29 June 2008

Developmental Entrepreneurship @ MIT ~ Founding a Powerful Emergent Theme

Inspired in 2000-1 by Amy Smith, Saul Griffith and Nitin Sawhney and other MIT colleagues working on international development innovations, DesignThatMatters, ThinkCycle, and Development-by-Design, I started -- together with Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland -- the grassroots MIT initiatives on Developmental Entrepreneurship (DE), teaching our DE Seminar starting in 2001 jointly between the Media Lab and MIT Sloan. (FYI, we have upwards of a dozen spinout companies to-date including Amir Hasson's United Villages pictured above!-) Furthermore, I co-created & continue to support an ever-growing International Development Network, have co-hosted & continue to run numerous events, collaborations, & activities, long-argued for accelerating development innovations broadly, initiated & helped expand the DE challenge prizes, extended Seed Grants supporting practical field experiences by MIT and Harvard students, and more!

This theme has really blossomed in the past few years at MIT and beyond, with not only DE-themed companies winning the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition overall, but ever-more connections and links with the MIT International Development Initiatives, including the IDEAS Competition, the D-Labs family of class offerings, and other exciting efforts, including IDDS. A few recent developments especially stand out at MIT:
I'm very proud of co-founding DE @ MIT and being part of growing and expanding this theme at the Institute, connecting with ever more competent and compelling colleagues who care. Now the time is ripe for us all to integrate and escalate our efforts throughout MIT and beyond. This would allow us to expand our shared learning-by-doing approach, to seed-finance hundreds -- indeed, thousands -- of exploratory projects and talented people, and to use an iterative, grassroots approach to identifying and supporting the best inventive ideas and venture opportunities. We need a highly-distributed, action-empowered, trustworthy network of smart and morally-grounded people to properly tackle the enormous global gigachallenges we face!

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