MIT’s preeminence in entrepreneurship is rooted in its founding. The Institute was one of the first land-grant colleges, and was designed to deliver a practical education instead of the focus on the classics at many private universities that were founded to train clergy. Its emphasis on mens et manus, “mind and hand,” is infused into the entrepreneurship curriculum and programming, which emphasizes learning by doing. In the 2011–2012 academic year, 42 entrepreneurship classes saw 2,753 course enrollments, including six Independent Activities Period short courses. A new summer program, the MIT Founders’ Skills Accelerator, received 129 applications for 10 student-team slots in summer 2012, showing that entrepreneurship is a year-round endeavor at MIT.
A 2009 study based on data from 2001 and 2003 suggested that 25,800 companies founded by MIT alumni were active as of 2006, employing 3.3 million people and producing annual revenues of $2 trillion, equivalent to the 11th-largest economy in the world. Hundreds of new companies are started each year, and 41 percent of MIT founders are serial entrepreneurs, having started multiple companies. Founders are getting younger as well. The average new entrepreneur who graduated in the 1990s starts a company at age 28, whereas founders who graduated in the 1950s started their first companies on average at age 40.5. Around 30 percent of international students at MIT go on to found companies, half of them located in the United States. By contrast, around 20 percent of MIT’s US students have founded companies.
Several MIT departments, labs, and centers specialize in different aspects of fostering entrepreneurship at MIT. The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, founded in 1990, supports students with an entrepreneurship curriculum, programming, guidance, and connections to the MIT and broader entrepreneurial communities. The Technology Licensing Office assists MIT inventors in protecting their technology and in licensing that technology to startups and to existing companies. The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation funds innovative faculty research and supports faculty in technology commercialization. The Venture Mentoring Service matches student, faculty, staff, and alumni entrepreneurs with talented mentors. The Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program is a set of classes that help students leverage Media Lab technologies to create new businesses. The Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program promotes leadership and communications skills among undergraduate engineers. The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship supports social entrepreneurship among MIT students. The Lemelson-MIT Program promotes invention at MIT, in particular among students through the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. And the MIT Enterprise Forum, originally founded under the Alumni Association and now part of MIT Technology Review, produces programs and events through its network of chapters worldwide for the broader entrepreneurial community.