Thirteen teams, over 13 weeks, set out to change the world.
“This is the future,” said Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, assuring the crowd they, too, held the key. “They were in your shoes, students, one year ago.”
Nearly 600 people poured into MIT’s Walker Memorial building Saturday to see firsthand the culmination of the Martin Trust Center’s newly-global Founders’ Skills Accelerator. Deemed “Demo Day,” the event put each participating startup in the spotlight, allowing teams to share how far they’ve come in just one summer.
Take AvaTech, a company that’s developed multiple functioning prototypes of its debut proactive avalanche safety device; the same company that’s raised the first $100,000 of its seed round. Or lallitara, the eco-friendly retailer creating one-of-a-kind products from traditional Indian saris, that’s already held a trunk show on Newbury Street.
“I’m so incredibly proud of the founders,” said Kyle Judah, the Martin Trust Center’s newest program director and head of external relations. “It’s been amazing to see the founders buckle down here in the last month and nail down a great narrative.”
Through those narratives, Judah claimed he hopes incoming students were inspired.
“This shows what’s possible in one year for them,” Judah said. “We want people to know real innovation is happening here at MIT.”
This year, the Martin Trust Center welcomed seven student-led startups from MIT into the program, as well as six from universities in Canada, China, Germany, Russia, Scotland and Turkey. Each team was awarded up to $20,000, and eligible students received a monthly $1,000 stipend along with dedicated desk space at MIT.
“The addition of six teams from universities around the world gives our students a unique opportunity to broaden their understanding of global entrepreneurship,” said Aulet in May when announcing the Founders’ Skills Accelerator had gone global.
Moving forward, this global perspective could help teams do a better job at creating revolutionary ideas that stray wildly from convention.
“When you see great change, it’s often caused by entrepreneurs who are breaking the rules,” said KAYAK Co-founder and CTO Paul English, who’s recently joined MIT’s Sloan School of Management as a part-time senior lecturer, in Saturday’s keynote speech.
Pointing to Uber, Airbnb and Tesla, English claimed its “revolutionary ideas” like those that have disrupted industries, because the founders weren’t scared of breaking rules. English also noted, however, that it’s not a product or invention that makes a company, but rather the team who built it. When investing, English said he bases 70 percent of his decision on the team alone.
Aulet later echoed English’s sentiment, calling startups’ ideas and technology “overrated,” reiterating it’s the team that counts. Throughout the week, MIT is hosting an entrepreneurship festival, t=0, designed to help students meet others they could, one day, see themselves starting a company with.
“You, the students, yes you can do this,” Aulet said. “You can change the world.”
To learn more about the 13 teams who worked hard spending their summer doing exactly that, read the descriptions below and check out photos from the event.
6sensorLabs — 6sensorLabs builds products and networks that enable people with food allergies to trust their food. The company’s first product is focused on gluten detection, and the team is currently trying to raise a seed round.
AvaTech — AvaTech develops proactive avalanche safety devices that help backcountry adventurers and professionals avoid life-threatening slides. The team recently raised the first $100,000 of their seed round.
Grove — Grove’s goal is to enable people to grow fresh fruits and vegetables year-round in their home. Now looking to raise $300,000, the team’s first product is a remote monitoring system for hydroponic and aquaponic grow systems.
lallitara — With the goal of fueling social change through fashion, lallitara creates eco-friendly products by upcycling traditional Indian saris. The startup has already held a trunk show on Newbury Street, as well as landed its first partnership.
NarwhalEdu — NarwhalEdu has combined online curricula with hands-on engineering products, fully kitted, to help high school and college students fall in love with engineering. Although initially targeted at homeschoolers, the startup will be prototyping at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School this fall.
NVBots — Aiming to “bring students’ ideas to life,” NVBots provides a simple 3D printing experience that gives students the ability to 3D print 24/7 from any device. The startup has already partnered with Citizen Schools, and is currently piloting in a fifth grade classroom.
Thyme Labs — Thyme Labs is working to rid the world of Doodle polls by offering personal productivity and analytic tools that help users make time for the things that matter.
ALPrint — ALPrint’s 3D printer and scanner allows ski shops to provide their customers with fully customized insoles for their ski boots.
Darfoo — Darfoo creates applications to help China’s elderly population simplify the user experience on their smartphone. Through the team’s first Android interface, children are able to control their parents’ smartphones with their own.
ImSlide — ImSlide offers an effective and energy efficient way to de-ice power lines, allowing for protection against severe weather. The team will be running their first pilot in Russia this year.
SomaTech — With the goal of helping companies control their social media presence, SomaTech’s first product, a “social intelligence engine,” will present data in a more meaningful way.
task36 — task36 develops smart software to help hardware companies complete their tasks and projects more efficiently.
Uniiv — Uniiv is focused on creating software for students. The company’s first product is an intelligent course management web application, built to help students track and plan their degree.