MIT Sloan professors lay out tactical roadmaps for entrepreneurs


In two new books, Bill Aulet and Paul Cheek offer an integrated, data-driven methodology to bring ideas from concept to market.

Cambridge, Mass., April 2, 2024 — In popular culture, entrepreneurs often chase fortune — and funding — without much of a plan, instead relying on late nights and inspiration. However, according to two MIT Sloan School of Management faculty —, Ethernet Inventors Professor of the Practice of Entrepreneurship and, senior lecturer and executive director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship — entrepreneurial success looks a lot more disciplined in real life. 

In two new books, Aulet’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup and Cheek’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship: Startup Tactics (both published by Wiley), the duo of serial entrepreneurs lays out practical roadmaps for founders, drawing on the same methodology they teach in the delta v accelerator program at the Trust Center.

The results of that approach speak for themselves. Over 10 years, 69% of delta v projects have become real companies that either exist to this day or have been successfully acquired, compared to an overall estimated new venture success rate of less than one in ten.

Re-engineering entrepreneurship

For Aulet and Cheek, the secret to this methodology’s success is simple. It takes entrepreneurship seriously, and gives it a unique MIT spin. 

“We take an engineering approach to entrepreneurship,” said Cheek. “It’s essentially the scientific method — it’s about identifying variables and disproving hypotheses to make more informed decisions moving forward.”

While the two books are both built on that foundational principle, they each address a different part of the entrepreneurial journey.

Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup, originally published a decade ago, has sold over 300,000 copies and is a mainstay of entrepreneurship courses worldwide. Aulet’s newest edition updates the book’s 24 steps for today’s business context, helping founders identify a market opportunity, define their product and business model, and ultimately build a detailed, actionable business plan. 

In Disciplined Entrepreneurship: Startup Tactics, Cheek leads the reader from that business plan to an operational business. The book’s 15 tactics take entrepreneurs through goal setting, market testing, product development, and resource acquisition — all with the aim of quick, lean, market entry. 

“A lot of people start businesses as experts in one particular area, like engineering,” Cheek said. “But in a venture’s early stages, founders need to wear a lot of hats, from lead recruiter to head of marketing. They can’t be an expert in every functional area, but the book teaches them how to do just enough in those areas to gain traction and scale up.”

Essential tools for a fast-changing landscape

For today’s entrepreneurs, Aulet and Cheek agree, strategy, tactics, and discipline are more important than ever. As the rise of generative AI streamlines the process of developing and validating business ideas, traditional barriers to entry will fall and competition in the marketplace will grow. 

“This technology means that everyone will be operating at a much higher level,” said Cheek, “Access to high-quality business strategy will be democratized, and the pace of innovation will continue to increase.”

In this new landscape, strong entrepreneurial skills and the leadership ability to align teams behind unproven ideas are critical. That isn’t just true for founders — with an increasing number of high-quality market entrants, corporate leaders will also need to adopt an iterative, scientific approach to innovation, or they risk becoming irrelevant. 

Advancing the discipline of entrepreneurship

“Currently, there is no agreed upon common body of knowledge to be taught in entrepreneurship education and that leaves things wide open,” said Aulet. “What we are doing in these books is to raise the bar for entrepreneurship education. Where something comes from is not important; the question is whether it is helpful to the entrepreneur in the context of their limited resources.”

While Aulet’s and Cheek’s books are written for practitioners, their highly researched, data-driven approach points to their authors’ shared belief that entrepreneurship demands the same meticulousness and accuracy as the sciences. 

“As such, this open sourced, evidence-based and accessible approach has proven extremely valuable in multiple studies to entrepreneurs of all kinds – new, existing, and non-traditional,” Aulet continued. “This is the future of entrepreneurship training and education — the integration of theory, practice, and tactics — to create more and better innovation-driven entrepreneurs. The world could certainly use them sooner rather than later.”

Learn more, access digital resources, and order copies of Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup and Disciplined Entrepreneurship: Startup Tactics on the Disciplined Entrepreneurship website.

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