In Focus: PurchaseMate

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Hi, we’re PurchaseMate and we’re here to help you be a more conscious and effective shopper.

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PurchaseMate is a social impact data company, working to educate both shoppers and corporations on the products that they stock, ship, and buy. We work through a user base of socially responsible shoppers; people who are looking to vote with their wallet.

With our app, you simply:

  1. Scan can any barcode in the store  
  2. We return political and social ratings on that product
  3. You tell us what you think…will you buy it? Why/Why not?
  4. Our process is something completely new to the consumer market, we actually PAY PEOPLE to shop!

Thats right! We pay our users per product scanned. This is accomplished in a few ways, the main one being: companies really want your data, especially if this data contains valuable information (i.e. your shopping habits, which products you scan, political predictions). So we partner with larger entities, whether corporation or grocer/retailer, and give the user the power to profit off of their own data. People love it because they make money, companies love it because they get data, and we love it because we are passionate about the issue.

Introducing the Team:
Our team is made up of a group of ambitious high school entrepreneurs dedicated to making a change!

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The MIT Launch Experience:
Launch was an amazing experience for PurchaseMate. Honestly, nothing compares to the entrepreneurial atmosphere at Launch. Every company founded at Launch took leaps in innovation, proving that groups of high schoolers can accomplish things never before imagined. Trust me, there is nothing like 2am Tasty Burger in Harvard Square while trying to finish streamlining your revenue model! Unbelievably fun stuff. Launch not only provided us with experience but also provided us with the tools for the future. Our COO Campbell Erickson found interest in coding and programming at Launch and has since applied to hackathons and learned Javascript. When it comes down to it, Launch is more than a 4 week incubator/education program at MIT. It’s a family, a time to find your passion, and a place to ‘launch’ yourself into a lifetime career of innovation and change-making.

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Looking Forward:
We are excited to continue to grow and improve PurchaseMate. We are currently working on getting the finished app out to our first demo users and reaching out to grocers. Although we live in different states (and countries!) we are determined to working together to make PurchaseMate successful.

Please check out our website http://www.purchasemate.co and sign up for our demo!!!

Lauren Yang: So Much More

Lauren70 incredibly intelligent students, four weeks, one unforgettable experience: MIT Launch. When I first found out that I had been accepted into MIT Launch, a four week summer entrepreneurship program, I was excited to not only to be learning about entrepreneurship but also to be meeting like minded peers. Little did I know that this program would provide so much more. Throughout the four weeks at Launch, I have learned a myriad of lessons. The entrepreneurship panels, engaging lectures, and market simulation activities have exposed me to everything from how to conduct primary market research to defining an MVP. From my mentors and teachers, I’ve absorbed tidbits of advice, like “perfect is the enemy of done” and “don’t drop out of college”. Launch has helped me develop my skills as an entrepreneur, as a teammate, and as an individual.

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The uniquely quirky culture at Launch is also something that is key to the program. Living with 70 other makers, comedians, hackers, fearless risk takers, scientists, artists, innovators, and everything in between has given me the opportunity to learn from some of the most talented students in their respective fields.

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One of my favorite memories was when my peers and I were on a duck boat tour. By the end of the trip, everybody on the boat had chanted songs, laughed, and taken pictures together. At that point, Launch no longer felt like a summer program; it became an experience that I’d never forget. By the end of four weeks, we were no longer just 70 talented individuals, we were a family and a community that had pushed each other to accomplish what we never imagined we could. thumb_DSC_6988_1024Perhaps on the surface it seems that Launch is just 4 weeks, just 70 students, just a summer program. But it’s also where people truly believe in the capability of high school students to do so much more, and that is exactly why Launch IS so much more.

In Focus: Dropwise

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Hi! We’re the Dropwise team, and we’re here to connect you to your water usage in a smarter, more effective way.

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Dropwise uses modernized technology to connect homeowners to their water usage in a smarter, more effective way to encourage smart water conservation. Our device clips easily onto water meters and transmits real-time water usage data to a smartphone app, where users can track and understand their water usage throughout the day. By providing homeowners with the tools to easily monitor and act on their water usage, we can help them both reduce their water bill costs and save the environment.

Introducing the Team:

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Noah is an engineer and environmentalist from Texas. He has founded several environmental groups and is well-connected to water organizations and local governments. He is responsible for managing the business side of Dropwise, and as the team’s engineer, also works on hardware design.

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Kevin is a developer and designer from California. He has created and published apps with thousands of downloads, and loves to find innovative ways to make an impact with technology. He is in charge of the technical aspects of the team, and currently works on developing the Dropwise app and devising features for the product.

Casian

Casian is an award-winning, internationally competitive programmer based in Romania. He has a cheerful and laid-back attitude, and always loves to help others. As an expert in algorithmic programming, he develops the secretive algorithms that make our device work behind the scenes.

The MIT Launch Experience:

thumb_DSC_8756_1024For us here on the Dropwise team, Launch was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience; the entire four weeks were extremely challenging, frustrating, and surprisingly different from our expectations. Initially, even though we chose an ambitious idea that required a large amount of work on both the hardware and software side, we still had unrealistic hopes of having a sellable product by the end of the program. We were constantly frustrated by missed deadlines, and felt very far behind the other teams because of the overwhelming amount of work we thought we had to do in order to meet our goals. Eventually, we realized that the true value of Launch wasn’t starting a successful business, or even getting our company off the ground, but the insightful learning experience that would give us a foundation for working as entrepreneurs beyond the four-week program. Once we understood this, we were able to set realistic expectations and work much more confidently on our idea.

Looking Forward:
Going forward, we plan on spending several months perfecting the design of our product before taking it to market. This will require a great deal of work on all sides of the company, including finding and working in a good prototyping space, improving our software, reaching out to environmental organizations, and contacting manufacturers. Ultimately, we hope to see Dropwise being used in homes and truly making a difference in the daily lives of homeowners, starting with the people in our own neighborhoods.

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We know it’s possible that we may find ourselves not progressing at all due to geographic limitations, tough technical obstacles, or issues with time commitment. Luckily, we chose an idea that all three of us are incredibly excited about, and we will always be very enthusiastic about trying to grow the company no matter what challenges we face in the future.

Onwards and upwards!

The Dropwise Team:
Noah, Kevin, Casian
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Ayden Howle: A Home Away from Home

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Walking through those large transparent doors, I already knew was entering my new home: a place where we are all family, where we are welcome. Here at Launch, valuable speakers from across the world present our lessons, creating this wonderfully powerful learning environment. While brainstorming and pitching, other teams always are willing to help and give advice. Here at Launch, innovation is driven by collaboration, rather than competition. Since I entered the program, I already made lifelong friends, both with members of my team and with everyone within Launch. The people at Launch are unlike any group I’ve met. Everyone is unique, with different passions and skills. In less than five minutes, Launchies immediately connect. When I came to Launch, everyone accepted me for who I was. All the life skills we learn in the classroom can be implemented socially. I really feel that we embrace each other’s differences and we are careful to not make quick assumptions.

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Before entering the program, I had decided that I would be interested in creating hardware, and now that I’m finally at Launch I was really happy to discover that we have the opportunity to use some “maker-spaces” to design and prototype hardware products. Our “current” idea is ReSurface. For water sport enthusiasts, ReSurface is a wearable device that delivers stylish safety through emergency water buoyancy. Only when activated, an airbag is deployed, allowing the user to float. Our idea is not finalize yet, but thankfully Launch gives us the opportunity and support to keep exploring and refining our idea throughout the program. By the end of Launch, my team wants to have a working prototype, as well as continue our company outside of Launch. I’m also excited to meet our team mentors who we hope will help us gain insight for crowdfunding and with the development of ReSurface.

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Although we’re hardly a week into the program I can feel it already: these next few weeks are going to be an adventure, and I can’t wait!

Two Mini-Businesses In Two Days

It’s been just two days and each group of our students has already started not just one, but two mini businesses! A market simulation and app simulation gave students the necessary tools and skills to conduct market research, come up with a MVP through prototyping and receive customer feedback.

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In the market simulation, students created product-based companies and brought them to the “market” in order to experiment with pricing and differentiation of their products. Each team identified a key product and tried to sell it to classmates and maximize revenue.

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Then, students created different an app-based business solution for stress and time management issues among high school students and presented them to MIT Launch team. These two simulations were just the first steps on this month long entrepreneurial journey.

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Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote once said “There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” Following these two simulations, today our students kicked into high gear and started working on 19 big problems and we believe their solutions have the potential to make huge impact. We are so looking forward to the upcoming week and we wish you all good luck in changing the world!

Marshmallow Challenge

Marshmallows were first invented as throat medicine in Ancient Egypt and in Ancient Rome gladiators rubbed the marshmallow plant’s sap into their bodies in preparation for the challenges. Here at MIT Launch, our students use it in an even more creative way.

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The objective is to elevate the marshmallow as high as possible with household materials. Seems simple, right?

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As an exercise designed to teach the importance of testing all assumptions in a challenge, the Marshmallow Challenge is done by people from all walks of life. From kindergarteners to engineers to business executives, this challenge reveals just how important it is to not only have the right skill set, but also the right team and mindset when approaching these challenges. Test early, test often, and may the highest marshmallow win!

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You Get Only One “First Day of Launch”

There is nothing more exciting than the beginning of something new. New ideas, new phase of life, new friendships, new careers…

Today we welcomed 70 brilliant self-starters from around the world to Session 2 of our MIT Launch summer program. This is the beginning of an amazing entrepreneurial journey for both our fearless students and us here at MIT Launch! Who knows what new challenges they will solve? How many heights they we conquer? How many exciting new connections they we make?

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Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a passionate MIT Launch program advisor joined us for the welcome lunch. “Entrepreneurship is a mindset and a skillset”, he said to the students today, “In order to be taught, it just requires an environment in which you can do that. You have to get the spirit and the skills.”

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In just four weeks from today, teams will have formed and executed on their business ideas, which for many of them include coming up with a revenue model, prototyping a beta version of their app, product, or service, plus putting together a full business pitch. However, Launch isn’t all work and no play. Students embarked on a mad dash across campus, collecting “selfies” with iconic MIT buildings and completing fun challenges as part of an MIT themed scavenger hunt.

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We are looking forward for the upcoming session: challenges are exciting! We’ll finish today’s post with words of Annie Zhang, our Marketing Coordinator who spoke to the class today: “I encourage you to grow, I encourage you to jump off the metaphorical cliff and to do something that scares you a little bit, every single day.”

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Good luck Session 2 of 2015!
We’ll keep you posted on all the exciting things that will be happening here!

In Focus: Paul Stoltz

This week MIT Launch we were lucky to have Dr. Paul Stoltz teach a class on the importance and application of grit and resilience. He has spent over 30 years researching and trying to decode the element that sets the best entrepreneurs apart from the rest. The results? It turns out that the secret to entrepreneurial accomplishment is grit and the ability to turn adversity into an advantage. For a great way to kick off the week, Stoltz taught the students how grit can help them follow through and really execute a plan in order to turn something good into something really great. Through his riveting stories, he demonstrated that sometimes when things go really wrong, it is possible to respond to the advertises in order to achieve a much better outcome. He also shed light on the most important aspects of building a team and how to improve yourself as a better, more respected leader. Here is just a peek at some these important lessons:

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The Launchie Perspective:
All the students really loved the lessons that Paul had to offer! Here are some of the favorite tips and lessons that they learned:

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Thank you for all of your wonderful tips and stories Dr. Paul Stoltz!

In Focus: MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA)

In addition to classes and team activities, students at Launch also get the chance to meet and learn from other young entrepreneurs. This week, MIT Launch was honored to have 5 entrepreneurs from MIT’s Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA) come to the class to speak on their experiences of the early stages of founding their companies. The MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator is MIT’s student venture accelerator which takes the best teams with an interesting idea or proof of concept focused on creating impactful, innovation-driven startups. Out of hundreds of applications, only 14 teams are selected each summer to participate in GFSA, and they spend 3 months building the right product and securing initial customers/partners.

A Closer Look At The Speakers:

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Gavin Cotter from R&R:
R&R is creating a new controller for consumer drones that allows the operator to simultaneously control the drone, and the video camera, all in one easy to understand, and intuitive to use controller. Their target market is the burgeoning prosumer videographer market that cares more about the art and videography than the novelty of flying drones.

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Kale Rogers and Michael Farid from Spyce:
Spyce is creating an automated robotic chef that can cook food like stir fry on demand, at a tiny 4×4 kiosk. By removing the cost of space, overhead and labor related with quick service foods, they can use fresher, healthier ingredients while creating meals at the same cost as McDonalds.

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Alessandro Babini and Daniel Wiese from Strive:
Strive is creating the first Human Power Meter. This wearable sensor non-invasively measures lactic acid and muscle oxygenation in real time, empowering endurance athletes with data they need to help them achieve the maximum possible performance from their body without ever exceeding their limits.

The Launchie Perspective:
What do the students (Launchies) think about the GFSA speakers?

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Thank you Gavin, Michael, Kale, Daniel and Alessandro for your great advice and for sharing your stories!

Countdown to Launch: T-Minus 24 Hours

Here at MIT Launch we’ve been working hard, and we’re just about ready to launch! From expanding the executive team and intern team, to streamlining the curriculum and student support systems, we’ve been making lots of improvements and are excited to be sharing them with you all! We can’t wait to meet all the Session 1 students tomorrow!

Here’s a sneak peek of our preparation for move-in day tomorrow:

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Pallavi Deshpande: Meeting Peers and Facing Fears

Imagine a summer program where there are people from all around the world, life-changing experiences and memories that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life and be given a platform to improve yourself in an international environment. That is Launch in a nutshell! Launch has been a fantastic mix of making friends, exploring my passions and having the courage to voice my opinions and beliefs with renewed confidence.

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From all the engaging classes and talks from eminent and established entrepreneurs to exciting and fun activities, Launch had it all. It forced us to understand our true interests and passions which in turn helped me understand myself better and gave my the confidence to talk about my passions or ideas with revitalized fervor. At Launch we leaned to be uncomfortable, to be original and to be a “painkiller” not a “vitamin”. It’s only a 4-week program, but it feels like we’ve learned more to apply to our lives than any school course could teach us in a year.

Coming from across the globe (literally), I was anxious as to whether or not I would be able to fit in with the group of students attending Launch. The culture shock was evident but the warmth and openness of the faculty and students helped my ease into the program. It was my first time visiting Boston but due to Launch’s impeccable efforts to make you feel at home, you’ll be surprised as to how quickly a month can pass by leaving you pining for more!

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On my first day at Launch, with an incredible level of anxiety, I started talking to people. What if I would be stuck doing something that I really hate? Or even worse, what if I miss home too much and mess up my stay? Mustering my courage and confidence I began to go up to people with a pounding heart and started talking to them. “Hi, my name is Pallavi, I am…” and I am fairly certain that I messed up with the first couple of people that I talked to. However, it got a little easier as I continued to talk to others. I was surprised by how comfortable everyone seemed to be and how open they were. This made me want to be more confident and I forced myself to stick around and talk to people, understand their interest and delve into intellectually stimulating conversations with everyone there!

But by the end of program, Launch motivated me to be more creative every day, to focus more on innovative solutions to problems, and most importantly, to learn to be flexible, to ADAPT.

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Jacob Johnston: How to Keep the Fire Going

Hey everyone! My name is Jacob Johnston and I am the CMO and Co-Founder of Landme.org, a company dedicated to getting high school students connected with summer opportunities. As this year’s MIT Launch sessions are getting ready to start, I wanted to share a few thoughts on my experience during and after Launch:

When I was accepted into Launch I was ecstatic and at first I didn’t know what to think besides “How the heck did I get chosen for something so amazing?”. The feelings I had going into the program were really mixed: I was nervous, excited, and curious all at the same time to meet my fellow classmates and be on MIT’s campus. When I stepped foot into Simmons (the dorm we were housed in) I was welcomed warmly by the director and staff and felt like part of the family right away.

Within the next few days we hit the ground running, met our fellow Launchies, and got to creating the ideas that would later form into our companies. During the ideation process, my team and I made sure that we chose an idea that would be able to continue after the program ended and that it was something that we would all be interested in. It turned out that for us the most important thing was finding something the whole team was passionate about because if someone is not interested in the idea, they most likely will not put in their full effort and determination. Although coming up with the idea of Landme.org took us multiple idea changes, a lot of pivoting our focus, and a substantial amount of time, in the end it all paid off because it was an idea we all wanted to continue working with even after Launch.

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Even though we all really wanted to continue what we had started at Launch, we had to figure out how to realistically make it work. Two members of our team lived fairly close to each other in Massachusetts, but I lived in Arkansas and Chris lived in New York, which would make it very difficult for us to meet coordinate all our work. So, I started researching a little on things we could use to communicate a little better after we left Boston. Sure there’s Skype and Google hangouts, but we needed something a lot more organized and professional. I came across Slack, a web platform that allows startups to create chat channels, organize files, and integrate specific programming modules to allow team members to see progress updates. It was perfect for us, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who plans to continue working with their team (especially if you live in different places). With communication being the biggest barrier to success with geographically distanced team members, we scheduled  to have weekly meetings to keep each other updated on what we were doing. This worked really well and allowed us to stay in touch and make sure that we were meeting the goals that we had set for ourselves.

As the excitement slowly started to dwindle down after Launch, my team looked for something more structured that we could do to further our business. YCombinator? Another Accelerator? Business competitions? Eventually we stumbled upon Catapult; a business incubator for startups with a location in Boston. We applied, had an interview, and were accepted to the program all within a short few months after Launch. This was a huge deal for us because it was what we needed to keep the fire going. Putting our team back into a program with structure where we could all meet and work together was exactly what helped us propel our efforts.

Best Social Impact on Catapult Demo Day!

Continuing the company after Launch is going to be hard. You’re going to have to get past the communication barrier and tackle problems as a team. Get organized, set goals, have meetings, and do something structured if you feel like you need it. On Launch pitch day, our team placed 5th, but we were also one of the only teams to continue our company after the program and at the end of Catapult, we won Best Social Impact on Catapult Demo Day.

Moral of the story is: what you create at Launch doesn’t have to end at the end of Launch. Do your best and if you still are passionate about the idea, keep tackling it! It might turn out even better than you expected!

Introducing Simmons: Commons, Culture, and Location

This is the second part of a two-part introduction to Simmons Hall. Please check out our last blog post for more information on Architecture, Rooms, and Resources.

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Commons
On every floor there are at least a couple of common rooms and meeting rooms. Common rooms are usually carpeted and furnished with couches and beanbag chairs and a TV. These are typically areas to play music or hold a Super Smash Bros tournament. Common rooms are also equipped with board games and the larger common rooms/lobbies on the first floor even have building blocks and foosball tables (see Culture).

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Meeting rooms are usually closed off by a glass wall and contain large conference-type desks. Meetings rooms are often where teams choose to work because they are conveniently scattered throughout the dorm, while still remaining separate enough and quiet enough to concentrate and be highly productive.

Culture
As mentioned before, Simmons is a quirky cool dorm with a lot of personality. As soon as you enter the building, you’ll notice a small pond with tiny rubber duckies bobbing around, and on the walls you may notice posters with references to velociraptors. These two are the unofficial “mascots” of Simmons and you’ll find signs of them scattered around the building.

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Simmons culture also comes from the unique architecture. The undulating concrete walls are actually similar chalkboard material, and you’ll see that people draw all over the walls with colorful chalk. Furthermore, in the front lobby, there are piles of wooden building blocks, and in the commons rooms there are plenty of board games. If you didn’t get the chance to doodle on the walls and build dangerously high Jenga towers as a kid, this is your chance :)

Location
The MIT campus is a long triangle that flanks the Charles river, and Simmons is located at the west end of this triangular layout. Directly across the river from Simmons is Boston University, and just a little further down Massachusetts Avenue is Harvard University.

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Simmons is just about on the opposite side of campus to the MIT Sloan School of Management, where classes will be held. Fortunately, the MIT campus shuttle stops right in front of Simmons and will drive all the way to Sloan. If you want to enjoy a morning walk to class, you can walk along the river for about 20 minutes to reach Sloan.

Located much closer are the Student Center, the Z-Center, and other athletic fields. Some athletic fields are right outside of Simmons while the Student Center and the Z-Center are about 8-10 minutes of a walk from Simmons.

Introducing Simmons: Architecture, Rooms, and Resources

SimmonsSimmons Hall might be one of the most recognizable buildings on the MIT campus (other than the Great Dome and the Stata Center). Famous for it’s architecture and culture, Simmons is definitely one of the most exciting dorms to live in and explore. In fact, architects from all over come to study Simmons, and some even try to sneak in to get an inside peek into this fascinating building! I’ll break down the tips and tricks of Simmons hall into 6 categories (Architecture, Rooms, Resources, Commons, Culture, and Location) and today I’ll be covering the first 3.

Architecture
Simmons is generally referred to as “The Sponge” by MIT students because–well, it really does resemble a sponge. There are many rows of small windows on each floor (it’s almost like having a grid of pixels) which makes it very convenient for spelling out words and shapes by lighting up certain rooms. The quirky architecture only gets weirder from the inside. The whole building is made of concrete, and many of the walls are not straight, and will have large, intentional undulations in them. There are also 3 towers in Simmons, and elevators service each tower. However, because of the arrangement of the towers, it’s often necessary to switch elevators multiple times to get from one tower to another. The architecture is quite confusing, but don’t worry–there are maps in every single elevator that will explain how to travel within the building.

Rooms
Launch students will be living in doubles (rooms with 2 beds) inside Simmons. These rooms are generally pretty spacious and come with a full set of furniture for each student: extra-long twin bed, bookshelf, desk and chair, a set of drawers, a wastebasket and a simple wardrobe. True to Simmons spirit, all the furniture is modular. Yes, you read that right! You can arrange your furniture creatively to achieve a loft-bed layout, or just adjust your bed and desk height by using the sets of drawers to add height where needed.IMG_3434

There are a lot of windows in each room for really great natural lighting, and the rooms also have ceiling lights, so desk lamps really aren’t necessary. All the rooms have tile flooring, which makes it easy to keep the rooms clean, but some students may choose to bring small throw rugs to make the space more cozy.

Most importantly, there are bathrooms for at least every three rooms. Some rooms will have private bathrooms inside the room–lucky you if you get one of these! Other rooms are arranged so that usually two (or occasionally three) rooms will share a bathroom.

Resources
Laundry rooms are located every few floors. As of 2014 it cost $1.00 per washing load, and $0.75 per dryer load and both machines accept quarters. Detergent may be left over from the semester, but your best bet will be to bring a few detergent tablets/pods.

During the school year, Simmons residents subscribe to the mandatory meal plan so there are no real kitchens in Simmons. However, there is a small kitchenette on one of the floors equipped with a sink, a hot plate, a few plates, a microwave, and a communal refrigerator. If you do buy food, make sure you label it with your name or else you may not see your food again! This kitchenette is pretty much only good for heating up leftovers, because it is nearly impossible to actually cook with such a limited kitchen.

The MIT app is available for both iOS and Android devices, and will show a campus map, shuttle maps and locations, and other vital MIT campus information. Download the MIT app and you will never get lost going to and from Simmons!

Lastly and probably most importantly, MIT wifi is campus-wide, free, and super fast. No more buffering when you’re trying to stream Netflix!

An introduction of Simmons commons, culture, and location can be found here!

Annie Zhang: Countdown to Launch

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I always get a little restless as April turns into May–maybe it’s because the weather is getting warmer or because semester-end projects are due soon. My best friend even teases that I have an incurable case of “itchy feet” and I guess it’s true. This year I’ve been more restless than ever because the countdown to Launch has begun.

Anxious, excited, intimidated, hopeful. Although this is the second time I’m counting down to Launch, I still clearly remember what it felt like the first time around. From the moment I joined the student facebook group, to the moment I set foot in Simmons Hall, it was already terrifyingly clear to me that the month ahead of me would be like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Everyone seemed to be so accomplished and so smart. Not to mention, the curriculum was completely foreign to me. It felt like everyone was ready to hit the ground running while I was just learning to crawl. In hindsight, this was a blessing. Little did I know then that I was surrounded by 43 of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Little did I know that these were the people that would push me to grow. Little did I know that they would be the support system that would ceaselessly lift me up, even a year after Launch.

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A year later, most of my peers and I can now joke about how we were all equally nervous at the beginning of Launch. I mean, when you put that many creative and determined minds in the same room and tell them that they have a month to bring their visions to life, it’s overwhelming to say the least. However, I’ve come to learn that at the end of the day it’s okay to be nervous or even to have absolutely no idea what’s going on. What matters is how you choose to react to the countless opportunities that will present themselves:

  1. Be as prepared as possible. Going into Launch having done the pre-work and brainstorming is like having a life raft after being thrown into an ocean. You’ll thank yourself later for taking the time to work through each step. And who knows? You might even be bringing the winning idea with you to Launch!
  2. Proactively connect with people. Launch is one of those communities where diverse, talented and passionate people make an effort to really learn from each other and grow together. It’s not just the students either, being at MIT (the crossroads of the world) gives you the chance to seek out some of the most interesting and people and thoughts you’ll come across.
  3. Approach everything with an open mind and open heart. Sometimes things don’t go the way you had them played out in your head. Learning to be an entrepreneur is about rolling with the punches and always springing back. Never be too stubborn to try something new.

Even though this is my second time around, pre-Launch still feels like a rollercoaster as it slowly rattles and rumbles to the top. You can feel it coming, but you don’t yet know how fast or far the drop will be. You don’t yet know how many loops there are, or if you’ll be flipped upside down. All you can do is throw your hands up and start to count down. T-minus 35 days.

Jennifer Tran: Discovering CIC and Venture Café

Cambridge is buzzing with amazing learning opportunities outside of the Launch classroom. Last summer when my friends and I weren’t in class or hard at work on our companies, we scoured the city for new experiences and entrepreneurial activities. Some of my favorite finds were the Cambridge Innovation Center and the Venture Café.

The Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC, was a hub of activity that housed over 600 startups. The brief descriptions on door plaques displayed the wide variety of ventures being explored at the CIC. As I observed entrepreneurs from all of the startups meet in communal break rooms to exchange ideas and collaborate, I imagined that someday my team’s startup would have an office at the CIC surrounded by innovators and creators with the same passion for their work.

Venture Cafe

Russell, my teammate, and I also made trips to the Venture Cafe in search of valuable advice and exciting connections. Venture Café is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building communities of innovators and entrepreneurs, and every Thursday evening the space lights up with networking opportunities and entrepreneurial advice. Everyone from angel investors to designers to scientists meet to make business deals and personal connections. The times that we visited, the energy and excitement of the room was palpable. We conversed and tested different pitches for our company, the Bridge Initiative. We gained tips and ideas to grow not only our businesses but also ourselves as entrepreneurs.  As the night progressed we became much more confident in approaching people and asking questions about our companies and the business path. Everyone from the fledgling entrepreneurs to the seasoned investors showed an amazing amount of passion and excitement for everything they spoke of. We heard from so many diverse minds: from a solar energy engineer who explained the mechanics of a solar panel and the future of alternative energy to a restaurateur who detailed the process of turning a brick and mortar operation into a sleek app-based service.

Visiting the CIC and the Venture Café were only a few of the amazing opportunities for learning and inspiration.  They were a great opportunity for team bonding and being able to connect to the vibrant startup community sparked creativity in the toughest parts of launching our startup.

Launch Summer Program

Launch – We help high school students start companies.  Launch is a program for aspiring high school entrepreneurs held at MIT in Cambridge, MA, providing the skill set and mindset training needed to start real companies.

This blog chronicles our 2013 summer adventures and progress, our students’ lives and businesses, and everything else along the way.

Scroll down to see the reverse chronological posts or use the categories to the left to filter for different topics.

To find out more about the summer program, visit our website.

Launch Weekends – Success!

The first Launch Weekends event was held at MIT on March 22 with great success – students learned why high school students are at an ideal age to start companies, learned valuable tools to focus their startups, and practiced the creative process of coming up with ideas, filtering them based on what investors look for, and pitched their ideas.

The impact – students reported an increased confidence in both their skill set and mindset required to start a company, and believe more strongly that they will start a company sooner.  We can’t wait to see your ideas come to life!

The next Launch Weekends event will be held at Northwestern in Chicago – www.launchweekends.com/chicago.html

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GreatPreneurs Interview with Launch Founder Laurie Stach

Founder Laurie Stach explains in a GreatPreneurs interview article the idea behind the Launch Program:

“Launch was born from the idea that high school students have enormous untapped potential and that the current education system isn’t preparing students well enough for the real world. We’re teaching students that there’s one right answer to a question that will be given to them in life, when that’s not the way things really work. Coming up with the question is as important as the answer – you need to be resourceful, adaptable, and innovative – and what better way to learn these skills than through starting a real company. Hence, the Launch Program was born.”

The article also includes a discussion of the encouragement of young students to pursue entrepreneurship, whether entrepreneurs are born or made, and the MIT experience.  See the article for more!

Win a FREE application v2

We are still accepting applications for our 2014 programs at MIT until December 15, 2013 for early admissions and until January 31, 2014 for regular admissions.

We’re also offering another chance to score a FREE application to Launch. To win, you must Like the Launch FB page and Reply to the post on the Facebook wall by Friday, December 13: “What does it mean to be a great entrepreneur?” We’ll waive the application fee for the student with the best response!

We look forward to your replies!

Win a FREE application to Launch

Since October, Launch has been accepting applications for our 2014 programs at MIT. We’ve loved seeing all of your applications roll in and are super excited to put together two new talented cohorts for next year.

If you haven’t applied yet, it’s not too late! You have from now until December 15, 2013 for early admissions and until January 31, 2014 for regular admissions. Best of all, we’re offering you a chance to score a FREE application to Launch. To win, you must Like and Reply to the following prompt on the Launch FB page by Friday, November 29th : “What’s the biggest challenge to overcome in starting a successful company?” We’ll waive the application fee for the student with the best response!

So send in your replies and keep those applications coming!

Rahul Agarwal: The Skyline

Past the horizon, I can see the expanse of opportunities,

Waiting, wishing for me to emerge,

Not as someone molded for society,

But as myself,

Ready to embrace change,

Ready to make a difference.

-Excerpt from “The Skyline”, by Rahul Agarwal

I wrote this piece of prose when I was at Launch this summer. I was inspired not only by the Skyline of Boston, but by the amazing individuals I was with. They really changed my perspective to one that ensures that I follow what I am passionate about. They have changed my outlook to show me life shouldn’t be about the money, but about caring about a cause or doing something you find important. They have shown me that the people you surround yourself with are really what make life so special and unique.

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Parent Feedback

Launch:  Great program. Our son learned more  about business and entrepreneurship in just the 4 short weeks of Launch than I did in 4 years of undergraduate business school and 2 years of graduate school. The program has given John a real sense of “can do” realization that he can build a viable business. Laurie and the whole Launch team were simply amazing!

– Bob Peurifoy, parent of John Peurifoy

Samantha Burns: Launching Passions and Friendships

Launch demonstrated that in the entrepreneurial realm, being passionate is one of the greatest assets. From love grows the best businesses and the strongest friendships.

– Samantha Burns, co-founder and CEO of Unbounded Travel

If you were presented with 29 new best friends tomorrow, what would they be like? Would they be from your same town? Be interested in the same things you are? At Launch last summer I was given this very opportunity, but these 29 friends were from all corners of the world.  Among them were master computer programmers, insomniac bakers, Indian classical dancers, and soccer gurus. We were so extraordinarily different, but the bonds we formed were founded on the fact that we are all passionate. It didn’t matter what fueled our passion– for me, it was going to night lectures on genomic research at the Broad Institute, for another friend, it was playing tennis on the MIT courts after class. The defining element of Launch students is that we are not afraid to love something.

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Jill Klinvex: Unique Opportunity at MIT

One of our amazing Summer 2013 students, Jill, spoke to her school paper about her experience at Launch. Read an excerpt below and the full article at The Echolier.

“While at MIT, Klinvex was able to make contact with other people on their way to success. “The people there were incredibly intelligent, with incredibly high ACT scores. One guy was an intern at Google before participating in Launch. My head instructor actually designed for BMW… It was great,” says Klinvex. 

[The program] was completely life-changing,” Klinvex affirms. “I would recommend it for anyone. It really does broaden one’s horizons.” Her experience at MIT stands as an example for other young people who desire to go beyond just daydreaming and to have meaningful adventures.

Didomi screenshot

Jill and her teammates worked on Didomi, an app designed to improve the donation process for nonprofits and donors alike. To keep updated on their progress, visit their site.

“We’re all in good hands”

One of our wonderful and enthusiastic entrepreneur mentors reflects on his experience working with Launch students at his site here.

Panos Panay

The way I see it is this: entrepreneurship, like any other creative discipline (music, art, dance etc.) needs practice, early exposure to influences and experiences, and should be embraced as something both fun and expressive from an early age. The earlier this starts the better — these early experiences, like becoming comfortable with a musical instrument or swinging a tennis racket, fine-tune and develop instincts that serve would-be business-launchers well down the road.”

Panos Panay is the founder of SonicBids, which connects bands with music promoters to the tune of 750,000 gigs since its creation.

Student Feedback

Launch made me realize my true passion in life. I’ve never really found classes at school too interesting. But Launch was so amazing. I don’t want to do anything else but business. It also made me realize the possibilities and abilities I have and should take advantage of. It makes me want to reach and go further and do more.

Student Feedback

Launch was probably the most self-fulfilling, empowering experience that I have ever gone through. I can honestly say that I have changed as a person from the last few weeks and I have no regrets. It was incredibly difficult to leave, because I knew I had grown so much and met some of the greatest people in the world. I was able to look inside myself so much throughout the program, and the process of looking within myself and learning more about who I am made it all worth it.

Giving the parents a taste of life at Launch

Although we don’t think the parents of Launch students will ever truly be able to understand the magic of what happened here this summer, we tried to give them a taste of it on the last day of classes by inviting them to their own private class session.  They performed one of the simulations and walked through a few of the early activities, laughing and questioning and engaging in the same way their kids had done just four weeks earlier.

Among these activities is the “Real Deal”, from one of our strategic partners, Peak Learning.  This tool allows you to select the most important motivating factors to you from a deck of cards, which can then be a powerful foundation for a discussion with your team about how to work with one another.

We hope the parents have a bit better understanding now of their kids’ transformational summer.

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Entrepreneur Panel: Keys to Success

Today’s panel covered topics ranging from growing beyond the initial startup phase, to keys to success in entrepreneurship, to general advice on how to achieve your dreams.

The panelists today included:

Launch_jonathan sheffiJonathan Sheffi – Co-founder and Product Marketing Director of Clinical Future

 

 

Launch_michael schrader

Michael Schrader – Co-founder and CEO of Vaxess Technologies

 

 

Launch_adam berreyAdam Berrey – Investor; CEO of Clinical Future

And the winners are…

Judged top overall:  Amadi

“With albinism prominent in Nigeria, the lack of adequate and advanced sun protection leaves people out of the workforce and increases risk of skin cancer and premature death. Amadi Suncare builds its brand around solving this problem. At Amadi Suncare, we believe in stimulating growth through sustainability. Through our line of all-natural suncare products, we hope to target the needs of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market in the United States. We will reinvest a portion of our profits to create a constant stream of sunscreen for the growing population of people with albinism in Nigeria so that they can ultimately lead more productive, healthier, and longer lives.”

Leah Rothfeld, Ikya Kandula, Jyothi Vallurupalli

amadi2 AmadiPitch2

Best Execution: AnyMeal

“Food sensitivity is a growing concern and decision criterion for people who choose to eat out. AnyMeal creates greater value and confidence in the restaurant experience by providing accurate and in-context dietary data about specific dishes for anyone who wants—or needs—to make food sensitive choices. AnyMeal is a lifestyle necessity for anyone with any diet, anywhere.  Our iPhone application currently showcases 50 Cambridge restaurants and their respective menus, including gluten-free and vegan metadata for the dishes. In the next month, we will roll out in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and then New York.  We are inspired by family members with food sensitivities to provide credible and accessible information, so that they and everyone can ultimately lead a better, healthier life.”

Drew Bent, Michael Matias, Nadine Shalaan

anymeal2 AnymealPitch

Best Story: Unbounded Travel

“Unbounded is a travel program designed to provide services to families affected by autism. In the United States, 1 out of every 88 children is diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The characteristics of autism – sensory demands, transition difficulties, and communication challenges – often intimidate families from bringing their children into the community. Unbounded offers vacations for families affected by autism by partnering with hotels, providing staff for behavioral support, and designing positive leisure experiences through recreational therapy. We are on a journey to revolutionize the way individuals with autism and their families experience the world, and would love you to join us.”

Samantha Burns, Ben Latz, Rohan Sinha

unbounded3 UnboundedPitch

Thank you to our pitch judges!

Pitches today are attended by potential angel investors and a panel of esteemed judges.  Judging criteria is based on business viability, potential value, and pitch delivery.

  • Viability: the project team has addressed risks associated with customer development, has a product that is viable and protectable, has a strong competitive advantage, and attractive financial potential.
  • Potential value: there is attractive margin potential, cash flow, and value creation.
  • Pitch delivery: all team members contribute to the pitch, transition well, provide strong introduction and conclusion, communicate all key messages, stay within the time limit, and respond well to questions.

We are joined today by the following people to act on our panel of judges:

  • Maren Cattonar – MIT Deshpande Center Innovation Manager
  • Heather Groat – Associate at CommonAngels, a hybrid angel partnership and fund, and former MIT $100k competition organizer
  • Alex Gruentzig – Consultant at AT Kearney and judge at $100k competition
  • David Ward – MIT research lab, PhD from MIT, and founded an internet startup company
  • Dan Lambert – Founder and CTO of Pushpins

Disciplined Entrepreneurship Book Launch

We were able to see Bill Aulet, director of the MIT Martin Trust Center, launch his new book, Disciplined Entrepreneurship, today at the MIT Media Lab.  As a strategic advisor of Launch, Bill provides foundational support to our curriculum through this great new teaching.  It is an excellent complementary process that can be easily tailored fit with some useful lean startup tools.

Bill signed some copies of his book for our students and stayed for a photo with the students and his “Disciplined Entrepreneurship toolbox”.

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Finance Friday and Money Monday

Today concluded our financial instruction of the Launch curriculum.

We had Finance Friday, where we took inputs of the revenue projections from earlier in the week and added an understanding of the different development, fixed, and variable costs required to run the company, to develop the income projections.  We then started into some discussion of the factors that impact the valuation of a company.

Today is Monday Monday, where we take the projections and valuation considerations to assess what that means for your company’s financing need, discuss what financial resources are available, and what additional non-financial value these resources can give.  Students will then have just a few days to put together their numbers and pitches for Thursday’s pitch day!

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The Power of Improv

Several of the students had some good laughs tonight at an improv show of Rebels Without Applause.  Some of the students’ businesses were used as examples in skits and a few students even got pulled on stage as part of the show!

Later in the program, Howie Reith of Rebels Without Applause came to Launch to teach an improv class before the final pitches, helping release some stress and use improv to prepare for the impromptu nature of questions during final pitches.  It was just what they needed before the big day!

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Go Red Sox!

Our students come from over 20 states and 3 countries outside the US. For many, that means it’s their first time in Boston. So we try to throw in a few quintessential Boston activities… and what can be more Boston than the Red Sox?

Click on any image for the full-sized version!