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MIT Entrepreneurs Program to Include Six Foreign Teams

By Michael B. Farrell

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is expanding a program for student entrepreneurs to include six teams from overseas that will come to the United States this summer to hone ideas for start-ups alongside collegians from the Cambridge school.

Student groups hailing from Russia, Turkey, Canada, Germany, Scotland, and China will join eight local teams that will each have at least one current MIT student or recent grad. Each team is eligible for $20,000 and will receive mentoring and tutelage from successful entrepreneurs and MIT professors.

The global initiative — the first of its kind in an academic setting — comes as so-called accelerator programs such as TechStars in Cambridge or Y Combinator in Silicon Valley are cropping up around the country and becoming magnets for the brightest graduates — and occasional dropouts — from MIT and other prestigious schools who are trying to launch start-ups.

Now, with the Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator, MIT is tapping its vast resources and far-reaching connections to build a program for students so they do not leave campus to find resources for starting businesses, while at the same time expanding its ties to international students and entrepreneurs.
“We don’t want them to leave MIT because they didn’t feel like they had enough support here to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams,” said Bill Aulet, the managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship who will oversee the accelerator.

When Aulet started the accelerator program last year, it was reserved for teams connected to MIT. Among the projects by the 10 teams were medical device initiatives and recycling projects in Africa. That soon attracted the attention of international schools such as Sabanci University in Turkey and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) in Russia, with which MIT has a formal relationship.

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