вторник, 25 октября 2011 г.

SKOLKOVO students at the MIT start-up lab

Alexey Kushner, current SKOLKOVO MBA student, is sharing his impressions about an unusual weekend of September 16-18, which he spent at the MIT start-up laboratory.

In the end of their corporate module in the United States, SKOLKOVO students had a chance to take part in an unusual event named “MIT t=0” where participants are supposed to develop a business idea during a weekend. This event is held mostly for the new students of MIT in order to show them some success start-ups created by the graduates of various programmes (Master’s, PhD, MBA, Executive MBA). Everyone has an opportunity to work at the start-up laboratory for two intense days, supported by experts from various industries.

So here are Alexey’s impressions:

“On Friday night we started with 22 ideas presented by their holders in speeches of 30 seconds each. There were ideas for various spheres, but half of them were devoted to IT. One of IT projects was called “Stop developing web sites abroad!” and proposed creating a web-developing company where local computer students could work. Every idea-holder has a opportunity to communicate with people presented and create a team of different specialists, supporters, friends and those who want to have an extreme weekend.

Only 11 teams could make it till Saturday’s morning, most of them being IT projects. In the beginning of the day the teams presented three questions to audience, each. It is surprising but almost every question had someone to answer it with ready decisions and suggestions. While the teams were presenting, there were personal connections born and interesting networks organized. That was a terrific creative process!
In the evening we heard some expert speeches which gave us some good thoughts and useful information. It turned out that during the last month in Boston’s ecosystem there were very 20 companies which successfully raised funds, 19 were bought, two applied for IPO and one was listed.

Later this night there were several 5-minute presentations of successful start-ups by MIT graduates. And that was impressive! For instance, the OnChip Power company is working at commercialization of mini voltage transformer and has already attracted some venture funding. Another company, Ubiquitous Energy, which is working on sun batteries which can be printed on paper with a special printer, is developing on its own funds in order to increase its capitalization before attracting external investors.

Invited experts from venture funds weren’t confused and managed to find some weak points in the presentations, asked some tough questions. Mostly, all the questions were around this game of words: Problem; Opportunities; Approach; Advantages; Target Market; Customer Profile; Value Proposition & Value Capturing; Decision-Making Unit & Decision-Making Process; Business-model; Competition; Cost Of Customer Acquisition; Differentiation; Revenue projection.

During the lab’s work more and more ideas and projects arose, and on Sunday we had 14 teams. SKOLKOVO business school was presented with three student projects: Eliza Fisherman presented her project of electronic art academy where students from all over the world can learn from the masters. Ellina Mannurova presented her project of garbage recycling based on some new technology. And I told about the project of soil refining of radiation, metal, toxins and dioxins. All of us managed to come to the final competition.

13 projects took part in the final competition stage of the lab, and two of them won: it was the “Tweet’n’Eat” project (a system for ordering at restaurants through twitter) and the project of students’ social network (aimed at finding new friends). In two days of the lab these teams managed to create demo-prototypes and show them to the competition’s jury.

I learned a lot about the ways how a university can support students’ self-organization around new ideas and projects. It was a real insight for me how during these two days from 24 ideas 14 real projects were born and 2 of them received positive feedback from the investors. After the competition was over I met the organizers and fund out that 5 teams have already expressed willingness to work on their projects and use opportunities of the MIT entrepreneurship ecosystem for support and incubation. That was a great experience, worth adopting for our country as well!”

We wish SKOLKOVO students lots of luck when developing their own start-ups!

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