The Trust Family Foundation donated $10 million in support of construction costs and ongoing programming at the center. These programs include: expanded classes on entrepreneurship to reach broader MIT audiences, platforms for student experimentation, opportunities and networking exposure, as well as projects designed to drive entrepreneurship in greater Cambridge and around the world.
“Invention, innovation and entrepreneurship are the oxygen of a thriving economy,” said MIT President Susan Hockfield. “By making possible this marvelous new space, Martin Trust and his family are opening new doors of possibility and growth for MIT's aspiring entrepreneurs. The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship will give them the skills and confidence to launch, lead and scale up the new enterprises our economy urgently needs.”
Trust, a visionary entrepreneur, is the founder and president of Brandot International, the investment firm that focuses on joint venture partnerships with apparel and textile companies. He started his first business — Mast Industries — in 1970 with a modest $1,000. In 1978, his company, a contract manufacturer, importer and distributor of clothing, merged with The Limited Stores, now Limited Brands. Trust has served as an adviser to both the U.S. Department of Commerce and Trade Advisory Committee for Africa. He is a board member of Virtusa, the information technology services company, and a past board member of Staples.
“MIT is rich in people who have ideas and who are willing to take the risk of starting a business,” he said. “My hope is that the center becomes a beacon for those young people, and a place where students can learn from others who have done entrepreneurial work and have been successful at taking an idea and turning it into a business.”
David Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, called the new Trust Center “the heart and home of entrepreneurship” at the Institute. “The Trust Center gives us the people, the programs, and the place where our alumni, faculty, and students can invent the future,” he said.
The Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship supports all five schools at MIT: Sloan; the School of Architecture + Planning; the School of Engineering; the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; and the School of Science. The center’s activities and services bridge academic disciplines, and its programs are available to rising entrepreneurs across the university, including undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.
The physical structure of the Trust Center is designed to encourage creativity, collaboration and the sharing of skills and ideas. Many of the interior walls are made of glass, allowing its inhabitants to easily see what is going on around them. Hallways and conference rooms are coated with IdeaPaint, enabling people to write and sketch on them as if they were dry erase boards. There are also a large number of partitioned spaces and flexible work areas with easily moveable furniture that can be readily reconfigured for networking events or impromptu brainstorming sessions.
MIT students start companies at a prolific rate. According to a study conducted by Edward Roberts, David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology and Founder and Chair of the Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, there are currently 25,600 companies in existence founded by living MIT alumni that employ about 3.3 million people worldwide. Those companies generate annual world revenues of $2 trillion, producing the equivalent of the 11th-largest economy in the world.
“That’s an accomplishment that 20 years of our entrepreneurship programs at MIT have very strongly helped to encourage,” Roberts said. “Now we have a new beginning in the Trust Center. It poses a new challenge: what do we do for encores? I believe the future holds the possibility of dramatic increases of what we have accomplished thus far.”