A new version of Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT is being released this year. The 2006 study by MIT professor Edward B. Roberts and Charles Eesley (Ph.D. ’09), examines the impact of the companies that are created by MIT alumni. In light of the re-release, and recent national efforts to encourage entrepreneurship (i.e. Startup America), it feels like the perfect time to reflect on their report.
In spite of the title, the study does more than simply measure the impact of entrepreneurs from MIT. Roberts and Eesley attempt to make sense of trends that appear in the data, such as the increasing number of entrepreneurs in each class, and alumni starting more companies at an earlier age. But the numbers simply measuring impact are impressive: in the year of Roberts’s survey (2006) there were 3.3 million jobs that had been created by companies of MIT-founders, and their aggregate sales are equivalent to the eleventh-largest economy in the world.
Roberts is the founder and chair of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, which opened in 1990. He notes that before the E-Center there were no student clubs like the $100K Competition, and only one entrepreneurship-related course existed at MIT. Before the E-Center, Roberts notes that culture and role models were the only campus agents of entrepreneurship. However, he also notes that those are the hardest important qualities to achieve in an organization. It’s no wonder then that MIT has been a jumping-off point for entrepreneurs even before 1990.
Can the key elements of the MIT ecosystem be scaled at the national level? And can we increase the national push for entrepreneurship? A recent article in The Economist says that the United States has the most enterprising large economy in the world, yet there are still many Americans waiting to enter or re-enter the workforce. What is the key to growing entrepreneurship – and in doing so, the number of available jobs – in the US?
It’s impossible to attribute MIT’s entrepreneurial success to only one element of the MIT ecosystem – there isn’t just one class, one influential person, or a single visit to the E-Center that gets credited in success stories. At the very least, perhaps our nation can take a few pointers from Roberts and Eeley’s report, where they identify some of the programs and practices at MIT that could be applied at other institutions to increase entrepreneurial development. To find out which programs, read the report here.
Ed Roberts, co-author of "Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT" discusses the report.