The Undergrad Entrepreneurial Ecosystem @ MIT – Thoughts of a Recent Grad

I found this very interesting piece by ’10 MIT grad (now graduate student there) Ariadne G. Smith in The Tech, who looks back on the entrepreneurial opportunities for undergraduates with disappointment. The conventional wisdom on MIT is that it is one of the most entrepreneurial schools in the U.S. (the other being Stanford) and its graduates are incredibly entrepreneurial.

According to Ariadne G. Smith, the entrepreneurial ecosystem of MIT does not extend to undergraduates. From Smith

So why am I writing this article as a graduate student? If, instead of applying to graduate schools and jobs during my senior year at MIT, I had been presented with the opportunity to either start a company or work for a startup, I would’ve taken the offer in a heartbeat. However, I felt totally unprepared to engage in entrepreneurial activities. I had long ago decided that starting a company was on my to-do list at some point in my life, but I was getting tired of telling people that I wanted to work on a startup then feeling foolish for really not knowing where to start.

I’m no expert on entrepreneurship, but I did my share of dabbling in entrepreneurial activities at MIT. I thought that the Sloan entrepreneurship course I took as a sophomore would inspire me and teach me how one exactly goes about starting a company. Ancient case studies and trite guest speakers were actually de-motivational. When I entered a portion of the 100K competition, I was surprised to find it run almost entirely by graduate students. What I really wanted was a club or class that was designed for me — an undergraduate engineer who knew nothing about how to start a company, but just wanted to do something.

Smith goes on to ofter some specific examples where the Institute (as they apparently refer to the school) could improve things for undergrads. Smith did have some good experiences, but thinks the “entrepreneurially-minded Institute” should give a little more attention to the undergrads. The reality is, according to Carnegie Classifications, MIT, is MGP — majority graduate/professional. I attended graduate school at a similar institution and had little interaction with the small undergrad population other than waiting in line for food and coffee.

Its clear that Smith reached out to graduate entrepreneurship structures and the greater Boston entrepreneurial ecosystem, but that might be the answer right there: the onus is on the undergrad to step into the broader campus/citywide community as the undergrad ‘contribution’ is smaller than it is at place such as University of Michigan, UCLA, UC Berkeley, etc.

via The undergraduate entrepreneurial ecosystem at MIT – The Tech.


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