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Stories. Reflections. Entrepreneurial Thoughts.

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August 2013

“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.

Goodbye to MIT and our beautiful dorm

Sadly, today is the last day of Launch.  That means goodbye to our classroom, goodbye to MIT campus and the beautiful Maseeh Hall dorms that have been our home for the last four weeks, and goodbye to the amazing friends that everyone made.  But just for now – everyone plans to stay in touch!

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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!

Scavenger Hunt!

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Students had the option today of participating in a scavenger hunt.  They were sent with a “T” pass (the Boston MBTA train and bus pass) to different famous places around the city to discover the wonders of Boston outside of MIT campus, see historic landmarks, and enjoy some tasty treats.  Teams submitted photos of their accomplishments throughout the race and enjoyed bragging rights upon successful completion.

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