The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

What Makes MIT So Good at Entrepreneurship

I joined the NCET2 webinar of Edward Roberts’ presentation last week — “Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT” — to see what I could glean for Toronto’s benefit as we work toward creating a more entreprenuerial environment on University Ave. 

The webinar homepage has the audio of the talk and a link to the slides.

Some of the most interesting bits to me were:

  1. Literal tech transfer is a very small part of the innovation ecosystem:  although 30 startup firms got licenses from the MIT tech licensing office (TLO) in 2000, over 1,000 companies were started up by MIT alumni that year.
  2. The benefit of immigration: “~30% of foreign‐student alumni become entrepreneurs vs. ~20% of U.S.‐born alumni; half of the foreign‐student entrepreneurs remain in the U.S.” Roberts suggests a selection bias (the act of emigrating for school is itself entrepreneurial), but the take-away remains that these immigrants are good at creating jobs and we should encourage as many as possible to stay.
  3. Suggestions for other institutions:
    • Institutional leadership and senior role models are required.
    • Remove barriers to entrepreneurship in rules and regs.
    • Consider supplemental incubator resources or even seed funding directly from universities.
    • Engage alumni.
    • Build internal entrepreneurship education programs, with integrated academic and practitioner faculty participants.
    • Hold business plan competitions.
    • Realign tech transfer offices: fewer lawyers, more project managers.*
  4. The value of VC alumni — although it’s not what you might expect — data from China suggest that connections will get a meeting with VCs but will not affect investment decisions.

*Note: A slip of the tongue, or an easy scapegoat: as Roberts no doubt knows, the best lawyers are excellent project managers.

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