SETsquared Blog

Two Weeks at MIT: Big Ideas, Big Breakfasts and Entrepreneurship On The World Stage

The UK is a great place to begin the journey of starting a company especially if software and medicine are your thing. Unfortunately because of our modest nature and ‘stiff upper lip’ we tend to shy away from developing big, industrial science, which is Industrial Phycology’s area.

Over in the US however this is not a problem. Big science is viewed with great gusto and there is no better place to learn from than the people over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the world famous Kendall Square.

Industrial Phycology was fortunate to be selected along with one other SETsquared company, iGeolise, to attend an intensive two week scheme hosted by MIT in Boston focused on commercialising science and technology and how to prepare companies for entry to the US market. This event assembled some of the best new companies from Europe with entrepreneurs attending from Portugal, Italy, Holland, Russia and the Czech Republic and really brought home the incredible quality of ideas the EU can produce.

We were thrown straight in to the deep end, during the first week after a hearty American breakfast. Lectures were given by some of the most experienced people from MIT and Kendall Square. These lectures were focused on preparing companies for launch and the subtle but important differences in how science and technology is presented in the US. After lectures, companies were required to deliver a pitch of varying lengths almost every day to a diverse range of audiences including academics, angels and VCs from the Boston area and beyond.

Impressive networking opportunities were provided after all of these events and all the attending companies were involved in side meetings with each other along with new potential partners, customers and Investors. The UK companies also had the excellent support of Abigail Barrow, the director of the Massachusetts technology transfer centre, who introduced us to a range of people working in the area.

The second week saw more big breakfasts and invaluable lectures on a diverse range of topics including sales, marketing, the subtle but important differences in laws of different states and hiring and firing to keep your team lean and efficient. Afternoons were dedicated to follow up meetings and arranging new meetings, all the while getting invaluable feedback and refining the way we present our companies and their proposition.

There are important distinctions to be made however, we found, between the US and EU markets. While in the EU we like to know about the people developing the company and why we are doing it and the how it works - essentially building up our case. The US is very different, investors will assume you know your stuff and that what you are doing works, they want to hear why you have solved this huge problem, how much better than everyone else are you and how are you and your product going to conquer the world. That boldness and enthusiasm in delivery and confidence that what you are doing is the only logical way - is an important lesson we have taken home - it must however be tempered with European sensibility.

On the other side of this enthusiasm is the investors themselves. Taking a walk through Kendall Square or attending one of the many venture cafes, life changing deals appear to be taking place at every corner and table, with the world’s biggest angels, VCs and corporate investors all looking for new opportunities. Massachusetts State is also incredibly supportive of innovative new companies supporting over a billion dollars’ worth of grants every year. This concentration of government support, investor enthusiasm and international community makes for one of the most dynamic environments in the world and an ideal location for start-ups to grow and reach their full potential.

We came away from our brief time at MIT with a reinforced sense of confidence and ambition to develop our company. Our time has allowed us make an invaluable list of new international contacts and opportunities which have the potential for huge impacts on our company. We have also gained invaluable insight into planning our development and strategies for progression from the most able people in the world, which we have brought home with us to apply and share with others.