Preparing MIT students to lead teams and startup ventures

Two new MIT offerings aim to leverage students’ skills to become effective founders and leaders.

MIT undergraduates aspiring to found or join a startup company at some point in their careers will gain a deep understanding of the central challenges and choices innovators face in developing their ventures through a new course offered this spring.

Launched by the MIT Innovation Initiative and Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, students who enroll in 15.373J / 2.912 (Venture Engineering) will develop the capability to move from testing ideas to assembling a venture. Through a combination of highly interactive exercises, online lectures, structured case studies and team projects, students will discover how to utilize best practices for primary market research to identify and understand potential customers, design and implement ventures positioned for impact and scale, and learn about leadership and the financial resources needed for a new enterprise.

Led by instructors Eugene Fitzgerald, the Merton C. Flemings-SMA Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Scott Stern, the David Sarnoff Professor of Management; Bill Aulet, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan and managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship; and Andreas Wankerl, a visiting lecturer and operations director for the Innovation Interface; the course will draw on a rapidly emerging body of research at the intersection of innovation management and entrepreneurship.

“Students will learn the fundamentals of developing and growing a new innovative venture, starting from ideation and moving through customer segmentation and entrepreneurial strategy. We want to build on the strong foundation of existing innovation and entrepreneurship courses at MIT and encourage undergraduates to leverage their skills early on,” Stern says.

For graduate students looking to enhance their leadership skills, ESD.S32 (Leading Creative Teams) is a new pilot course from the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program (GEL). Developed with support from the MIT Innovation Initiative, the course is open to graduate students from the Schools of Engineering; Science; Architecture and Planning; and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and will be taught by David Niño, a senior lecturer at GEL, with the support of Joel Schindall, the Bernard Gordon Professor of the Practice and GEL director.

“The course will build a foundation of skills to prepare students for leadership roles in creative teams, teams that are charged with developing new solutions to challenging problems. This is important, because while great things can certainly happen in small groups, it does take a certain level of collective will and skill for these groups to realize their full potential,” Niño says. The course builds on the latest research in leadership development, and the delivery is designed to be highly practical and applied.

“GEL is thrilled to offer our very first graduate course. We’ve received a lot of interest in our programming from graduate students on the heels of our success with GEL’s undergraduate program. We developed this class in response to their interest and have plans to create a more robust program for graduate students in the future,” Schindall says.

Students interested in taking Venture Engineering or Leading Creative Teams are encouraged to sign up early during the pre-registration period, open now through Jan. 15, 2016.

For more information on Venture Engineering, contact Liz Friedman, academic programs manager of the MIT Innovation Initiative. For more information on Leading Creative Teams, contact David Niño, GEL senior lecturer.

Topics: Innovation Initiative, Classes and programs, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

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