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MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship


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Legatum Fellowships

Watch the Feb. 15, 2018 Fellowship Webinar here.

The Legatum Fellowship is a competitive program designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs gain a world class education at MIT in order to launch and scale their ventures and maximize their likelihood of success as principled entrepreneurial leaders and agents for change who will transform society and improve global wellbeing. Every year, we select a cohort of approximately 20 highly-motivated student entrepreneurs to join our one-year Fellowship. Click here to learn more about the 2017-2018 cohort. During this time, Fellows receive funding to support their tuition, stipend, project development and travel.

The Legatum Center has supported 235 fellows over the past 10 years and our community continues to strengthen year by year.


Program Elements

This Fellowship is intensely action-oriented and suits students who are fully committed to becoming principled leaders, motivated to improve the lives of others through entrepreneurship.

  • Specialized Leadership Curriculum: Through the Center’s customized educational experience, students develop practical skills for navigating complex business environments, making principled business decisions, setting and reaching venture milestones, and building and leading teams globally.
  • High-Touch Mentorship: The Center has an in-house Entrepreneur in Residence  dedicated to helping our Fellows navigate their MIT entrepreneurial journey. The Center has also built a network of domain experts and mentors to provide guidance, encouragement, and specialized advice on an as-needed basis.
  • Strong Community: MIT has a rich and extensive entrepreneurial ecosystem comprised of faculty, aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs, investors, potential partners, and new technologies. As a central community hub at MIT, the Legatum Center helps students navigate the pockets of MIT that offer entrepreneurship and/or international development expertise and resources to optimize their MIT entrepreneurial experience.

Financial Support: Each Fellow will be awarded with funding that can be used to support their school tuition and stipend. Fellows are also provided with Seed Grants to enable travel to the field so they can continue their primary market research, build relationships, and run pilots. Students in their graduating year can access up to $50,000 for tuition; other students can access up to $25,000 with the opportunity for follow on funding in subsequent years.



In order to be eligible for the Fellowship, applicants must either be:

  • A current MIT Student
  • Admitted to begin a (full-time) degree program at MIT in the fall semester of the coming academic year
  • Enrolled as an MIT student for the duration of the one-year fellowship



Legatum Fellows are expected to be fully engaged participants in the Legatum Community. Expectations for engagement include:

  • Completion of a for-credit management seminar that focuses specifically on the challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the developing world
  • Completion of one additional MIT course related to entrepreneurial leadership development
  • At least one trip to the country of implementation to either conduct primary market research, test a prototype, or pilot the business model
  • Participation in peer-to-peer training sessions
  • Demonstrated willingness to learn and adapt the venture as necessary
  • Participation in end of semester pitch events
  • Completion of a short video highlighting the venture and its impact
  • Regular check-in meetings with the Legatum Center Staff
  • Participation in MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through student-organized clubs and conferences
  • Commitment to being an entrepreneurial leader in a developing country post-graduation


The Applicant 

We are looking for principled innovative leaders who have a track record for driving change and, through action, have demonstrated their commitment to improving lives in the developing world.

The ideal Legatum Fellow will bring a deep level of know-how to his or her venture (whether related to a technical field, geographic area and/or industry sector) and thus have a competitive edge to lead their venture to success. It is key that these leaders are also self-motivated visionaries who embody the Legatum mission.

Ultimately we are looking for students who are best committed to learning, experimenting, and growing personally, so they are positioned to be successful developing world entrepreneurs upon graduation and contribute to the community as global role models for future generations of high impact founders.


Venture Criteria 

We evaluate ventures based on three key criteria: Stage, Impact and Innovation.

Stage: Ideally, we are looking for ventures that are ready to be deployed and scaled on the ground, however for students in their first year at MIT, or enrolled in one-year programs, we also consider ventures that are at an earlier stage but for which a problem has been identified and a plan developed to test key hypotheses and assumptions in preparation for scale. We want our Fellows to be beyond the exploration phase, just theorizing about a problem or challenge they “think” exists. Fellows should understand their customers’ pain points and be confident in their ability to solve customer needs through their product or service. Considerable primary market research (PMR) and/or a pilot is highly desirable before applying. During the Fellowship, we will push students on current business assumptions, requiring them to iterate on and develop their business models, products, and team, so that they are ready to scale their ventures full-time upon graduation.

Impact: We are looking for ventures focused in developing world markets that improve lives. This will be achieved directly through the business’s innovative technology or service as well as through increased economic prosperity, local job creation, and improved ecosystem conditions. We have a preference for for-profit business models but are open to all venture concepts that have the potential for considerable scale, impact, and sustainability.

Innovation: We are looking for venture concepts centered on building competitive advantage through an innovative product, process, or business model. Innovation driven entrepreneurs face great risk – but the payoff for the entrepreneurs and region can be much greater, achieving exponential growth (in terms of revenue, jobs and impact), if successful.


Financial Assistance

The Legatum Center provides a funding award to support Fellows’ studies at MIT. Student Fellows in their graduating year will be eligible to receive up to $50,000 in tuition/stipend support as well as access to additional travel and prototype funds. All other student Fellows will be eligible to receive up to $25,000 in tuition/stipend support access to additional travel and prototyping funds. First year Fellows and others who continue their education at MIT and who demonstrate a continued commitment to entrepreneurial leadership in the developing world will have the opportunity to apply for follow-on funding.

The amount awarded to each new Fellow is determined by several factors, including need, stage in your degree program, the number of Fellows accepted and the pool of funding available for that academic year. In general, funds awarded have ranged from $5,000 to $50,000.

As funding is limited, we encourage applicants to explore external sources of funding. For more information on financial aid at MIT, please visit the Student Financial Services website.

The Legatum Fellowship financial award can only be applied towards MIT educational expenses, such as tuition, stipend, and/or medical insurance. Funds from the Legatum Center may be received to supplement, but not to duplicate, financial awards from other MIT departments or from other foundations, institutions, or organizations. The combined financial award from all sources may not exceed the maximum limitation as prescribed by MIT’s cost-of-attendance budget.


Evaluation Process

Applicants must complete, fully, all required fields in the online application form. (See sample application above.)

  • The online application form will also require you to submit the following:
    • References: Please provide the names and contact information for 3-4 professional references. References should be able to speak to your potential as principled entrepreneurial leader and/or your commitment to impacting change in the developing world. Legatum staff will only contact references if you are invited for an interview.
    • Resume/ CV: We ask that you provide the most up to date version of your resume or CV (1 page max).
  • Applications will be reviewed by Legatum staff, as well as a committee of MIT faculty and industry experts. Evaluations will be based on the eligibility, applicant, and venture qualifications described above.
  • Applicants who make it to the final round will be called for an interview.
  • Interviews will be by invitation only. Whenever possible, Fellowship finalists are interviewed in-person. For those finalists based outside of the United States or unable to visit campus, interviews will be conducted by phone or Skype.

If you have any questions regarding the Fellowship, please email

Key Dates

Fellowship Opens: February 1st, 2018
Application Deadline: CLOSED