MIT's Entrepreneurial Development and Impact Over the Past 50 Years
Edward B. Roberts, '57, SM '58, SM '60, PhD '62, David Sarnoff Professor of the Management of Technology; Chair, MIT Entrepreneurship Center
Description: Ed Roberts reviews the effects of entrepreneurship within MIT and the relation of MIT entrepreneurship to larger communities.
Much of the research under discussion comes from a 2006 study of MIT alumni conducted by Roberts and Charles Eesley of the Sloan School. The study polled MIT alumni about companies they had started or co"founded and which were still in business. 20% reported founding a total of 25,800 companies that met this standard. These companies had a total employment of 3.3 million and generated revenues of almost one trillion dollars. Put in other terms, living MIT alumni constitute the equivalent of the eleventh largest economy in the world. "MIT is the most productive institution anywhere in the world in creating new companies," Roberts says.
The study found many intriguing trends. For one, the rate at which alumni have been starting companies has accelerated over the decades. The number of alumni starting their first firm (as opposed to their second or third company) has grown from about 1000 in the 50's to 9000 during the 90's. Entrepreneurship is spread throughout the alumni, regardless of where or what they studied. When alumni found multiple companies, the second tends to do better than the first, and the third, better than the second. Non"native students found companies, usually in the US, at twice the rate of native students. Women alums are less likely to found companies than men. The effects are highly concentrated geographically: 31% of the firms and payroll are in Massachusetts.
Two questions often provoked by these results are: why has this happened and how can my region or country create an MIT? While Roberts disavows any firm conclusions, he points out that MIT has a long history of deliberate, focused efforts at nurturing entrepreneurship, particularly over the last forty years. His talk reviews the many chapters of this relationship, which ranges from promoting business plan competitions among students, to organizing the licensing office around a focus on start"ups, to sponsoring educational and networking events among alumni, to integrating the campus around the entrepreneurial mission. As to the second question, Roberts says one of the key ingredients is patience. Building the MIT entrepreneurial ecosystem took a long time.
Host(s): Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
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