by Lynne Weiss
Two students in MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM) brought together some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs from ten Boston-area colleges and universities on September 20 for an evening of friendly competition, lively networking, and delicious food.
Fady Saad SDM ’11, co-founder of ePowerhouse, an online entrepreneurship ecosystem, and Melissa Rosen SDM ’11, president of Women in SDM (WiSDM), invited faculty and e-clubs at institutions such as Babson, Boston University, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Worcester Polytechnic, and Wentworth Institute of Technology to nominate their best semi-finalists in their schools’ entrepreneurship competitions. The resulting field of about 25 semi-finalists was narrowed to nine finalists through a crowd-voting process on the ePowerhouse platform.
About 250 people attended the event. After product demos by the finalists, student entrepreneurs asked questions of a panel moderated by Andre Porter, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The panel included Christina Chase of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship as well as faculty from Northeastern, Worcester Polytechnic, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Boston University.
Saad became interested in supporting startups when he learned that 40% of SDM alums create or go to work for startups. "SDM students, with ten-plus years of work experience, are seeking growth and independence in their careers," he said. Both ePowerhouse and the AIM4E event were natural outgrowths of what Saad learned in the SDM program: most systems are embedded in another system. "That got me to look at the system within which startups are embedded," he said.
Saad said that when he met David Zhou, founder of ePowerhouse, at a networking event, he "realized that ePowerhouse could bring key players togetherâ€”entrepreneurs, service providers, marketing professionals, investors, and talent—so that startups could create the ecosystems they need to succeed."
Just as ePowerhouse brings key players together online, the AIM4E event brought them together at the Microsoft NERD Center in Kendall Square, Cambridge. The networking portion of the evening was Biz meets Techy. "We gave Techys yellow stickers and Biz people green stickers," Saad said.
Rosen has been organizing events for WiSDM for the past two years. "Through my network at MIT and the surrounding community, I was able to promote this event to people who would add value to the evening," Rosen explained. Appropriately, Phoodeez, an online catering platform started by Sloan Fellows Christine Marcus and Sal Lupoli, sponsored the food and drinks for the event.
After guests enjoyed their dinner, the judges announced the 1st AIM4E winner: Babson-affiliated TaxiRightNow, a smartphone taxi-hailing app that will collaborate with existing taxi companies in Cambridge and Boston. The runner-up was Expressionality, another Babson affiliate, for an app that builds playlists based on a user’s personality type. But these were not the only winners at the AIM4E event. Everyone who attended learned about creating ecosystems for successful startups, and that, according to Saad, is a win for SDM and the whole Boston area.
Melissa Rosen SDM ’11 and Fady Saad SDM ’11 organizers of the AIM4E event.