MIT is among the pioneers in the teaching, research and practice of entrepreneurship, especially that based upon technological innovation. Its first entrepreneurship subject was “New Enterprises”, introduced in the 1960s. In 1990 Professor Edward Roberts ‘57 proposed to Lester Thurow, then Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, that he support the formation of a MIT-wide entrepreneurship program to serve not just MIT Sloan but the rest of MIT as well. Its goal would be to educate and develop those who will create, build and lead tomorrow’s successful high tech ventures. The proposed Center sought to increase dramatically and then provide central coordination and integration of MIT entrepreneurship classes and student activities.
But unlike nearly all other university entrepreneurship programs at that time, which rested primarily on experience-sharing by entrepreneurs and investors, the proposed Entrepreneurship Center would follow the MIT tradition of “Mens et Manus”, the Latin for “mind and hand”. It had to connect rigorous scholarly pursuit of knowledge underlying entrepreneurial success with effective transfer of that knowledge into practice. Thus Roberts proposed a “dual-track faculty” of “tenure-track” academics and adjunct practitioners, linking entrepreneurial researchers with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. His aim was to build an ambitious teaching program accompanied by direct coaching and mentoring of student would-be entrepreneurs. Academic faculty whose primary thrust is entrepreneurship but whose discipline base is marketing or finance or human resources, for example, would be jointly appointed to their underlying discipline group as well as to the Technological Innovation & Entrepreneurship (TIE) faculty group at MIT Sloan which would provide overall program coordination. In the past nineteen years this dual-track model has been adopted by almost all of the leading business schools for managing their entrepreneurship programs.
With co-sponsorship by MIT Sloan faculty across multiple disciplines, the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, as it was originally called, was launched with an initial Advisory Board consisting of prominent MIT entrepreneurial alumni, including Amar Bose ‘51 of Bose Corp., Ken Germeshausen ‘31 of EG&G, Bernard Goldhirsh ‘61 of Inc. Magazine, George Hatsopoulos ‘49 of ThermoElectron, Patrick McGovern ’59 of International Data Group, and Ken Olsen ’50 of Digital Equipment Corp. At that time MIT still offered only one related class and had only one faculty member doing research in the field.
In 1996 Kenneth Morse ‘68 became the first full-time managing director of the Center, which was then given a small amount of space near the MIT Sloan classrooms. Filled with cubicles, desks and filing cabinets the physical space provided a wonderful home base for housing and nurturing a wide array of entrepreneurship-related clubs and activities, with immediate access to adult coaching and guidance, frequently including an Entrepreneur-in-Residence in addition to Ken Morse and staff. In 2009, Senior Lecturer and serial entrepreneur William Aulet took over from Morse as managing director, and Professor Fiona Murray became faculty director, furthering the “dual-track” vision and beginning the next phase of evolution of Center programming.
In November 2011, the Center was re-dedicated as the Martin (1958) Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, in conjunction with an extensive expansion and renovation of the Center's space in MIT building E40.
The Martin Trust Center label has come to represent to many at and outside of MIT both the physical space as well as the broad-based MIT program of education and activities. The rapidly expanding MIT entrepreneurial program has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number and ambition of classes, clubs, conferences and the resulting breadth and depth of content and contacts that facilitate entrepreneurial behavior – some have called it a frenzy of entrepreneurship!