MIT Entrepreneurship: Pirates, Navy SEALs

Like many of Aulet’s analogies, his reason for diversity correlating with entrepreneurship revolves around basketball.

“Entrepreneurship is like a game of pickup basketball,” Aulet goes on. “Nobody cares what color you are or who your parents are. They care about your output. Either people buy your product or service or they don’t. Either you have positive cash flow or you don’t.”

aulet_2 primary head photo shot

PROCESS AND EXECUTION VERSUS THE IDEA

Next, Aulet says, it’s about the process. “Entrepreneurship is a team sport, not an individual sport,” Aulet says, with another basketball analogy brewing. “If you play basketball, you have to learn from people. You go through things with your teammates. And you develop a process or execution that works. With entrepreneurship, the process is what’s important. The idea is the single most overrated aspect to entrepreneurship. Having a disciplined process is what’s important. Ideas cost money. Execution makes money.”

What exactly does the process look like at MIT? For one, it’s the more than 50 entrepreneurship courses offered through the center. Aulet also cites the instruction students receive by a faculty led by Roberts and professor Fiona Murray.

A THREE-TIERED CURRICULUM

Specifically, the center’s curriculum is set up in a three-tiered structure. First, students are introduced to entrepreneurship. The focus is on the “about” of entrepreneurship, as opposed to the “do.” Then students focus on entrepreneurial strategy and founding new enterprises. Case studies and project-based business plans are used to shift the focus from “about” to “do.” Finally, students are exposed to specific skills necessary for specific industries. At that point, it’s all about “doing.”

The Martin Trust Center also has numerous competitions and programs, such as the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, the MIT Clean Energy Prize, the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge and the MIT Global Startup Workshop (to name a fraction of what’s offered). And then there’s the MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator. The accelerator offers students who are accepted up to $20,000 to fund a venture, plus a living stipend, a space, and access to mentors and funders.

“We want to make sure we are bringing the helpful people to our students,” Aulet says. “Do we have the proper mentorships to offer? Are we bringing the correct funders?”

OUT WITH THE ‘OLD WHITE GUYS,’ IN WITH WRITING ON WINDOWS

Next comes the space and location of the Martin Trust Center. It is specifically placed in what Aulet calls the “militarized zone”—an area on MIT’s campus that is accessible to all schools.

“You can walk in from the engineering school, the media lab, or the school of science,” Aulet says. “We took down all of the pictures of old white guys. And I can say that because I’m an old white guy. From top to bottom, the walls have idea paint. You can do whatever you want. There are no limits. People are writing on windows. We’ve had homeless people walk in off the streets to write. It’s like Good Will Hunting.”

And the collaboration extends even beyond campus walls.

“Anyone who is an entrepreneur is our friend,” Aulet says. “Anything we can do to help others, we do. This isn’t a competition with Harvard or Stanford. I reject that completely. This is not a competition. It’s not a football game. It’s not even actually a basketball game, which is much more serious. We have people come over from Harvard and Tufts. We try to help where and when we can.”

THE BEST AND WORST IDEAS

Helping others is what Aulet says drives the Martin Trust Center and the best ideas coming from students.