As the Global E-Week site puts it: “25,000 Events, Millions of Participants, 1 Week”. Certainly an impressive initiative that we should all continue to do our part to support. Personally, I could only make it to three events in Cambridge MA which were absolutely incredible – here’s my recap of those.

MIT Science & Engineering Business Club’s “Innovate, Create, Initiate” Workshop
I had the privilege to attend a student-run workshop session to help fellow students to nurture their ideas, form teams around them, and to understand what was required to develop them into businesses.
There was a lot of ground to cover in the day long workshop, but the team hit on the important highlights:

  • Intro to MassChallenge: These guys are doing amazing things and John gave an inspirational talk…more on MassChallenge later.
  • Team Building: MIT Sloan professor Tom Kochan gave a crash course into how teams are formed and what makes for good team dynamics. The participants then organized them selves into groups to put those newly learned skills to the test to build the tallest towers out of the contents of a ziploc bag of building blocks (see image).
  • Product Design: Blade Kotelly gave a crash course in his 10-step design process, and then put the crowd to the test to apply it to an interesting target market.
  • Business Plans: Ken Zolot was up next to do a mini-version of his business plan course that he gives during IAP at MIT. The thing that resonated the most with the crowd is where he posed the question of 3 rooms: there are three rooms at MIT and you can join one of them – do you go into the room with the perpetual motion machine (technology); the room with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Barack Obama (team); or do you go into the room with 5 o the most incredible experts in the world on H1N1 (market)?
  • Pitching: The final activity was the elevator pitch; teams were given 60 seconds to explain their ideas to a panel of judges (including me). I was impressed at the level of polish of the ideas and the poise of the students….although I did ask every one to talk about $$$…but hey, it’s MIT.

Overall, the event was a fantastic display of energy and collaboration. The students impressed me with their ideas, and the work they’ve put in to develop them so far. Innovation is alive and well at MIT.

MassChallenge’s MassAccess event

MassChallenge, the non-profit initiative to help catalyze entrepreneurship in Massachusetts, put on their MassAccess “speed networking” event.Β  Overall it was an incredible opportunity to connect people of all backgrounds and interests from emerging entrepreneurs, established entrepreneurs, investors, customers, mentors, and more. The overall intent was to foster collaboration with the intent of building networks and businesses. I met a number of great people, with lots of passion and enthusiasm — and found myself routinely asking the question “how can I help”.

The team at MassChallenge put together an incredible event – and they’re only just getting started. So keep an eye out for more as the business plan competition portion kicks off next year.

MIT $100K Event: Eric Ries
As part of the event series for the MIT $100K, I attended a talk by Eric Ries – noted entrepreneur and author of the blog Startup Lessons Learned (also known as the Lean Startup). Eric’s talk was eye opening, and extremely pragmatic. Eric’s blog is a great source, and you should check it out; I’ll continue to post about the applications of his principles.

Here is a Slideshare presentation that is very close to what he presented at MIT:

Summary and a personal rant

With so many things going on across the globe, it’s pretty disappointing to see Canada’s turn out in Global E-Week. While there are great things going on in Canada, like Challenge Your World and Impact, it’s particularly pathetic that Waterloo — my alma mater, and a school that wants to pride itself on innovation and entrepreneurship — was a virtual no-show. Maybe I missed something (and if I did please let me know) but we certainly have a long way to go if we’re really going to get serious about fostering an innovation culture in Canada…taking a few notes from Cambridge MA is a good place to start.

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