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Stories. Reflections. Entrepreneurial Thoughts.

Will you take the pledge?

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Let’s start with the million-dollar question: What is entrepreneurship?

Most of what you see on TV is built on the myths of entrepreneurship: freedom, wealth, power, etc.. Entrepreneurship is not quite so glamorous as it may appear. As Shark Lori Grenier says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours per week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Successful entrepreneurs share this definition of entrepreneurship: the relentless pursuit of opportunities beyond resources controlled.  

MIT Launch is a transformative summer experience that enables students to begin their entrepreneurial journey and acquire a better understanding of the method for starting a successful venture. From move-in day to final pitches, we focus on providing Launchies with the mindset and skills to go from high school students to entrepreneurs who have started real companies.

The program guides students through the disciplined entrepreneurship framework. While the summer curriculum covers a variety of business topics including pricing, revenue models, strategy, etc., the core focus is on the entrepreneurial topics of primary market research and building a minimum viable product. At Launch, we have adopted the lean start-up methodology. We encourage companies to go from idea to testing as quickly as possible through first market research then testing a MVP. To evaluate and benchmark company progress, teams have three Mock Board of Directors meetings with experienced entrepreneurs and experts in their respective fields.

Continue reading “Will you take the pledge?”

Launch Stories: Gabi Fullam, Ireland

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When I applied for Launch, I didn’t really consider the fact that I might ACTUALLY get in. It was more a far away cloudy dream. I had no idea that this dream would materialize in front of me into something so real and tangible.

I remember the nerves before my interview and excitement after the “Congratulations” email. I remember the relief that came with receiving a scholarship, and I remember long hours spent packing and hugging friends and family goodbye at the airport. But it only really sunk in when my feet touched MIT soil.

The environment we were all working in was amazing. Living with 70 innovators from all over the world as you try and build a company from scratch was phenomenal.

Having straight A’s and a million accomplishments wasn’t what ended up mattering in Launch. Sure, prior experience is great, but hard work, excitement, passion, resilience and grit helped to propel me through the four weeks and have the best time ever while I was at it.


I built a great start up at Launch with my team, but I also built friendships and bonds to last forever. I’m more confident and relaxed, with the risk of being cheesy, I’d like to say, you can take the girl out of Launch, but you can’t take the Launch spirit out of the girl.

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While attending Launch, Gabi co-founded Politifund with guest blogger- Jason Zhao, Rahi Patel and Nick Majer. Best of luck to Gabi in all of her future endeavors!

Bring MIT Launch to your school!

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Guest Blogger & MIT Launch Program Coordinator, Marvin Vilma

High school students around the world have identified a lack of entrepreneurship education at their schools. Project-based learning has become a buzz term that educators use, but students want more. They want the space to create, innovate and, most importantly, solve problems. MIT Launch Clubs are providing an opportunity for students to do just that. Over the course of a year, students develop companies in teams of three to five that center around a theme. This year’s theme, for example, is Education. Students are provided a series of lesson plans that include activities, videos and discussions that guide them through the Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework. Additionally, teams have access to a strong mentor network, the staple of the Launch Clubs program. Students can reach out to many industry experts including engineers, programmers, entrepreneurs and others who have a wealth of diverse experience. They are able to leverage these relationships for feedback, advice and connections.

 

This past year, we invited nine teams to campus to participate in our final pitch event at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The teams were able to pitch in front of a group of accomplished educators, entrepreneurs and business people for feedback on their ventures. Many of the ventures from Launch Clubs plan to continue beyond the academic year, demonstrating that students are creating things that they really care about. Students who chose not to continue their ventures, however, continually express their appreciation of learning about the process to think the entrepreneurial mindset that they are building.

 

We are excited that the Launch Clubs program is growing significantly since its inception! As the initiative scales, we are happy to announce a couple new additions for students. This year, we are launching a brand new remote leadership training program for all school champions alongside the Launch Clubs program that will help develop their professional skills. We are also hosting a webinar series for all Launch Clubs participants with guest speakers from different industries. We want our community members to learn from the best! Finally, we are building out future programming for students who want to continue with our initiative for multiple years. Be on the lookout for more information soon. If you are interested in starting a Launch Club at your school, please visit http://mitlaunch.com/clubs/

Launch Stories: Rodrigo Ruz, Mexico

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Being accepted into Launch was a valuable recognition that told me: “You are on the right track.” Fortunately, I have learned to use my time not doing the things a college, job or someone else expects me to do; but rather for the things I am passionate about and I love. When I was accepted into the program it was a reassurance that MIT was the kind of place I wanted to be and it valued me as a person. There was still a long way to go, and I was skeptical at first. 

I decided to attend Launch because I believe you are only presented with opportunities like these once in a lifetime and it takes courageous people to take them. My parents supported me as much they could, and I used the money from my past four summer jobs and from threes months of constant academic tutoring for my classmates, to pay for the program.

Rodrigo and his team successfully launched their company, Eko, which generates electricity through sound absorption. We can’t wait to hear about all of the wonderful things Rodrigo accomplishes!

Eko2.jpg-Rodrigo and his teammates, Tak-Ho, Pascal and Paulina

Growth Hacking: Scaling Post-Launch

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Guest Blogger and Launch AlumnJason Zhao

The first few weeks after Launch are the true tests of your entrepreneurial aptitude: the welcoming environment and massive network available at MIT are replaced with “the real world.” Not to fear, because as a Launch alumnus, you have been amply prepared for the challenges ahead, armed with a talented network, an intricate understanding of the renowned Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework, and most importantly of all, a mindset of endless possibility.

The goal of this post then, is not to cover the basics, but rather to take the plunge into more advanced topics in entrepreneurship that will not only empower you to maintain momentum, but also elevate your company to the next level.

  1. Team

Regardless of the idea, market research, or media attention that you garnered at Launch, if you don’t have people to fuel this traction into something concrete, then you’re left with nothing more than a well-designed business plan. If you haven’t already, get on a call (yes, a call) with your team as soon as you can and plan meetings at least once a week (preferably bi-weekly) to keep each other updated and accountable. First and foremost, invest in your team.

Continue reading “Growth Hacking: Scaling Post-Launch”

What to Expect on Pitch Day

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We have all taken tests and we know how important preparation is. The same goes for pitching your company. Your pitch marks the culmination of countless hours of researching the market, number crunching, prototyping and (not) sleeping. When pitch day arrives, it is important to remember that you are the expert on  your company. You should know the ins and outs of every aspect of your product or service and should be prepared for the toughest questions.

Yes, it is absolutely necessary to know your go-to-market strategy and financials inside and out. It is expected that you will be able to answer any questions about your beachhead and TAM. You will need to justify the decisions that you have made and routes that you have abandoned. However, the most important thing to remember is that pitching is not about getting funding; it is about proving that there is a market for your product or service. Build value and money will come later.

We asked some of our Session 1 Launchies to share their insights about pitch day.

Gabi“The days leading up to Demo Day were daunting, but being able to see all the work we had put in over the past 4 weeks come to fruition  was nothing short of amazing.You’re going to be nervous standing up in front of the crowd, not just because you want to do well and to impress the board, but also because of a need to make your teammates proud. But you can’t let that worry you too much. This is one of the best moments of launch, let yourself enjoy it, and be sure to support your fellow Launchies. For me, demo day was the cherry on the cake. It let me show off what I had learned and appreciated from all the other wonderful businesses at launch. There was a real sense of community and bonding among us all. It was bittersweet to see the 4 weeks finish with such a spectacular bang, but it felt like more of a beginning than an end.” –Gabi Fullham, Politifund.

 

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“Pitch day helped everything come together – it was amazing to see all the teams present all the hard work we’d put in during the four weeks at launch, and pitch day acted as a grand culmination of our time and effort.” –Michael Wang, Self Check.

 

 

ANair

“From a country where people don’t respect entrepreneurship as much, I was overwhelmed to see hundreds of people cheer when I presented my own company. And the joy I had when a guy from a VC firm came up to me and gave me his card cannot be quantified. I would never have such an opportunity if it wasn’t for launch. It was an experience that I’ll never forget and will always be special to me.” –Anirudh Nair, Atria

 

Check out the Launch pitches on the MIT Launch YouTube channel.

Introducing Launch Stories: Kiara Wahnschafft

I never really had a comfort zone growing up. I was often the newbie on soccer teams that had been composed of the same group since elementary school. I walked into theatre camps full of rock-solid friend groups knowing absolutely no one. So instead of gaining a familiarity through routine, I gained a certain familiarity with the unfamiliar.

My craving for exploration probably started from my Montessori school days, where the curriculum was mostly student driven rather than teacher driven. There was no strict schedule shuffling you from activity to activity and there was no daily procedure to grow accustomed to. One day I could investigate the species of butterflies because that subject had piqued my interest the night before. But another day I could count some beans merely because they were beans and they’re quite entertaining when you’re three. So the norm became that which I wanted it to be – the norm became creating my own intellectual challenges and delving into them.

As I got older, my summers became the times when I could do exactly that. I ended Montessori school, and was in a more structured school system, yet wanted to explore again. My family graciously helped me do that. I went to summer programs where I could study topics that I enjoyed ranging from sustainable energy to mock trials. When I was a sophomore, I discovered programming and joined a competition called Technovation, in which high school girls create an app and a corresponding business plan. While I loved programming the app, this new idea of entrepreneurship was all too appealing: a way to act as my own teacher and foster my own innovation.

When I found Launch after searching for entrepreneurship programs online, it seemed like the ideal summer challenge: turning an idea into a real company with a tangible product in just four weeks. Within days of leaving Launch I wanted to go back, but I at least knew that I would continue working with a small subset of Launchies every week – that subset is made up of my two co-founders, whom I continue to meet with to this day.  The community of Launch extends beyond my co-founders, though, to a group of individuals drawn to innovation and exploration of how challenges can be harnessed to create a vision of a better reality. My love of the unfamiliar found a sense of familiarity in the ambition and curiosity of my peers who I am excited to have as my network, friends, and collaborators.

Experience MIT Launch online with Launch X!

launchxAre you interested in becoming an entrepreneur, but don’t know where to start? Have you been coming up with new ideas, but aren’t sure what next step to take? It all comes down to a strong knowledge of the entrepreneurial process — from identifying opportunities in the market, researching those customer needs to discover top priorities, and finding the easiest way to prove your new innovation will work. We’ve made these principles available through our online course, Launch X: Becoming an Entrepreneur.

Launch X: Becoming an Entrepreneur teaches the MIT-certified concepts of Disciplined Entrepreneurship, challenging students from all over the world to learn innovative techniques to unleash their inner entrepreneur. With informative course materials, weekly assignments, YouTube live streams of our TA office hours, and constant feedback for an immersive and streamlined learning process, it’s attracted over 43,000 students from all 195 countries of the world for our current session.

We’ve asked students their reason for joining our MIT Launch X course.

“Looking back, I knew nothing. I was reluctant because I wasn’t sure if people would believe in me. Then I went through the course material. Just after a week, I had the confidence to start. I acknowledged the 80/20 rule, that soft skills like confidence and body language and posture play a very significant role to persuade people to believe in yourselves. That if you believe in yourself, others will resonate and do the same. It’s the most fascinating and unique course. There’s no such course from any Institution on any MOOC platform, and never will be!” -Jash, Mechatronics Engineering Student, India.

Continue reading “Experience MIT Launch online with Launch X!”

International Students at Launch

For students who live outside of the United States, MIT Launch seems like another world away. From the moment they click “submit” for their application to the moment they arrive Launch, there is a tremendous buildup of anticipation, excitement and perhaps even anxiousness. During Launch, these students grow from the experience and make the most of the resources at Launch, then remain in close contact with the friends that they made here, and use the Launch network to expand their projects at home on an international level. Through this post, we want to share with you the experiences of some of our international students to help you understand why the Launch experience can be especially rewarding for students from abroad.

 

ryan.png“Coming from an international background, I was worried that it would be difficult for me to make friends and have fun with others at Launch due to my different culture. I was also concerned that I would have trouble adapting to life alone in America. Luckily, I was proved wrong – not only was the community extremely friendly and supportive, I was able to make many friends that I still keep in touch with now. Meeting people from different countries and cultures has truly broadened my perspective as I went out to dinner with people from India, Mexico, China, and the USA.”– Ryan Chang, Taiwan

 

Continue reading “International Students at Launch”

Launch Through the Lens of Guest Lecturers

Every summer, we bring in the leaders in Market Research, Strategy, Finance, Legal, Opportunity Identification and other areas of entrepreneurship to share their expertise with our students. Our guest lecturers typically teach MBA students at Harvard and MIT, and consult for Fortune 500 companies, yet they are always impressed by the charisma and caliber of Launch students. When we asked asked them why they are always eager to come back and teach our students, here is what they had to say:

 

LA2“I am always very eager to meet a new group of MIT Launch participants and really look forward to working with them. Each new group has been tremendously insightful, enthusiastic and hardworking.  The discussions in class are often better than those that I have with my HBS MBAs and with established executives.  They bring a fresh perspective that is always enlightening and makes the time I spend with them fly by.  Thank you to everyone who works so hard to put on such a high quality program.”

Lynda ApplegateSarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration at HBS

 

PS“In the emerging, global “gig”-based economy, there’s pretty much nothing more important than learning what it takes to create your own gig…becoming an entrepreneur.  What better way to shape your own destiny, and craft your version of a positive impact on the world?  

That’s why, of all the various groups I have the privilege of working with around the world, I find MIT Launch students particularly inspiring.  They are hungry to build and master the entrepreneurial mindset and skillset it takes to light the world on fire!  Equipping them with the GRIT and AQ (beyond just IQ) it takes to make the impossible possible, and to build the dream is one of the great privileges of my life.

Digging deep, doing whatever it takes—especially to sacrifice, struggle, stumble, even suffer—in the quest to achieve truly worthy goals is what it’s ultimately all about.  I tell people all the time, any time the world seems a little dark, just imagine the amazing impact Launch students will unleash, and hope is inevitably renewed.”

Dr. Paul StoltzCEO, Peak Learning

Continue reading “Launch Through the Lens of Guest Lecturers”

The Key to a Strong Team

When we think about the people behind successful companies like Facebook and Tesla, the first names that come to mind are Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Media tends to portray these CEOs as individuals who run the show with a billion dollar idea. It is important to recognize, though, that it takes a cohesive team to build a successful company. At MIT Launch, team dynamics is one of the most important parts of our entrepreneurial culture.

Usually students are anxious about the teaming process long before they actually arrive at Launch. From the day that admissions decisions are released to the day that teams are finalized, students ceaselessly bombard the MIT Launch team with questions about the “hows” and “whys” of teaming. This post is our attempt to explain the complex process and the important considerations of teaming, though unfortunately, there is not a secret recipe or fail-proof algorithm to build perfect teams — it’s a case by case situation.  There are MANY components that are taken into consideration to increase the chances of Launch team alignment and success.

After the first few days of the program, ideas are pitched to the class and students submit their preferences of ideas and teammates.  MIT Launch uses this as one factor to determine well-balanced and passionate teams, but there are many more items that are considered.

Continue reading “The Key to a Strong Team”

Session 1- That’s a Wrap!

 

 

Launch session 1 has come to an end and session 2 is just a few days away! It was an amazing four weeks and we’re so proud of all of the work the teams have accomplished. While we miss the students already, we’ve asked our session 1 Launchies to share some of their reflections and thoughts about their time at MIT. We think Nakul sums his experience up nicely:

 

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“Imagine being in your dream school with dream classmates, mentors, speakers and teachers in a dream classroom where dreams come true, that is MIT Launch.”

– Nakul Goel, co-founder of Edibo

 

At Launch, we encourage students to reach for their goals and achieve more than they have before. Our classes combine like-minded students with the entrepreneurial drive to change the world. While our teachers and mentors provide content and inspiration, it’s the students’ hard work and resiliency that drives the program.  

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“I would say that Launch as a whole goes far  beyond teaching just entrepreneurship.  It teaches you how to deal with adversities,  overcome challenges and adopt different perspectives on issues.”

– Mantej Singh, co-founder of Lyfeband  

 

Launch students spend four weeks living together on the MIT campus. For many of them it is the first time living away from home and among peers. The bonds formed at during the nightly dinners and work sessions are invaluable and will endure long past Launch.

 

Gabi

“You don’t really know what to expect when you set off on journeys like these. I’m not a ready-made billionaire post-launch, but I am a bit stronger, more confident and I have the best friends in the world.”

-Gabrielle Fullam, co-founder of Politifund

 

Continue reading “Session 1- That’s a Wrap!”

Should you bring your own idea to Launch?

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Before coming to Launch, many students ask if they should be coming with or may bring in their own established idea or company. There is no correct answer to this but there are some things to keep in mind when weighing your options.

Entrepreneurship is not a Solo Sport: If you are the idea originator, it’s important to remember that your teammates at Launch are considered your co-founders which means there should be equal respect amongst everyone. It takes a collaboration across different skills and personalities to be able to start a company, and all must work in harmony and with full drive.  Success is more about the team and execution of the business than the idea.  The entrepreneurial mindset will be the most important thing you learn leaving Launch, but can only be learned when working well in a team.

Team > Idea: It’s also important to remember that while it might be your original idea, you are now working with a well-equipped team of brilliant peers with whom you need to find a common vision of success – for the summer and the company.  Ideas are a dime a dozen, with most having been thought of or even worked on before, so success comes down to execution. To execute well, you need all the skill sets of your team.  This includes market research first and foremost, with open-mindedness to feedback.  Almost ALL ideas change from their origination to actual implementation, especially in successful companies, and your teammates will be well positioned to bring a fresh perspective.  Humility and openness to feedback is key.

Continue reading “Should you bring your own idea to Launch?”

How to Get the Most Out of Mock Boards

Help is good, but see if you are really listening. Check out these tips to get the most out of mentorship engagements.

1) Don’t interrupt each other.

If you can’t handle having a conversation about your company, how can you handle running the company? It is disrespectful to your teammate and disrespectful for those trying to listen. You may think you have a better thing to say or better answer to a question, but by interrupting you have a worse answer by default. If you strongly believe that your answer is more accurate, just wait until questioning is over and pull aside the mentor to clear things up.

 

2)  Realize you will have to decide for yourself.

We’ve all been there, we give an essay to multiple people and everyone is saying something different. So whose or which advice do you go with? Learn why each person gave that advice, if one executive tells Uber to go “expand to Europe”, and the other says “focus on growth in the U.S”, Uber can’t take both pieces of advice. Instead they will continue to ask why each executive feels that way and have them back it up with numbers, do the same with your mentors.

 

3) Why you, why this, and why now?

HBS professor Lynda Applegate came to speak to Launch and discussed the elements of a great elevator pitch. Meeting with mentors is a great time to start out with your elevator pitch, the people listening need to know why you care about changing this part of the world, and why this is the way to do it.

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Continue reading “How to Get the Most Out of Mock Boards”

Week One Reflections

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Now that we’ve started week two of Launch, we’ve asked our Launchies to reflect on their first week here at MIT. Read on to learn more and follow the journey with us!

 

Check in Impressions:

Q: What was going through your mind when you first got to Launch?

A: Michael W.

I arrived late, and it was amazing that people were eager to make connections, and there was such a community dynamic. It just made me so excited for the summer just from that one day.

Launch Thoughts:  During the first days at Launch there is an amazing buzz in the air. Students are so excited to be meeting their peers and potential teammates. They know that the students in the room could very well be potential business partners and not just for duration of the session.

 

Entrepreneurship:

Q: Your first class touched on the basics of entrepreneurship. What were your thoughts?

A: Varun W.

I was really impressed by guest speaker Jaylen Bledsoe. He is the same age as us but has already achieved so much.

Read more about Jaylen here: http://jaylenbledsoe.com/

Launch Thoughts: Jaylen Bledsoe is just one of the many incredible guest speakers we have here at Launch. Students are encouraged to apply the guest lecturers’ lessons into their own companies.

 

Self-Awareness:

Q: The second half of day one was about how as entrepreneurs it is important to be self-aware. What did you learn?

A:  Adhiv D.

Something I didn’t realize before was about how important the person is in regard to starting a company. It is about the kind of person we are, whether we are a hacker, a hustler, or a designer, or even a mix of all of them. I think it is cool how personal entrepreneurship is.

Launch Thoughts: Adhiv is correct in that every entrepreneur is different and by knowing our strengths and weaknesses, we can be sure to hire teams that compliment our strengths.

 

Customer Persona:

Q: On Friday we learned about market research. We were lucky enough to have Entrepreneur in Residence, Elaine Chen, tell you a bit more about what a customer persona is. What is your company’s customer persona?

A: Nakul G.

Our customer persona is an international student who is most likely a student from India. He misses the food of his home. He is a college student, and he has no meal plan, most likely a grad student. The second customer persona is a grad student who loves to cook and could cook a home cooked meal for the other student.

Launch Thoughts: Identifying your customer persona is a crucial step in developing your venture. Launch students are continuing to sharpen their market research skills in week two. 

Elaine

Closing Thoughts:

We are excited for the second week, and we’ll be updating everyone soon! Check out our Instagram to see pictures from each day of our summer adventure!

Last Minute Tips for Launch

Launch Summer is about to take flight in just a couple days. We want to touch on some last minute things about preparing for your entrepreneurial journey, exploring Boston, and making the most of this life changing experience.  We asked our alumni for their most helpful tips for you to prepare.

“Entrepreneurship won’t be the only thing you’ll learn at Launch. Be excited and take the opportunity to learn about yourself.”  (Anant Agrawal)

You might do this subconsciously, but if you really think about it, you are all coming to Launch for a reason, certainly not the same reason. Of course, it has something to do with your curiosity and expressed interest in entrepreneurship, but you were accepted for your strengths, and those include so much more than the listing of your resume items.  It includes your values, personality, and quirks – and Launch is a great place to embrace those facets.

“Understand that coming up with ideas and choosing an idea have two different approaches.”  (Lillian Chen)

It can be really tempting, especially for creative and aspiring students to chase after huge ideas and ventures. Be realistic with your goals when choosing your company idea- remember you only have 4 weeks. But during ideation phase, don’t let yourself think that an idea is too impossible or out of the box. Let your passions, problems, and interests guide you. Problems make products but passion sells the business.

Food and cooking (there was a lot of advice for this!):

  1. EAT SHAKESHACK. (Sunny Cui)
  2. Toscaninis ice cream is a must. (Trisha Kagalavadi)
  3. The lobster in Quincy Market will change your life. (Saahil Katyal)
  4. Flour Bakery is amazing for food. (Sunny Cui)
  5. Hit up Chinatown for HOTPOT. Also, Sebastians has the best crepes ever! (Lillian Chen)
  6. Insomia Cookies! (Rohan Shah)
  7. Turn on the fans when you cook. (Alex Xu)

Continue reading “Last Minute Tips for Launch”

Finding The Right Mentor

nate-blogYou hear it all the time, “it’s for networking,” “if you want to succeed, you have to network,” or my personal favorite, “college is mostly for the network.”  While you may know how important developing your network is, how to do it is a bit more challenging.  It comes down primarily to the idea of knocking on the door.

Finding a Mentor –

We all have had that professional crush, that “wow, would I like to work with him/her.” They have an amazing job, dress well, healthy family, you see everything you want for yourself in someone else. So, you want them to be your mentor, but how in the world do you approach that?  Approach the person with a common interest to start a conversation. Keep in mind that finding a good mentor is as much about personal fit as professional idolization.  That means the conversation doesn’t start with, “Will you be my mentor?” but instead starts with what you find exciting about the person’s professional background, and why you are interested in learning more about their experience.  It often evolves into an understanding of the values that drive a person’s decisions that has led them to where they are, and a need to ensure that you are on the same page with not just the end goal of where they are, but why and how they got there.

Here is what I did. There was a board meeting for my school, where I, as the newly elected student body president, am invited to present on behalf of the student body. I read online before the meeting that there was a new board of trustee member, a highly regarded entrepreneur who works in education. I immediately said to myself, “I need to meet him, and talk to him about all my ideas and love for entrepreneurship.”

Knock knock (that’s opportunity), I see him getting food before the meeting and think to myself, this is my chance to meet him! I came up and said “Hi, I read your bio, really love the work that you have done, I would love to sit down and talk to you about entrepreneurship.”  While I am sure I looked a little nervous, it was clear I was eager to listen to him. These successful people love sharing their story.  

He sat down with me, talked for about 30 minutes about the do’s and don’ts of entrepreneurship, whether business school is worth it, and my past businesses. This was enough to get his card, and his card was enough to give him a call asking advice about a major business decision I had to make. Finally, I worked with him in his company and learned more from him than I could have ever imagined.

The moral of the story is this:  If you want someone to be your mentor, approach them and spread your love for a common interest between you two, maybe entrepreneurship!

 

Pro Tips: Hackathon Event Planning

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Here at MIT Launch, we are always looking for ways to support the young entrepreneur community. Whether it’s speaking at an event or sending some Launch swag and prizes, we love being involved with the exciting things happening with high school students. If you or your school are hosting an upcoming hackathon, let us know how we can get involved! Use this form to share more information.

Thinking about running an event and don’t know where to start? A few former Launchies, who have setup hackathons at their schools, share their insights on the vision, support, and marketing of these events.

Ayden Howle, hackMHS II, May 21-22, the vision and organization:

“We created hackMHS in order to bring people together, to create a community of coders and engineers from different school systems. We hope to create an environment of innovation, where teams will get together to create and build anything they set their minds to. In order to have our hackathon run smoothly, we split up the team of organizers into several committees, such as Workshops, Sponsors, Budget, Logistics, Mentors, Marketing, etc. Organizing the hackathon has been challenging, but incredibly rewarding.”

Continue reading “Pro Tips: Hackathon Event Planning”

Launch Life: Roommate Edition

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Session one of Launch is just over a month away! We hope that you are as excited as we are for the program to start. There are many reasons why Launch is a worthwhile experience, and the college experience of roommate living is just one of them.

You might be nervous about living with a roommate for the first time. Maybe you are an only child or a like to listen to music at all hours of the night. Rest assured, our Launch team works hard to make sure that students enjoy a positive living experience throughout the program by intelligently matching roommates, while also offering some single rooms. Launch admits fill out a pre-work survey that includes questions about lifestyle and work habits, giving us some key information that is statistically proven to contribute to positive roommate experiences.

While there is an option to request a single room, Launch alumni highly suggest rooming with a classmate to have a richer experience during the program. For some students, this may be your first time away from home for an extended period of time. Not only will your roommate keep you company, they will surely provide motivation during the intense four weeks of the program. Launch roommates have often become best friends and continue to inspire each other in their business ventures.

Still feeling nervous? We’ve asked some of our previous Launchies to share their roommate experiences. Here’s what they said:

“Launch couldn’t possibly have got my roommate allocation more right. Before the program even began my roomie Lauren and I were best friends, and our bond only grew as a result of our month together. We were on different teams, so we were there for each other to help brainstorm ideas and support each other when things got tough or the workload piled up. I’m still super close with Lauren and we definitely have a sisterly relationship. I know we’ll be friends for life!” -Ciara

Continue reading “Launch Life: Roommate Edition”

No meal plan?! No worries!

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Obligatory Boston clam chowder photo

One of the most commonly asked questions we get at Launch is regarding the lack of a meal plan.  Unfortunately, the dormitory dining halls are closed during the summer. While many students ask about how much to budget for meals, it’s difficult for us to provide a recommendation since it’s very dependent on the student (and their appetite).  Not having a meal plan, though, also means that there is a lot of flexibility the offers great culinary experiences.  One of our former Launchies, Sunny, is here to share some of her adventurous explorations.  Rest assured, though, there are lots of options at the MIT student center and Sloan cafeteria for those who prefer to stay on campus.

Hi, my name is Sunny and I attended Launch in 2015. Launch was one of the best experiences of my life, and my tastebuds would agree. As a self-proclaimed foodie, the culinary adventures that Boston has to offer trumps any meal plan. I want to share with you nostalgic Launchies and prospective Launchies some of my favorites and some reasons why it’s beneficial to not have a meal plan. (Beware of photos of excessively delicious food. Caution to readers on an empty stomach.)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when you will be challenging yourself in class all morning.  A few of my favorite spots include Clover, Rebecca’s Cafe, Flour, Cosi and Au Bon Pain. These cafes/restaurants are all found around Kendall square near your classes. I highly recommend Clover’s breakfast sandwich or popover, and Cosi’s breakfast wraps. Plus, there is a Starbucks nearby if you want your dose of caffeine.

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Chilled borscht soup from Flour

Continue reading “No meal plan?! No worries!”

What does it take to get into MIT Launch??

 

We’re so impressed with the applicant pool this year, and had some really hard decisions to make.  We often get asked throughout the process and after decisions come out: What do we look for in applicants?  There’s no one profile or formula, and there’s not a way to build your resume or application to reverse-engineer what we’re looking for, though here are a few examples of admits this year, to give you a better idea of what appealed to our admissions committee.

Admit Example #1:

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  • Clear passion and drive within STEM and education
  • Co-founder and CTO of two STEM-related initiatives, clearly communicating both the vision and progress of these projects, and committing significant time
  • Internship at a startup that creates games for kids both through apps and 3D objects
  • Leadership in extracurricular activities
  • ~3.0 GPA (we recognize that entrepreneurs do not always have the best grades!)

Continue reading “What does it take to get into MIT Launch??”

MIT Launch Admissions Stats 2016

Congratulations again to all those accepted to MIT Launch Summer 2016!  To give you a bit better idea of the class profile, here are a few stats on our admitted class.

Our admission rate this year is <15%!

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genderPrimary background of students
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Continue reading “MIT Launch Admissions Stats 2016”

Why Launch?

It’s a huge decision to pick up and move to MIT for the summer to start a company.  You could be at home watching reruns and hanging out with friends, starting a company on your own, or attending another program.  But if you’ve applied to MIT Launch, we know you think a bit different, so we’d like to share some of the reasons our unique cadre of innovation-driving, game-changing leaders of both today and tomorrow chose to attend Launch.

 

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“For me, it was mainly a function of the hands-on, practical philosophy Launch has. The environment that a lot of high schoolers, myself included, are in is one that is focused on what can be done ‘in the future.’ Launch, on the other hand, was giving us the resources to actually build a company now, not just write business plans or learn vague concepts.”

 – Launch 2014 alum, Divya Goel, MIT student

 

This desire resonates throughout the students of Launch, with many of them growing up having the overwhelming urge to fix problems and help others.  Launch provides the tools to build something to scale, teaching the Disciplined Entrepreneurship methodology and providing prototyping facilities.

Continue reading “Why Launch?”

What if I’m… *gasp*… denied?

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Admissions decisions come out soon!  Which means we know that many of you are laying in eager wait.  There are so many wonderfully qualified students that apply to Launch, so before decisions are released, we want to cover a few things:

  • Select applicants are placed on a waitlist.  There is not a specific order of these applicants since many factors may be considered if an admitted student does not accept, so please do not ask us for your position on the list.
  • We do not release the number of students who are on the waitlist, nor the number of students admitted from each application round.
  • We cannot provide individualized feedback to each specific applicant regarding their admissions decision, though please know that every application was reviewed by several admissions committee members.
  • If you are denied or waitlisted but not ultimately admitted, keep your head up!  Several admits this year were denied last year, but had an improved application this year that truly impressed us.  In fact, while only ~5% of our applicants applied previously, the number of previous applicants that have been admitted is 2-3 times that rate!

We hope to see you soon – in Launch Summer 2016, during our online course this summer, or applying for Summer 2017!

Launch Admissions FAQs

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Congratulations on applying to MIT Launch! Whether you are waiting on your admissions decision or trying to decide whether to accept, we understand you have many questions, and we’re here to help! Please see below for the most commonly asked questions. Don’t see your question below? Check out the MIT Launch
website for more FAQs.

 

First, a couple of logistics:

 

  • All regular round admissions decisions, including deferrals, will be announced by April 15, 2016.
  • Applications are still being reviewed until decisions are sent.  

 

 

Q: Can I change my application once I’ve submitted it?

A: Applications cannot be changed once they have been submitted. ONLY if you become aware that the link to your video does not work, or there is another part of your application that is incomplete, may you email info@launchsummer.org.  

 

Q: My friends have received interview requests but I have not. Does that mean I have been denied?

A: Interviews are offered on a rolling basis as applications are reviewed.  There is not any specific order to when applications are reviewed during the review period, and interviews may still be offered until late in the process.  

 

Q: I have received an interview and I am trying to set up a time on SimplyBook.Me. Are the times offered in my time zone?

A: All interview times are shown by default in Eastern Standard Time (EST). Please review your schedule and plan accordingly.

Continue reading “Launch Admissions FAQs”

International Students: Applying for a Visa?!

So you’ve been accepted to MIT Launch. First of all, congratulations! You’re in for one crazy summer. But now, if you’re from outside the US you’re probably going to have to start thinking of logistics, and most of all getting a visa.

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I’m Ciara and I was a student in the Launch Class of 2015. As I am from Ireland, I am allowed to freely enter the United States without a visa for tourist purposes, but as MIT Launch wasn’t exactly a holiday, I wasn’t sure if that would cover it. I did a bit of research and came up with two options:

Business Visa (B-1)

After considering all my options I ended up applying and getting a business visa. This covers you to enter the United States for temporary business purposes, with the maximum duration of your stay being 6 months. As Launch can technically be considered a business incubator this visa will permit you to attend the program. Personally I think this is the best option for most people as, depending on where you are from it can be valid for up to 10 years. This means if your Launch company takes off (which hopefully it will) you will be able to return to the USA for business trips, conferences etc. using this visa for the next ten years before you will have to renew it.

To get this visa you will likely need a letter of acceptance for Launch (which I got emailed to me and printed myself) and the address in which you will be staying for the duration of your time in Boston (I just gave the address of MIT Campus). However I would recommend you consult the US embassy or consul in your country to get more detailed instructions.

Tourist Visa (B-2)

By considering Launch as a summer program rather than a business incubator it could be possible to use a tourist visa to enter the country. I personally would see this as a less reliable option due to the fact that the length of your stay is determined by the Department of Homeland Security upon your entry to the United States, so it adds an extra variable to the equation. Also, if you ever want to return to the US for business purposes, this visa will not permit your entry.

If you already have a B-2 visa and would like to use this for Launch, I’d advise you again consult the US embassy or consul in your country to get more guidance from them.

 

So that’s my tips for you! And once you get your visa you can concentrate on what’s important – getting super excited for the summer of a lifetime you are about to experience!

Who teaches at MIT Launch?

We’re gearing up for another exhilarating summer at MIT Launch, and a question we often hear is, “Who teaches the lectures?”

First, we try to avoid the term “lectures,” since our classroom sessions provide so much more than the traditional one-directional lecture.  Our sessions range from interactive case discussions, to activities and simulations, to entrepreneur panels and speakers.  The first week is a bit heavier with time in the classroom to lay some foundational groundwork, plus form teams and ideas.  Past the first week, classroom sessions are only held in the mornings.  Afternoons are a more open format for teams to work on their businesses – interviewing customers, prototyping, meeting with their mentors or having a mock board of directors meeting, doing competitive analysis, and more!

Our innovative teaching format requires great instructors to match.  Several of the courses are taught by MIT Launch staff, with guest lecturers of MIT and HBS professors, new and established entrepreneurs, and industry experts.  Here’s a tiny preview of what is to come this summer:

Continue reading “Who teaches at MIT Launch?”

Is MIT Launch Worth It?

By: Nate Friedman

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If this post title appealed to you, you’re among the applicants or admits (or parents or teachers) who has asked whether or not Launch is worth the cost, time, and giving up other opportunities of what else you might do during the summer.  I almost turned down my offer to attend Launch, and want to share with you my story.

My Background: Before attending Launch, I was working on a company that I was passionate about, and considered turning down the offer to attend Launch.  My dad, who is also an entrepreneur, challenged the idea of attending Launch.  “Maybe you really don’t need this program; you can get a desk at an innovation center and really start working.”  The combination of making progress with a business that I was passionate about plus following the advice of my father made the alternative to Launch tempting.  

Starting A Company “The Right Way”:  My oldest brother, who was about to graduate from Harvard Business School, offered a different perspective, even in light of my exciting alternative. He told me, “you need to go to this program.  You need to learn how to start a company the right way. You have been trying for years to get a real company off the ground and Launch will help you with a real framework, an abridged version of what I learned in business school, plus give you a network and community of like-minded peers – best friends – for life.”

In the past, I have started companies by drafting up a business plan and designing a logo. Starting a company is an impressive thing to do in high school, but starting it the right way and really fixing a problem – that’s special – and people in the startup world, colleges, and especially you will know the difference. This is the significance of Launch. You may hear about young people starting companies in high school, but Launch alumni know how to use a specific framework to launch (hehe) their ideas and really solve the problem that their company is addressing, plus will be able to do it repeatably over time.

Why My Brother Was Right: It was really hard to turn down my father’s advice, but I’m grateful that I was guided and supported in making the choice that I did.  I talk to my friends from Launch, at least one, every single day. We spent a month together and that was enough time to guarantee best friends for life. You may not believe that now, but Launchies have each others’ backs and that’s what my brother alluded to. He also mentioned what might seem like the obvious, but a resume boost. Attending MIT Launch and starting a company – not bad for a month’s time.  Let me finish this section with this, my brother knew I could do all that and have fun.  We all will get different things out of Launch, make different mistakes, experience different success, but we will all grow as entrepreneurs and people, and have an unforgettable summer that bonds us for life.

Ciara Judge: Last Minute Inspiration

ciaraThere are three weeks left to apply for MIT Launch – and I’m here to tell you why a last minute application could change your life.

Around this time last year I was surfing the internet, looking for things to do to fill up my summer when a Facebook notification popped up on my screen. My sister had sent me a link with a single sentence caption: “THIS IS THE PLACE FOR YOU!!!” One click led me to the MIT Launch website and I began to explore.

Everything I read about the program just screamed out from the page to me as something I wanted to participate in. I had always been the entrepreneurial type from a young age, starting up little businesses or making a fortune by lending to my friends and charging interest as soon as I found out what the term meant (I drove a hard bargain). But I never took this attitude of mine seriously until I read about MIT Launch. Suddenly I saw myself growing up to be an entrepreneur, forging my own path and working with a team of like-minded individuals. So without hesitation I decided I just had to apply.

I had two weeks, so I was on quite a tight deadline, but thankfully I got my application in on time. And fast forward to a few months later in April, I received news that I had been accepted. Suddenly it all became so real! That summer, I was going to actually start up a proper company!

However, upon arriving at MIT Launch I realised that this experience was going to mean so much more than cofounding a startup. Over that summer I made friends for life, learned skills I’ll carry with me forever, and built a network of contacts to call on in the years to come as I travel along this journey of entrepreneurship. Of course I met my fantastic PurchaseMate team, and we are still working together now with big plans for the future. PurchaseMate is currently in beta and we plan to get it up on the app store very soon. The course perfectly combines fun and enjoyment with professionalism, and I now a more well-rounded, competent individual as a result of my involvement.

purchasemate team

That last minute application last year certainly changed my life, and who I am. Ironically, although entrepreneurship is usually seen as a high-risk career path, I am now so much more certain of my future. Because MIT Launch taught me that even if I fail over and over again I can keep going if I have enough determination grit.

If you were one of those kids who always challenged the status quo, who saw another way of doing things, maybe entrepreneurship is for you. If you like making things, creating things, maybe entrepreneurship is for you. If you want a life of excitement and are willing to put in the work to make it so, maybe entrepreneurship is. You’ll never know unless you take that leap, and applying for MIT Launch is a perfect way to do that. You have three weeks, so you better get going!

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International Applicants: Hello From The Other Siiiiide

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Less than one month left to apply to MIT Launch 2016, and the questions from international applicants are rolling in! I’ve collected some advice from former international Launchies for all of you with similar questions out there:

Do I need a visa if I’m admitted to Launch? What kind of visa will work best?

Many international students come to Launch using a tourist visa. According to Launch alum Nicholas Raga, “…since you don’t get any college credit and it is short then you don’t need a student visa.” Alumna Ciara Judge from Ireland says that “any tourist or B1 visa will work.”

Of course, this can vary by country, so be sure to check the specifics of your location.

How do I submit my grades? My school doesn’t use a GPA! What if my school doesn’t grade on the ABCDF scale?

“As a student from the UK, the whole GPA thing was pretty foreign to me, so when it came to transcripts I simply submitted my internal grades from school. I also submitted my grades for GCSEs (our external exams at the end of 10th Grade). All in all, I would say aim to submit enough material to allow Launch to gauge your academic strength – and don’t be afraid to provide extra explanations here so that it’s clear what each grade means!” -Ashwin Agarwal 2014

Basically, help Launch calibrate your school’s grading system as much as possible.  There are some suggestions within the application for how to do this, though also use your best judgment.  We’re not trying to be overly prescriptive here – we just aren’t experts on every single potential academic system and need your help, so your translation of grades to a GPA and letter grades is much appreciated.

Keval Patel: Never Too Young

It’s been four months since Launch ended, but the memories will continue to live. The experiences I faced and the friendships I made are unforgettable and will always be a part of my life. One of the key messages from Launch is that you are never too young to be an entrepreneur. This was embedded in all of us since day one.

Launch gives students the opportunity to become immersed in the entrepreneurial world. From day one, we were tasked to develop a mini-businesses overnight out of forty dollars.  This assignment taught me that money isn’t the foundation of successful entrepreneurs, but rather it is the thought-process and focus that are key. Even though a certain idea may seem to be unique and desirable to the public, you have to find your differentiation – the customers you serve better, and the way you serve them better with your product and marketing.  Young entrepreneurs have this innovative imagination that allows them to come up with truly novel ideas. With the correct passion, they are able to make their fantasies into entrepreneurial realities, despite the opposition they may receive.

A couple days into Launch, one of the instructors drew two axes of a graph on the board and a positive parabola in the middle. She then labels the x-axis “Time at Launch”, and the y-axis “Level of Happiness”. This image represents that entrepreneurs will start their project with ambition and excitement, hit a few rough patches, and then the excitement will ensue again. I never expected to follow the Happiness Curve during my entrepreneurial experience. However, I realized in Launch that it is inevitable.

happiness curve

Continue reading “Keval Patel: Never Too Young”

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (4/4)

Hello December! We’re back!

The early application deadline is just around the corner (December 28)!  So it’s time to look at the the video portion of the application.  And we’ve saved the best for last.  This is essentially your opportunity to pitch yourself – an important skill as an entrepreneur!

You are asked to introduce yourself to your future class at Launch in a video of 90 seconds or less.  No, you may not exceed this time limit, no exceptions for your awesome video wizardry. We want you to portray what you think is most important, not your whole life story.  And no, we aren’t going to share all of these videos before the first day, but knowing how you approach this question can give us a lot of insights into your entrepreneurial propensity in Launch.

So what are we looking for in these videos?

Continue reading “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (4/4)”

Public Speaking Advice from my TEDx Talk

I recently had the honor of doing a TEDx talk.  It was a humbling, exciting, overwhelming, and exhausting experience.  I was among a panel of esteemed speakers including some previous TED global speakers, an Emmy-Award winner, a performance storyteller, and an expert in neurodevelopment.  Wow… And I had to kick off the event as the first speaker.  I’m proud of my talk, though also know how I can improve going forward, and would like to share some advice for any of you who may have the opportunity to have a public speaking engagement.
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Continue reading “Public Speaking Advice from my TEDx Talk”

The Creative Process

Launch starts before students even set foot on MIT campus with some assignments to be completed prior to arrival – primarily the creative process ideation and filtering.  The best ideas are at the intersection of students interests, passions, and market trends and needs.  Activities guide students through the process of diversion of ideas, then conversion, which then gets repeated in the first few days of the program in a group setting.  While ideas are often overrated (since most good ideas have been thought of before and success typically comes down to execution / commercialization), they’re still a necessary component of a good business!

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Check out this article by Launch student Josh Seides who was particularly inspired by the Creative Process and published “How to Turn Your Many Ideas Into A Million-Dollar Business”

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Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (3/4)

Hello again. Hope everyone had a happy Halloween! This week we’re going to focus on a trickier bit of the application (well it’s really not that tricky–it just looks confusing): the Entrepreneurial Baseline. What do we mean by “entrepreneurial baseline”?  We have identified some key questions that will give us a good idea of what kind of entrepreneur you are, your strengths, your motivations, and your expectations for MIT Launch and that #startuplyfe.

IMPORTANT: Don’t game your answers! What I mean is – don’t answer in a particular way because you think we’re looking for particular answers. There’s not a right or wrong answer – there are all different types of potential entrepreneurs – and we want to get a better sense of your potential role within a team, aspirations for the summer, and the person behind the resume.  Just be honest – we appreciate self-awareness, open-mindedness, and willingness to learn.  Plus, this helps us get an idea of where our incoming class is starting from (the baseline) so we know how best to tailor programming to reach our common goals.

Here are some of the more confusing questions explained:

Continue reading “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (3/4)”

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (2/4)

Hello again. I hope you all have started on those applications! This week we’re done with housekeeping–let’s talk about your schoolwork and your activities.

Transcript:
Basic School Info: This is pretty typical, the easy stuff🙂

Class Rank: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Class rank is calculated differently at each school and we know it. Providing your class rank will not hurt your application—it just gives us a little more context to see what the student body of your school is like.  This field is optional.

Grades/Advanced Coursework: Again, this should not be a stress point. Your admissions decision will never be based solely on your school grades or what classes you take because we know that there is a lot of variation in different schools (some offer 18 AP classes, while others might not have any!). We ask that you provide this information just to see how you are using the opportunities at your school and to see how you are challenging yourself, because at the end of the day Launch is all about being resourceful about the opportunities presented to you and challenging yourself.

Transcript Upload: Give us a copy of your transcript, which can be picked up from your school’s registrar or your counselor, or if your school uses an online grade reporting system such as Naviance, you may upload the transcript you find on there. Please DO NOT have your school mail the transcript, ONLY submit it digitally.  We also do NOT accept updated transcripts past the deadline of the application round to which you apply.  This means that if you really want to have your current semester grades as part of your application, you need to apply regular round. Sorry, you can’t apply early round and email us your transcript later.

Activities Involvement:

NOTE: You may add up to 5 activities. This doesn’t mean that you need to fill all 5, but also means that if you have more that you need to be selective in what you share.  Pick the ones that are most meaningful to you and those that demonstrate impact.

Role: Put your current role first (if you have had other roles in the program, list them after with the years you served in that role). If you do not have a title yet you may just put “member or participant”.

Description: The word limit is a 100 word MAXIMUM. You don’t need to write a profound and emotional reflection, just describe what you did and the impact of your activity.  Including any aspect that might make it entrepreneurial or your specific contributions can be valuable, but don’t feel like you need to be super sentimental or overly philosophical about it.  Being concise is appreciated.

Entrepreneurial program experience: If you have gone to other programs, let us know what you did there! We just want to get a sense of how much background our applicants may be coming in with. Don’t worry if you have not been part of an entrepreneurial program before—many of our students come in with little to no business backgrounds.  It takes a variety of backgrounds to start a company!

If you haven’t already, start your application today!  And check out our FAQs on the Launch website.  Plus check back for the next issue where we’ll cover the Entrepreneurial Baseline section of the application.

Financial Need Scholarships

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Hello future Launchies! My name is Russell Reed, and I serve as the Onboarding Coordinator at MIT Launch. I know that, among the questions you have about the application itself, many of you have another concern: paying for Launch if you are accepted. I’m going to do my best to demystify our financial aid process in this post, but if you have any further questions, please post them here and we will do our best to answer them.

First of all, admission to Launch is need blind — if you indicate you will be applying for financial aid, it will only be used to follow up appropriately when / if you are accepted. Our goal is to make Launch affordable for every accepted student, and therefore financial aid packages are curated on an individual basis with the intention of meeting all demonstrated need.

“Affordability is the last thing one should worry about when applying to MIT Launch. The program has all the resources to help you and your family afford an amazing entrepreneurial education… As we say in Launch: ‘an entrepreneur is someone who pursues an opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.’”

-Besart Copa, 2015 Alumnus

At Launch, we are dedicated to bringing together the most ambitious and driven young aspiring entrepreneurs from across the globe, and we will ensure that financing the program does not stand in your way of attending.  We have compiled information from previous sessions to provide these average financial aid offers, but remember that each package is made individually, so they may vary based on some additional factors of the admitted student and family circumstance.

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“MIT Launch changed me in more ways that I could have imagined. Now I am confident in my potential and I know I have what it takes to start a company. Even though I couldn’t afford to pay for the program, it didn’t matter, because I knew there’s financial aid in place to make sure everybody who is admitted could join the program. So be one of the bold ones! Apply!

– 2015 Launch Alumnus 

Best of luck to everyone applying, and please feel free to contact us through the College Confidential post linked earlier in this post if you have any more questions!

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (1/4)

Hello hello, Annie here🙂 It’s been such an exciting summer with Launch, and I can’t believe it’s already application season again! Here at MIT the campus, tours are in full swing again and every day as I pass by the Admissions Office on my way to class, I see anxious parents and their seniors crowding around, trying to glean some insight about the college admissions process. And in this way, I’m reminded everyday that while all applications are designed to be as straightforward as possible, they almost never feel that way.

That’s why I’m starting this blog series to debunk the myths and demystify the application for the coolest summer program this side of the Mississippi River—shhhh, I might be biased🙂 Feeling confused should never stand in the way of applying for programs that you really would like to participate in. Having “graduated” from MIT Launch myself and also having worked on the backend of things, I hope my perspectives will be helpful in understanding what the MIT Launch application is all about.

This will be a 4 part blog series and every week or so I’ll be explaining a different part of the application, so check back often as to not miss out!

Continue reading “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the…2016 MIT Launch Application (1/4)”

Lillian Chen: To Lead, To Teach, To Launch

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When I stumbled upon entrepreneurship at MIT Launch Summer Program last year, I also discovered the superpower to change the world through my creative ideas. My experience with MIT Launch made me believe high school students could build companies.

After returning home, my excitement for growing my company was crushed by what I found back at school: my friends couldn’t connect to me when I went on passionately about marketing strategies; the school atmosphere was one geared towards science, sports, and fine arts. We had Debate Club, Environment Club, even Beyoncé Club, but no Entrepreneurship Club. Business was just something people typically didn’t believe high schoolers were interested in or could even do it.

Wanting to pursue my passion for entrepreneurship and find like minded people, I decided to start the Launch Houston Entrepreneurship Club and succeeded into tricking 12 open minded students who’ve never experienced business to join (just kidding…they joined on their own free will). Rather than pursuing my own passion for entrepreneurship, I saw the impact of sharing this knowledge with others. I heard Margaret T. challenge conventional norms with her questions. I saw Matthew F. open his shell and become one of the most eloquent, persuading public speakers I’ve ever met. I saw Anirudh S. marketing in school and Divya J.marketing through neighborhoods. I saw each students put in #work; I saw teams fight, make up, tackle big dilemmas and decisions, pivot, and grow stronger together. I felt their determination to succeed. 

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I’ve always loved teaching others: I tutored refugees in the summer and volunteered as a mentor for various summer camps for disabled children But it was through Launch that I really saw how I could help illuminate the talent and spark in each student. One student told me that she wanted to pursue business in the future because of Launch Houston. Another student said that Launch Houston had changed his life: now, he does not stop thinking of new ideas and wants to continue growing his company. Although I thought I knew why I started Launch Houston, my club members were the ones who showed me why I fell in love with teaching entrepreneurship.

Last year, my Launch group had three teams, two of which became finalists at the MIT Launch Pitch Competition (more than 60 teams worldwide competed and only the top ten became finalists). MoGo, a company that teaches children how to manage money, received 4th place; my team’s company LocaFoods, a company that provides an online platform that connects local farmers to schools, restaurants, and homes, won 1st! Both companies continue to grow to this day.

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This year, Launch Houston has more than tripled in size, expanding to 38 members. While managing this many people is difficult, I’ve learned some lessons for last year’s session that will help me effectively run this club: Continue reading “Lillian Chen: To Lead, To Teach, To Launch”

Trisha Kagalavadi: The Reciprocity Ring

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Launch is much more than a group of students working tirelessly to create their companies: it’s a community. The power of the Launch community is an invaluable network comprised of people with a variety of different skills, resources, and knowledge. I began to see the power of the network when we created the Reciprocity Ring.

Everyone wrote down an obstacle they were facing on a blue post-it note, then we arranged all of the notes on the wall in a circle. Together, we brainstormed possible solutions to these obstacles, and wrote down ways we could help each other on yellow post-it notes. It really showed how everyone at Launch has an abundance of talents, and regardless of whether someone was facing a technology or design obstacle, there was always another Launchie who could help out! After we thought about ways to help each other, we drew lines connecting the obstacle we were facing, to the one we were able to help out with.

reciprocity     reciprocity2

Launch provides you with access to amazing resources, connections, and people, all at your fingertips. This activity allowed us to help each other reach our goals and illuminated the importance of the Launch family. As a family, we helped each other, laughed a lot, and argued a little bit, but at the end of the day, we were always there for each other. Even in the midst of AP classes, and SAT prep, I still talk to the friends I made at Launch everyday, and the connections I made have continued to thrive, long after the four weeks ended!

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