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MET Fund launched to support MITdesignX

Seed fund will support venture-design education and entrepreneurship in the School of Architecture and Planning.
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Graduate students Stephanie Lee (left) and Ellen Shakespear presenting at MITdesignX’s 2018 Spring Pitch event.
Graduate students Stephanie Lee (left) and Ellen Shakespear presenting at MITdesignX’s 2018 Spring Pitch event.
Photo: Justin Knight

MIT’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem has inspired another first: a new seed fund established to support startups launched from School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) innovation accelerator MITdesignX.

The Boston-based MET Fund, an independent legal entity unaffiliated with MIT, has been formed to provide support to qualified ventures that have completed the MITdesignX program.

This funding initiative is innovative in two important respects: It offers support at a key stage in the life of a startup, and it will give a portion of profits — 20 percent — to the accelerator itself.

“When MITdesignX was created, we envisioned the need for an independent fund to support the program and its entrepreneurial teams as they move from the academy into the real world,” says Dennis Frenchman, Class of 1922 Professor of Urban Design and Planning, and director of the MIT Center for Real Estate. Frenchman is also the founder and academic director of the accelerator.

“It’s gratifying to see friends and outside investors rally to the support of MITdesignX and its graduates by launching the MET Fund,” he says. “It is a testament to the lasting value and success of the MITdesignX program and SA+P.”

MITdesignX is a “venture design” accelerator based in the School of Architecture and Planning, as well as an interdisciplinary academic program operating at the intersection of design, science, and technology. It is dedicated to exploration and application of design for complex problem-solving and the discovery of high-impact solutions to address critical challenges facing the future of design, cities, and the human environment. It reflects a new approach to entrepreneurship education drawing on business theory, design thinking, and entrepreneurial practices.

The program is a launching pad for startups created by students, researchers, faculty, and staff at SA+P, and their collaborators across MIT and around the world. Its offerings include academic courses, financial support, workspace, a wide network of dedicated mentors, and business and institutional contacts. It is rare among accelerators in offering both academic credit for completion of rigorous coursework and startup grants.

“After just two years, we are excited to see the success of so many of our startups,” says Gilad Rosenzweig, executive director of MITdesignX. “I believe it is an indication that new ventures launched by people dedicated to scalable creative ideas will have an important impact in cities and the built environment around the world.”

The MET fund was created to make seed funding available to qualifying MITdesignX teams after graduation — a critical period when the companies launch and take first steps such as testing prototypes, processes, and systems, and reaching out to customers and stakeholders.

An integral part of the MET Fund’s mission is to support the development of venture design education and entrepreneurship. To meet that goal, the fund will gift 20 percent of its profits to the operation of MITdesignX to further advance venture design education.

The MET Fund was founded by two entrepreneurs, Svafa Gronfeldt and Norbert Chang, who have vast experience with scaling companies from ideation to a global reach. Chang serves as the fund’s general partner. Investors include philanthropists, local angel and seed investors, and international investors interested in design-based startups and supporting innovative entrepreneurship education.

The fund’s portfolio companies are created by interdisciplinary teams from the MIT community and beyond, and include designers, architects, planners, artists, scientists, engineers, business majors, and computer scientists. The MET Fund will be advised by a non-executive, strategic advisory board with in-depth knowledge of the built environment, urban design, business, and entrepreneurship.

“I’m deeply grateful to Svafa, Norbert, and the entire MITdesignX team for taking design innovation to the next level,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “We are committed to training our students for the jobs of the future and enabling them to create those jobs themselves.”

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