Long before Shark Tank was a popular hit TV series, MIT was encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit through its five-day Entrepreneurship Development Program, led by Bill Aulet, MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer and Managing Director of The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. The annual program has been the impetus behind many successful companies that got their start at MIT. Aulet explained the fundamental idea of entrepreneurship in a recent NECN T.V. interview and said, "You need to keep calm and trust the process." While ideas are necessary, said Aulet, they are overrated. "It's much more important to figure out who the customer is; figure out the process and what makes that into a business," adding that "it's even more important to have a great team."
Aulet explains that the EDP program--which attracts 100-plus people from as many as 25 different countries each year--is challenging. In just one week, participants are asked to work with people they don’t know and build a new business from an idea they didn’t have before coming to campus. According to Aulet, "There is a process to help them do that, and that's what participants learn during the program." He adds, "There is a methodology that helps you optimize your chances of being successful."
Entrepreneurship means changing the existing order of things
Aulet often talks about the mindset of entrepreneurs. In his recent interview with NECN, he explained that great entrepreneurs have to be willing to be different, willing to swim the other way, and not accept the existing order of things. Aulet says MIT is great at that, and compares this mindset to his experience as an undergraduate at the other well-known school down the street. "Harvard was the establishment. MIT was not the establishment. It was immigrants and immigrants’ kids being trained for the industrial revolution. They've always been willing to swim the other way and get by on the size of their brain."
However, adds Aulet, changing the existing order of things alone isn't enough. Rather, successful entrepreneurs require execution skills. Aulet remembers his 11-year stint at IBM where he felt like "the most disciplined person in the world," until he moved to a startup. "It was a whole other level at the startup. At IBM, we always made payroll. In a startup, if the customer doesn't like the product or you don’t get the order, then you don’t make payroll. An entrepreneur has a level of internal discipline that is so high."