I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with our new club president, Doug Spreng. In his four years serving the club, Doug’s contributions include the founding of the Energy & Clean Tech Series. Under his leadership, this program has grown from a few events per year to eight speaker/panel discussions with six tours of energy related facilities. In collaboration with Larry Kelly, a chairperson for Band of Angels’ Special Industry Groups, Doug has recently initiated the Pioneers of Clean Technology speaker series – kicking it off with a sold-out “Tesla Motors from Day One” presentation by its co-founder, Marc Tarpenning.
In this interview, Doug shares his vision and mission for MITCNC, along with key initiatives to accomplish them.
Anna Luo (AL): Welcome, Doug! As the new club president, what would you say is your mission?
Doug Spreng (DS): My mission focuses on enhancing the well-being of local MIT alumni, by connecting them with each other and by fostering a continuing relationship with MIT. If you look at the make-up of MIT alumni in Northern California (No Cal), it’s a wide range of age, expertise, and interest.
To serve this diverse group well, we focus on what all of us have in common: technology – like clean-tech, IT, life sciences and healthcare. And because we are headquartered in the SF Bay Area, the home of entrepreneurs, developing and expanding entrepreneurship is also one of our major initiatives.
As an alumni club, we are here to serve the MIT alumni, with a special focus on helping young alumni ease their transition into the workforce. At the same time, we want to strengthen the bond between MIT and its alumni, as well as the institute’s connection with No Cal technology leaders. There’s tremendous respect for MIT and its faculty here, and I’m not talking about just the alumni. There are high-level technologists and executives who are not MIT alums that want to know what’s going on at MIT. These are the key forces shaping my priorities.
AL: Yes, and I see that you have many programs on the agenda. They are all important. But, what would you say are the top three priorities for 2014?
DS: If I had to pick three, I would say entrepreneurship, young alumni career development, and strengthening the club’s relationship with MIT.
AL: Can you give us examples of the entrepreneurship program, and your plans for extending its success?
DS: Today, Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), the flagship of our entrepreneurship program, is quite successful. We have tremendous resources: more than 80 mentors who are major investors (mostly angels or VCs) and experienced executives from successful startups. We and MIT in Cambridge are the only two organizations that offer VMS. To build on the success of VMS, and to augment this service, we are looking at events that focus on key things you need to know about how entrepreneurship works, and be successful at it. The “toolbox” we will provide to first-time and seasoned entrepreneurs is based on the book Disciplined Entrepreneurs by Bill Aulet.
AL: “Disciplined” entrepreneurs? It’s almost oxymoronic…
DS: (laughs) Yes, or if you will, 1+1=3. To be successful, the first thing an entrepreneur needs to develop is discipline.
AL: Sounds good. By the way, let’s schedule another interview before the event launch so our audience can learn more about how to register for these events. Back to your mission: What is your second priority?
DS: Young alumni. We want to bring more young alumni into the club. These are recent grads (one to three years post-graduation) who are finding their way into new jobs, who may also be new to the area. If you are one of these alumni, we can be a tremendous resource to you. You can leverage the mentorship of those who have 10+ years of work experience, who understand what you are going through, and who can show you the ropes.
We start with social get-togethers – happy hours – where you meet and network with the mentors. For your career development, you can attend topical events (e.g., clean-tech, IT, life sciences) that match your interests and learn the latest technological trends and best practices. You can also take advantage of our MIT Startup Connector, where you will meet 40+ companies that are recruiting, meet and network with over 200 like-minded alumni, thought leaders, technologists and business people, and make the right career decisions.
DS: That’s right. In addition to Startup Connector, you will also get updates on technology, social, cultural, and recreational events organized by MITCNC volunteers.
Back to priorities…the top third priority is to strengthen our bond with MIT. We are planning more “MIT on the Road” events by bringing MIT professors and their latest research to No Cal. These events first started in the Energy & Clean Tech program. They have been well received and I expect that they will do well across all the other tracks.
AL: Thanks, Doug. In closing, what would you ask of the MIT alumni in No Cal?
DS: MITCNC is organized to serve you. Join the club to network with people who share common interests and learn cutting-edge technological trends from industry leaders and MIT faculty members…things you can’t easily do on your own. If you haven’t attended our events, come and check them out. Experience us. Get involved!
There you have it. Come back for the next interview with the MITCNC president for details on new club initiatives and events. Become a member and network with peers who share your interests. To join discussions with nearly 800 MIT alumni interested in entrepreneurship, check out our MIT Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) on LinkedIn.