Celebrating Entrepreneurship at MIT a 'Series of Religious Beliefs'
by Meredith Somers
At-home medical tests, a home-sharing program, and a network for therapists earned top honors from the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship community for the 2017-2018 academic year.
During the April 4 Celebration of Entrepreneurship at the center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Confer Health took home one of three Eddie Awards — named for Ed Roberts, founder, chairman, and faculty director of the center. Confer earned the title of “Most Likely to Donate a Building.”
“Some people celebrate entrepreneurship as ‘you can do it,’” said Confer cofounder and CEO Mounir Koussa. At the center, people aren’t afraid to challenge young entrepreneurs and say “here’s what you need to do to make [your business] a reality.”
Celebrating entrepreneurship wasn’t the original goal of the annual event. Roberts explained the idea had initially been to thank local CEOs who hosted students in their nearby companies.
“That was the way we did it for a long time,” Roberts said. “Until Bill Aulet became managing director. And Bill Aulet said that’s nice that we honor these people, but what we really ought to do is … celebrate entrepreneurship at MIT. That was a different word than we had ever used. Since then, celebrating entrepreneurship tonight and throughout the entire year is almost a series of religious beliefs; that you have to believe that celebrating entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship is a great thing to do. That’s what we’re doing.”
Confer, according to its website, offers at-home “clinical-grade devices” that can test and analyze blood and urine samples. The company started in 2015 as part of the MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator, which is now known as the MIT delta v startup accelerator program. Confer is based in Boston, and has 23 employees.
Koussa was honored along with cofounder and former entrepreneur-in-residence at the Trust Center Josh Forman, and Zhi-Yang Tsun, a 2015 graduate of MIT.
Nesterly cofounders Rachel Goor, MCP ’17, and Noelle Marcus, MCP ’17, won the “I Can’t Believe This Startup Came Out of MIT” Award. Nesterly links people looking for apartments or rooms to rent with seniors and empty nesters who have space in their homes.
The People’s Champion Eddie Award went to Eva Breitenbach, MBA ’17, founder of Sophia. Sophia connects people with different kinds of therapists, including mental health counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
Other awards handed out at the event included the Adolf F. Monosson Prize for Entrepreneurship Mentoring, which went to MIT Sloan lecturer Trish Cotter.
This year’s McGovern Award, which is given to student contributors, went to Greg Ekchian, PhD MEng ’18, and Ingrid Oelschlager, MBA ’18.