Entrepreneurship


Although commentators are talking about green sprouts poking up through the somber economic landscape, it’s still tough to garner success in business. Still, you can find some optimism and tips from MIT sources.

The 2009 National Best Books Award tapped a new book by Steven Spear SM ’93, an MIT senior lecturer and senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition describes how exceptional organizations create competitive advantage through the strength of their internal operations. He dissects what “high-velocity companies” like Toyota and Southwest Airlines do that droves of wannabees do not.growing_EF

On Spear’s Chasing the Rabbit blog you can read the first chapter of the book and get current tips.

The next global broadcast of the MIT Enterprise Forum, a project of the MIT Alumni Association, targets how to thrive in turbulent times. The Tough Get Growing: How to Succeed in a Down Economy is set for Monday evening, Nov. 16. You can network and see it on campus or go to one of the many worldwide viewing sites. Speakers include innovative business leader Helen Greiner ’89, SM ’90, CEO of the Droid Works, a robotics skunkworks. She is co-founder of iRobot which she transformed, with business partners Colin Angle ’89, SM ’91, and MIT Prof. Rod Brooks, from an spin-off into a ~$300 million business and the global leader of practical robots. 

Starting Up When the Economy Is Down” provides business tips from fellow alumni and points to MIT resources for alumni.

Tish Scolnik '10 working in Tanzania.

Tish Scolnik '10 working in Tanzania.

Glamour Magazine named Tish Scolnik as one of their Top 10 College Women (video), recognizing her work on mobility issues for the disabled, in the October issue. As a Public Service Center Fellow, Tish has traveled to Africa three times working with wheelchair workshops. Tish designed a three-wheel folding “small-business wheelchair” and five have since been built. Tish is also a member of the Leveraged Freedom Chair team, which designed a long-distance, lever-powered wheelchair that can traverse rugged terrain. Tish is also working with one of her community partners in Tanzania to build a new wheelchair workshop and skills training center.

Tish has helped four disabled entrepreneurs to start small businesses in Tanzania. These pilot entrepreneurs, emplower with their new wheelchairs, began by selling batik and bead jewelry, fixing small electrical goods, and repairing shoes. The shoe repair man has used some of his business profits to help two other disabled entrepreneurs to set-up shoe-shining businesses close to his stall.

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Image: Vitality

Let’s all get online: my mom, my toddler neighbor, and of course, my prescription pill bottle. The latter is the idea behind GlowCap, a screw-on cap for standard prescription medicine bottles that links to the Internet and has embedded sensors and transmitters.

With the help of a computer, GlowCap users can program when their pills need to be taken. At the designated time, the cap flashes. Thirty minutes later, an alert sounds, followed by another, and if the container still remains sealed, then the system makes an automated reminder phone call to the patient or a caregiver.

Alumnus Joshua Wachman ’90, SM ’96 is the president of Vitality, the company that developed the cap, and CEO David Rose is a frequent lecturer at the MIT Media Lab.

Beyond the health benefits derived from sticking to a regular pill-taking schedule, GlowCap proponents also claim that fewer emergencies resulting from missed meds could save lives and reduce long term health care costs.

imageThe Wall Street Journal ran an interview yesterday with Deep Joshi SM ′77, an Indian activist and leader who was recently honored with a Magsaysay award for setting up an organization called Pradan that focuses on empowering poor people through entrepreneurial training programs and self-help groups for women.

Pradan, which stands for Professional Assistance for Development Action, operates mainly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and has reportedly helped 170,000 families.

When asked about the philosophy behind his work, Joshi explained:

First of all, that people have the potential to do things, even though they may not have the ability…ability is potential actualized. People should not be fed through donations or charity, but helped to develop their potential. Some years ago, Amartya Sen defined capability in two ways, the “being” and the “doing”…

Read the full interview.

Pradan organizers strategize with rural villagers. Photo: Pradan

Pradan organizers strategize with rural villagers. Photo: Pradan

Interested in building a successful high-tech business and meeting people with similar goals? You are welcome to join the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF), a global networking organization devoted to building connections between technology entrepreneurs and their communities.

Rich Kivel, MIT Enterprise Forum Global Board.

Rich Kivel, MIT Enterprise Forum Global Board.

Rich Kivel, chair of the Enterprise Forum Global Board, laid it on the line in a recent video interview in Washington DC: “The vision behind the MIT Enterprise Forum is about wealth creation, fostering entrepreneurship, and really looking to build a method of sharing knowledge and experience.”

Kivel, CEO of TheraGenetics, a London-based company that develops pharmacogenetic diagnostic tests for disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s, says MITEF events help entrepreneurs realize key goals—meeting and learning from their peers. Events include topical global broadcasts plus 300 gatherings a year offered by 24 chapters worldwide–and you are welcome whether you are an MIT grad or not.

MITEF, a program of the MIT Alumni Association, has been nominated for the MIT 150 Exhibit, the MIT Museum’s quest to find and feature the Institute’s most treasured objects and entities for the Institute’s 150th anniversary in 2011. You can comment on the nomination, or any other nominated item, or submit your own—just follow the link on the MITEF Web site.

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