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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”

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.

 

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“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?”

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. 

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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!

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?”

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.

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Continue reading “Keval Patel: Never Too Young”

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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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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Continue reading “Two Mini-Businesses In Two Days”

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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Continue reading “Marshmallow Challenge”

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:

Paul 2 Continue reading “In Focus: Paul Stoltz”

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.

If you're the smartest

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.

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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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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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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Determining your customer persona

An important part of assessing your customer needs and targeting your customer is establishing a customer persona.  This means taking your target customer segment and developing a profile, including a photo, for a specific customer within that segment, preferably one you’ve interviewed during this customer needs assessment week.

When developing Launch, this was easy – the customer persona was the high school version of the founders.  They were able to target and tailor the program based on what marketing they would have found appealing and what they felt was missing in what they wanted in their high school educational experience.  This example was used in class, even using photo examples.  Below are photos of founder Laurie Stach from high school.  No, the shirt with a limit on it wasn’t part of her typical wardrobe – this was for “nerd day” at her school.  🙂

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Students began taking part in a financial market simulation today to value their businesses. Each of them is able to act as an investor in any of the businesses except their own, gaining exposure to the challenge of evaluating new ventures.  Each team was given an opportunity to pitch their idea to their classmates to try to get the most investor money.

Businesses with high potential see a high initial “stock price”, while those viewed to have less potential by their classmates will be lower. This is intended to act as an early opportunity for teams to learn from market feedback and react accordingly.

The investor simulation has two additional times for teams to pitch updates to their business and for students to adjust their investments.  Ultimately, they want to be holding shares of the teams that are scored highest by the judges at the final pitches to get the highest return.

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Dr. Paul Stoltz is considered the world’s pre-eminent thought leader on the science of Mindset. He is author of four international bestselling books on the subject, guest lectures for the Harvard Business School Executive Education program, and has his AQ theory and methods integrated into HBS executive development and MBA programs.  Dr. Stoltz joined our classroom all morning to teach how to handle the adversities that we face everyday as individuals and entrepreneurs, and not just cope with them but harness them.

For more on the power of AQ and resiliency training, check out the PEAK Learning website.

Having assessed their overlapping passion, skills, and market opportunities with their teammates, each team had a short list of interest areas that could help them guide their brainstorming session.  Teams grouped together, collaborating and engaging to help each team come up with at least 50 ideas that suited their interests.

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Taking a break with BollyX

Classes here at Launch are all good and fun, but every now and then we like to shake it up just to keep things interesting.

Enter: BollyX. Started by some Harvard, MIT and Cal grads, BollyX combines the energy and fun of Bollywood choreography with an intense cardio workout into exciting fitness classes that are now offered around the country.

Of course, this was more than just a fun opportunity for exercise and a little student bonding. This week’s lessons are all about finding the right team and then coming up with a great business idea. At Launch, we believe that a great business idea comes from a combination of Passion, Skills and Market Opportunity. Our students also got to hear from BollyX’s cofounders about how they came up with their business idea and how BollyX combines all three of these things.

  • Passion: All three of the cofounders loved and had practiced Bollywood dance and other forms of dance for years.
  • Skills: Two of the cofounders had previous experience with dance groups and teaching others to dance. One cofounder was even a part of a dance group that made it to the semifinals of “America’s Got Talent!”. In addition, all three cofounders had a mix of business skills from previous business school and work experiences.
  • Market Opportunity: There’s been a huge surge in new exercise trends recently – Crossfit, SoulCycle/FlyWheel, barre classes, Zumba, etc. BollyX fits nicely into this new crop of businesses finding interesting and innovative ways to get people excited to stay fit!

Anyways, we think BollyX got our students’ hearts pumping and their creative juices running… just in time to choose their business ideas! Special thanks to Minal, Mayuri and Shahil for taking time out of their busy schedules to inspire our students!

Business Simulation

Teams had the unique experience early in the program of selling to one another through one simulations, learning the difficulty of this process even when you know your target market well

“The market simulation made us realize what we could have improved on, and even though it was on such a small scale, it’s easily applicable to any size business idea. We mainly learned that surprises are bad and we should really talk to and get to know the customer before we release the final product.” – Student Feedback

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First Day of Classes

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Students learn what it means to fail, pivot, and test your assumptions from day one.  This takes the form of hands-on simulations and interactive lectures, where students can often be asked to come to the front of the room to provide summaries or to debate the different sides of a case.

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