MITCNC Key Initiative Update: Entrepreneurship, Young Alumni, and Stronger Connection to MIT

A photo of MITCNC President

Doug Spreng, MITCNC President

When Doug Spreng accepted the MITCNC president’s role last year, he set in motion three major initiatives to drive interactions between the Northern California MIT alumni and the institute. Entrepreneurship, young alumni outreach and stronger connection to MIT are the strategic building blocks to enable an evolving MITCNC community that keeps pace with the technology transformation initiated at MIT and commercialized by MIT entrepreneurs—many are young entrepreneurs.

In this interview Doug gives an update on programs that focus on these three initiatives.

Anna Luo (AL): Doug, as part of the MITCNC Entrepreneurship initiative, you mentioned previously in this blog about providing to first-time and seasoned entrepreneurs a “toolbox” based on the book Disciplined Entrepreneurs by Bill Aulet. Could you please give us an update?

Doug Spreng (DS): The “toolbox” will be offered as a series of classes, based on the methodology described in Bill’s book. These classes will be taught by our Venture Mentoring Services (VMS) mentors to MIT alums who are on the executive team of startup companies. These classes will cover six essential themes of a successful startup, by identifying:

• Who is your customer?
• What can you do for your customer?
• How does your customer buy your product?
• How do you make money selling your product?
• How do you design and build your product?
• How do you scale your business?

These classes will be available beginning this September. They will be a series of classroom experiences based on the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship, led by the club’s most experienced Venture Mentoring Services mentors and available to MIT alumni who are part of a startup executive team.

AL: This is a must-attend program for every entrepreneur. Too often we see ideas that have incredible potential, but fizzle because the entrepreneur has not had the discipline to do due diligence in these six areas. How do alumni sign up?

DS: Yes. The cost of the entire series will be around $500. Interested alumni should contact clubadmin@mitcnc.org for more information.

AL: What else does the club do to help entrepreneurs?

DS: A lot. By recently holding Novel Ways to Fund Your Cleantech Startup—now an annual event—we’re helping entrepreneurs see new ways to finance their companies. Earlier this April, we partnered with Harvard Business School Alumni’s Entrepreneurship Summit, which featured several MIT-led startups and promoted networking in the startup community. And last month, we held our Startup Connector job fair in San Francisco, attracting over 150 job seekers to some of the hottest new companies.

AL: Many of these entrepreneurs are young alumni. In the Reception for the Class 2014, some had mentioned the desire for club sponsored social events where they would be able to network and exchange ideas.

DS: MITCNC has held twelve Happy Hour events this past year for MIT 10s*, eight of them in San Francisco, attracting over 800 attendees. These are record numbers. Most of these events saw attendance between 50 and 100 and many were held in hot new companies, such as GitHub, Optimizely, Medallia, Ministry of Supply, AppDynamics and Formation 8. One of these, as you have mentioned, was the Reception for the Class of 2014 to welcome our newest alums to the Bay Area.

AL: These excellent entrepreneurship and young alumni networking events have been instrumental to connecting alumni to knowledge, and alumni to alumni. Please tell us more about connecting alumni to MIT.

DS: Yes, the soon-to-come Disciplined Entrepreneurship classes I’ve mentioned earlier are an example of the connection to MIT—the course material is based on MIT Professor Bill Aulet’s work. To date, we have hosted four MIT Professors, with several more planned. Most recently, the Dean for Innovation, Vladimir Bulovic, spoke on April 9 on the new MIT.nano building and the applications soon to emerge from it, with opportunities for new companies. Additionally, we held three separate Toast to IAP events in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Berkeley. MITCNC connects alumni to knowledge and the institute, in doing so, serves as the bridge to many emerging technology trends.

Do you have feedback or suggestions about any of these MITCNC initiatives and events? We would love to hear from you through the comments section.

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