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Life After Launch

Launch Alumni Conference-2 Weeks!

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Launchies from all over the world will be returning to MIT campus in just two weeks to enjoy a weekend of learning, professional development and fun. MIT Launch hosts an annual conference to continually engage alumni in our community and, more importantly, to continue supporting the amazing work that alumni do as young entrepreneurs. The learning and professional development that takes place is really geared towards pushing students to the next level of their entrepreneurial, building and refining skills that we had no time to cover in four weeks! The theme for this year’s program is Invention + Innovation. There is a gap between those who make things and those who build businesses.

Continue reading “Launch Alumni Conference-2 Weeks!”

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/

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”

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”

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”

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”

Will starting a company get me into college?

Running an entrepreneurship program for high school students at MIT, I have faced this question either directly or indirectly from both applicants and students of MIT Launch. Applicants want to know if attending will give them a better chance of getting into MIT, while program alumni are assessing how much of their time to balance on different aspects of college applications versus continuing their companies.

In light of this question, I’ve spent some time gathering input from admissions directors, in addition to using my own experience reviewing applications, to provide an answer.

The short answer:  No.

Getting into college or putting “Founder” on your resume shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether or not to start a company.

But what DO admissions committees care about?

And what ARE the reasons to start (or continue) a company?

(And do these two overlap?  Spoiler alert: they do!)

What Admissions Care About…

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Continue reading “Will starting a company get me into college?”

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!

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