Author: Greg Wymer

by Dana Hwu, MIT delta v NYC Program Manager

Cameron Cler shares her entrepreneurial journey through MIT Sloan, leading up to this summer in MIT’s delta v Accelerator

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved in entrepreneurship at MIT?

I came to MIT two years ago to pursue my MBA. Prior to coming to school, I knew I was going to start my own company, so I joined a delta v team in 2018, Hippo, which is now called Pluto, and is a tech-based social assistant.

It was a great foundation for what entrepreneurship really takes and helped me get entrenched in the MIT entrepreneurship ecosystem before even starting school. I knew I would eventually apply for delta v with my own company.

What else were you involved in during your time at Sloan that added to your entrepreneurial pursuits?

I completed the Entrepreneurship & Innovation track, which led me to take a bunch of really great entrepreneurship courses at Sloan including “Entrepreneurial Sales,” which was one of my favorites. I ended up being a teaching assistant (TA) for that course twice. I enjoyed being a TA because that allowed me to build closer relationships with entrepreneurship professors at the Trust Center as well.

I was President of the Entrepreneurship Club at Sloan, which helped me get to know first-year MBAs better, and I led the Female Founders organization as part of Sloan Women in Management (SWIM). During my time at Sloan, I also had the opportunity to intern at a couple of venture capital firms that gave me great exposure to the fundraising side of startups, and I got to meet a lot of founders too.

Can you talk about a typical day for you this summer in delta v?

I was supposed to be in New York City this summer, and am part of the delta v NYC cohort, but decided to co-locate in Cambridge with my teammates, as we knew we would be pivoting quite significantly due to the pandemic and decided in-person collaboration would be easier for this than potentially being spread out virtually.

We are working on a wellness-focused company, so I generally start my day with either yoga or meditation and tea with my teammates. We have our daily standup with the whole team at 11:30, so we are all on the same page. There are generally a couple of delta v events or team meetings throughout the day, and then around that, we have recently focused a lot on customer research and outreach. We’ve been lucky to attain eight pilot customers so far and have learned something new with each one.  

What are some benefits and challenges with the accelerator being virtual this year?

I think a definite benefit has been a lot of access to Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and so many different speakers who may not have been able to make it to Cambridge or NYC if it had been in-person. Additionally, we’ve had all our mock board members make our meetings virtually, which wasn’t always the case for in person meetings in past summers.

Board meetings are one of my favorite parts of delta v because you are surrounded by a talented group of people who are really in your corner and looking to help you succeed. The meetings are challenging but help get our team aligned, and give different team members opportunities to highlight their work product and contribution to company progress.

Relating to challenges, it is tougher to build cohort camaraderie. Experiencing the day-to-day highs and lows amongst other co-founders makes a difference, and it’s nice to be around others during the decision-making process.

Do you have any advice for those looking to pursue their own startups?

I worked on our company for a year before coming to delta v, and we have, except for our target customer, almost entirely changed the way we work: our product, our focus area. It’s so important to understand your customer and focus on their needs and not just build what you want to build, and I definitely learned that from MIT. It also can be easy to build for yourself and people like you, but you should also think about the broader landscape of people you can affect and think through what opportunities are there for people not like you.

One of my favorite workshops of the summer was on mindfulness and leadership with Jerry Colonna. It was a great checkpoint midway through the program on how “no matter where your company is, your self-worth isn’t tied to the success of the company.” Especially for us as a wellness-centered company, it was great to have mindful leadership practices re-instilled, as it’s easy to get into a “startup flurry” of things that need to get done, but it’s important to remind ourselves that some things can wait until tomorrow. 

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