not yet a father.”
Now that Okta’s team has more than 1,400 people, Kerrest said there are plenty of experts who are responsible for managing priorities while he’s out of office.
“It’s not only easier to sign off, it’s necessary to recharge and stay focused while at work,” Kerrest said.
Frank Lee — co-founder, head of marketing, Bevi
Bevi, the company behind smart flavored-water machines, is growing exponentially. That means it’s important to keep the culture that makes the company special, said Lee, MBA ’13.
“Whenever I visit one of our offices, I always see a new face that I don't recognize,” Lee said. “My professional New Year's resolution is to spend as much time as I can interviewing candidates, on-boarding new employees, and making sure they feel at home."
Rajesh Nair — professor of practice, Asia School of Business
New Year’s resolutions are made to make ourselves a bit better than the previous year, said Nair. And at a certain age you realize that helping to make others better has a much larger return on self.
Nair is working toward launching a multi-year study to measure the benefits of introducing maker skills to Indian middle and high school students.
“In 2019 my focus is to reach and transform some 50,000 kids in the rural world through free programs on ‘making with no lab [ZeroLab],’” said Nair, SDM ’14. “If we can change their life trajectory by a few degrees when they are 10-12 years old, they could reach a very different place when they become a young adult.”
Alexandra Wright-Gladstein — chief strategy officer, co-founder, Ayar Labs
Wright-Gladstein has two resolutions for 2019.
“First, to do a better job of recruiting and hiring women and diverse candidates as we ramp up hiring this year,” said Wright-Gladstein, MBA ’15. “And second, to spend more time sharing the positive environmental impact our solution will have, in reducing the amount of energy used in computing, the fastest-growing consumer of energy globally.”
Ayar Labs was founded in 2015. Its team of scientists developed technology that uses light to transfer data between computer chips. Along with improving the speed of computing, the technology also reduces energy consumption by replacing copper wires.