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Perspectives and Feedback

Launch Stories: Nakul Goel, India

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I remember finding out about Launch two hours before the application deadline was due. The minute I opened the Launch website, there was a picture that gave me goosebumps. In the picture high school students were studying in an MIT classroom and it said “This could be you.”  I was so excited and nervous, I was barely able to type. I spent the next few weeks searching Launch alumni companies and seeing who worked on them, and after a comprehensive research, I knew I was going to receive a rejection letter. But a couple weeks after applying, I got my acceptance letter from Launch.

July 7th is the most special date I will ever remember because it was the day I arrived at the MIT dorms. I met 69 of the most amazing teenagers on the planet. Everyone talked about their startups, what their home towns were like, etc.. I knew then that the following month was going to be extraordinary.

The very same day, Launch organized a welcome dinner for us at the MIT Media Lab. Ms. Laurie talked about all the amazing kids we had sitting among us and told us that Launch was going to be tough. In the following month I realized she was right, Launch was by far the toughest thing I have ever done, but I will be talking more about that later.

Continue reading “Launch Stories: Nakul Goel, India”

Launch Stories: Isha Mayor, Massachusetts

 

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My experience at Launch was quite unique and I loved it. I associate Launch with my experiences from interacting with the people I had the opportunity to meet. My favorite part was listening to incredible speakers during lessons and entrepreneur panels. We were able to learn from some of the most incredible people including MIT and Harvard professors, mentors, and student entrepreneurs. I learned so many important lessons during my time at Launch but I’ve highlighted a few below.

You can do it! If you have the passion, the strategy, and the right people to make something happen, you can. The student speakers in particular made me realize that I have the potential to be where they are. Many of them started a company to solve a problem they had. For example, Kale Rogers, a student athlete at MIT who talked to us during an Entrepreneur panel, made a robot with his teammates to get healthy food quickly, and they made it into a company. Check out his company, Spyce, here: http://www.spyce.io/#home

Start talking. GOOD networking is key. How do you approach someone who inspires you? How do you ask them for a favor? Most importantly, how do you present yourself so that they remember you in a good way if you ever talk to them again? Mere connections are one thing, but meaningful connections are another. I learned that the speakers that came in wanted to be inspiring and recognized that we are the next generation of entrepreneurs, so they liked it when we showed interest and talked to them. Just from talking to a speaker for a minute after their presentation and following up in an email about my interests, I was able to land an internship in a startup from MIT. Bottom line: talk to people, leave a good impression, and follow up.

Seek out mentors. A good mentor can go a long way. I am very thankful to Launch for being able to talk to my residential counselor every night during check-in about what was going on. Launch helped me learn about myself, how I work with people, and how I handle stress, and it was helpful to be able to talk to my counselor about those areas. Sometimes we would have two hour long check-ins at night, eating ice cream and bonding; other times we would go out to breakfast for four hours and get into deep conversations. The counselor group experience was invaluable, and I continue to talk to my counselor post-Launch.

Continue reading “Launch Stories: Isha Mayor, Massachusetts”

Launch Stories: Reginald Fils, Boston

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I can vividly remember sitting in my school library talking to my teacher about what I hoped to fulfill for the upcoming summer. The weather outside was an ordinary 40 degrees, but this did not stop the conversation, it actually fueled our conversation as we yearned for the warm weather to hit our faces. I spoke about how I really wanted to be on a college campus, taking classes that pertained to business. Immediately after I said that, we googled a few programs that offered what I was looking for—the first one we found was MIT Launch.

MIT Launch encompassed all of my interests and most importantly centered itself around entrepreneurship, which I was most passionate about. I applied with no hesitations and a few months later, got an acceptance into the program. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Upon arriving at MIT, like other students, I had already started a lifestyle brand called “Urban Inspired”; the brand bears a social message which is to be inspired by all things around you. UI has been featured in fashion shows, photo shoots, and some local Boston publications. It was great to already have some insight on what it takes to run a business coming into Launch, but don’t think that this is necessary to get into this program.

A few months before launch, some friends and I decided to hold a youth event in Boston. The date fell on July 29th (during session 2). As I was at Launch, I would attend classes, do work with my team, hang out with Launch friends and then find time at the end of the night to answer emails and plan the event. This went on seamlessly as I lived in Boston and the campus was very close. However, I wouldn’t recommend that you do this, as it may take away from your Launch experience. Luckily for me I made it work without it interfering with any work or fun times with Launch friends.

Continue reading “Launch Stories: Reginald Fils, Boston”

Launch Stories: Gabi Fullam, Ireland

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

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

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

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


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

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

Launch Stories: Rodrigo Ruz, Mexico

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

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

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

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Introducing Launch Stories: Kiara Wahnschafft

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

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

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

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

International Students at Launch

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

 

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

 

Continue reading “International Students at Launch”

Is MIT Launch Worth It?

By: Nate Friedman

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

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

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

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

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

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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Financial Need Scholarships

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

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

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

-Besart Copa, 2015 Alumnus

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

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

– 2015 Launch Alumnus 

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

Lillian Chen: To Lead, To Teach, To Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trisha Kagalavadi: The Reciprocity Ring

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

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

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

Brian Coombs: Mens et Manus at MIT

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Launch just ended, but the memories refuse to fade.  My most prominent memories stem from the challenging learning experience of designing and implementing our hardware product. I co-founded Vintage Vitality, a health wearable company dedicated to connecting ailing loved ones to their family and keeping them safe.

Heading into the development phase, my group was worried about our lack of experience in prototyping, particularly electrical hardware. I became team lead for product development, but my experience was limited to architectural CAD (computer aided design), and I had never done any electrical engineering before. Luckily resources abound at Launch. I was assisted personally by MIT professors and students:

  • Marty Culpepper, MIT Maker Czar and Mechanical Engineering professor, scheduled times with all the hardware teams, and advised us on silicone molding and potential difficulties inherent in the manufacturing phase.
  • Entrepreneurs at the Global Founders Skills Accelerator plus EIRs (Entrepreneurs in Residence) and other staff at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship provided assistance with anything from wiring to 1-on-1 learning about Arduino to 3D printing.

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There was never a dull step along the way. Within the Trust Center’s Protoworks, every tool was specific to what small companies like us needed to bring our ideas onto the workbench of reality.

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Continue reading “Brian Coombs: Mens et Manus at MIT”

Aakanksha Saxena: From Vision to Reality

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When I first applied to Launch, I vaguely understood that I would be learning about creating a company. Surely, I would learn the ins and outs of marketing, public speaking, and working effectively with a team. Launch, however, offers so much more. While Launch did help me develop these skills, Launch’s wide array of resources drastically expanded my technical skill set in a way I had not perceived possible. In less than four weeks, my team was able to make a fully functional hardware prototype and compatible iOS application. Equipped with cutting-edge hardware prototyping technology and inspirational mentors, students truly do have the power to launch their vision into reality.

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Aakanksha was a part of team Ecomyst, developing a technology that syncs consumers’ sprinkler systems to their phones. By integrating local databases concerning external factors such as temperature, wind pressure, and humidity, the users’ mobiles manages sprinkler output to optimize plant health and water usage. This technology has the potential to annually save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and can significantly cut water bills.

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.

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.

Continue reading “Ayden Howle: A Home Away from Home”

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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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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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.

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.

Continue reading “Rahul Agarwal: The Skyline”

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.

Continue reading “Samantha Burns: Launching Passions and Friendships”

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.

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.

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