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‘How to Start a Startup’ comes to MIT

The MIT Undergraduate Association’s Innovation Committee began a series of informal evening classes last week, offering live streaming sessions of Stanford University’s “How to Start a Startup” course.

At 9 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, the Innovation Committee, headed by Will W. Jack ’17, streams the lecture series in room 2-105 for MIT students, who then have a short discussion of the content.

The course itself takes place on Stanford’s campus as part of an initiative to make entrepreneurship more accessible. The class is the brainchild of Sam Altman, the president of California accelerator Y Combinator, a highly competitive mentorship and educational program for startups. Altman attracted prominent members of the Silicon Valley tech industry to speak at the class, including Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.

Videos, readings, lecture notes, and projects are all publicly available, allowing anyone interested in entrepreneurship to be able to follow along with the course. One such project asks students to identify all of the day-to-day problems they encounter over a period of two weeks. Currently, over 25,000 people from all over the globe are in the class’s Facebook group, and colleges like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and UC Berkeley are organizing similar live streams of the class.

The UA Innovation Committee, in its inaugural year, aims to encourage MIT students to pursue and develop entrepreneurial ideas. It intends to guide students by providing a direct connection to more established MIT entrepreneurship organizations, such as the Martin Trust Center and Startlabs.

The “How to Start a Startup” course is the first major event that the Innovation Committee has run. Andrea S. Li ’18 said, “I get really excited about this class, and I think that it’s the perfect opportunity to learn from the experiences of the entrepreneur community.”

The collaboration came about through Jack’s prior relationship with Altman, who reached out to Jack to express his interest in bringing the class to MIT. “I thought [the lecture series] aligned perfectly with everything I’ve been working on already,” said Jack. In the near future, the Innovation Committee intends to hold regular “idea nights,” for students to present their startup ideas.

The committee says it made an effort to contain a mix of students from different courses. According to Jack, “At the first meeting, we went over all the backgrounds we had, and identified regions that weren’t represented — for example, we don’t have either Course 9 or 20 — and we’re going to make a conscious effort to represent them.”

Jack added, “I think MIT undergraduates are the cream of the crop of global innovators, and I’d like to make it easier for them to make that first step towards actualizing their idea.”

—Ray Wang