Anyone trying to get a feel for MIT’s culture of entrepreneurship would do well to start their journey at the delta v summer accelerator’s Demo Day. For two whirlwind hours Friday, students took the stage in front of a packed Kresge Auditorium to celebrate their startup milestones in an event that was half board meeting, half pep rally.
Now in its 12th year, Demo Day represents the culmination of a summer in which students work full-time on new ventures under the guidance of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.
The tone for the evening was set early, with MIT’s cheerleaders and Tim the Beaver firing up the audience ahead of Trust Center Managing Director Bill Aulet’s signature run through the audience and leap on stage for opening remarks.
“This is the best day of the year for entrepreneurship at MIT,” announced Aulet, who is also the Ethernet Inventors Professor of the Practice at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We’re going to celebrate some great companies tonight, and it’s also a day to bring in new talent to be up on stage next year. The entrepreneurs presenting today were sitting in your seats last year. We’re hoping to inspire a lot of people.”
The event also served as an introduction to MIT’s entrepreneurial community for MIT’s new president, Sally Kornbluth.
“I was very impressed when I learned these students gave up their entire summer to work full time on their ventures, but honestly I wasn’t surprised,” Kornbluth told the audience. “Because I know when entrepreneurs decide to do something innovative, they’re willing to work incredibly hard to make it happen. In my eight months at MIT, I’ve seen that over and over again.”
A diverse class of ventures
This year’s cohort featured 23 teams and 68 students. Working out of either Cambridge, Massachusetts, or New York City, each team received coaching, mentorship, work space, and a small amount of funding to pursue their ideas. Through mock board meetings and regular goal-setting sessions, the Trust Center aimed to maximize student learning as it prepared them to “hit escape velocity and launch into the real world.”
A theme from this year’s cohort was sustainability, although entrepreneurs are taking very different paths to make the planet greener. MacroCycle is developing a low-carbon way to more effectively recycle plastics using a new chemical process based on a founder’s PhD work. Jane offers a chatbot platform to help people make their homes more sustainable. Eki Agrivoltaics is bringing together agriculture and solar energy, with a vertical photovoltaic product that will be deployed through a revenue-sharing model with farmers.
Agriculture was another common thread for several of this year’s teams. Fazenda da Mamma is delivering organic food to consumers directly from small farms, and Agrichat AI is using a chatbot to enable farmers to conversationally access timely research insights.
“[Millions of small plot farmers] rely on intuition to manage weather variability, soil chemistry, and pest and diseases,” said Hem Chaudhary ’23, who grew up on his father’s farm in Nepal. “Sadly, this intuitive framework will fall apart due to climate change, because climate change — beyond climate variability — is also introducing invasive species, shifts in the seasonal behavior of plants, and higher infection rates. This is a big problem for my dad. It puts his profession at risk, and there are 600 million farmers like him in the world.”
Launching out of the dormitory
A 2022 study on the delta v program found that 61 percent of companies are still operating or have been acquired. Those companies have collectively raised more than $1 billion in funding — and that’s not including delta v participants that have gone on to start other companies.
This year’s cohort included students representing every school and college at MIT, which is a frequent source of pride for the Trust Center.
“MIT has exploded in entrepreneurship over the past 30 years,” new chair of the corporation Mark Gorenberg ’76 told the audience following President Kornbluth’s remarks. “It has become the third leg of the school alongside teaching and research, and it’s transformed MIT into an even more special place.”
For Aulet and other members of the Trust Center, the event was about motivating students to take the plunge into MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The key to a startup is right there in the word: start,” Aulet told the audience. “At MIT, we all know Newton’s first law of motion: A body at test will remain at rest — especially if it’s in a dormitory!”
A wide variety of other startups presented at the event.
Neurobionics is developing microscopic fiber technology to create minimally invasive implantable devices.
Soundboard offers software for single-person businesses to automate tasks like client tracking and billing.
Medikana is streamlining the process of commercializing medical devices around the world.
Boston Quantum is using quantum-inspired algorithms to uncover high-profit trading opportunities.
nurtur is a digital health platform that proactively helps women at high risk of postpartum depression.
AugMend Health is developing a self-guided virtual reality intake program to increase the efficiency of mental health clinics.
Seak is empowering small businesses in Southeast Asia to export to the U.S. through business-to-business marketplaces.
Nona Technologies is commercializing a water-desalination device that uses a patented electrical attraction method to increase energy efficiency.
ReHome is offering an online platform that helps landlords and resettlement agencies find homes for refugees.
Cru is an online platform that helps small- and medium-sized businesses with things like payments and currency exchange to increase productivity.
Gleen is delivering personalized reports on how users’ everyday spending aligns with their values, whether it be supporting local businesses or minimizing their carbon footprint.
Fascia is contributing to sleep research with a comfortable and precise measurement device that looks like an eye mask.
Ape Fitness is a platform to track gym performance and increase membership retention rates.
T33 is developing solutions to deliver any chemical deeply into dental enamel to improve dental treatments like teeth whitening.
Yoku AI is building interactive AI tools to aid emotional understanding through mood identification and AI chat features.
Be Your Own Boss is a virtual manager for social media influencers that helps with brand outreach, inbound requests, and more.