In London, extending MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
Five events build connections between industry, startups, governments, faculty members, and financiers.
From MIT NEWS
In Lagos, Nigeria, a man straddles a motorcycle. He speeds off into the sprawling network of streets in Africa’s largest city to deliver a package.
The biker is a delivery driver for MAX, a fledgling Nigerian startup that is trying to solve the problem of so-called “last-mile delivery.” How do you pick up and deliver packages or food in an efficient way in a city where many people don’t have an address?
MAX has built a mobile and web platform for deliveries, not unlike the system used by Uber and other on-demand services. It seeks goal-driven, customer service-oriented drivers, offers no-interest loans so drivers can own their motorcycles, provides a training program, and gives drivers a smartphone.
Then the drivers — 30 of them so far, all of whom are “champions” in MAX parlance — head out on deliveries. They geotag the location of customers using the company’s app, creating an address that can be used for future drop-offs.
“We are not the first company to try to tackle this problem in Lagos or on the continent,” says Adetayo Bamiduro MBA ’15, co-founder of MAX. “We’re the first company to think about it this way. The problem we’re solving requires a very detailed systematic approach. We’re not just building logistics. We’re not just building retail.”
“If you look at our systematic diagram, you can see how all of these factors together are driving the growth of the entire platform,” he said. “And that’s something you learn at MIT.”
Bamiduro believes he can expand MAX across Africa. He is building a retail component that will allow people to shop locally through the MAX app. MAX, of course, will then deliver the purchase.
This month, the young entrepreneur will travel to London to tell MAX’s story — how it was conceived, how it was built, how it can scale — and to meet with investors, government officials, entrepreneurs, and professors at an MIT conference on entrepreneurship and finance in the developing world.
Showcasing innovation-driven enterprises
The Dec. 13 conference is hosted by the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, where Bamiduro was a fellow in 2014-2015. Along with a Dec. 2 startup showcase by the MIT Startup Exchange and the MIT Industrial Liaison Program, it brackets a series of MIT gatherings in London this month. Together, the events demonstrate the facets of an innovation ecosystem unique to MIT, one where theory meets practice, where innovation-driven entrepreneurs are bringing new technologies from labs to markets, and where, very often, the drive for positive social impact is woven into companies’ operations from the outset.
The sort of ecosystem where a company like MAX is born.
“The theme that is embedded into the [Legatum] conference, that is very MIT, is this idea of MIT producing innovation-driven enterprises. Those lead to both social and economic impact around the world,” says Georgina Campbell Flatter, executive director of the Legatum Center. “Innovation-driven enterprises tend to lead to businesses that will scale. You can reach global markets eventually. You can provide thousands of jobs. Take Adetayo, he’s touching thousands of people’s lives through his business.”
In London, MIT will showcase this approach in five gatherings. Taken together, this series of unique offerings demonstrates how MIT functions not simply as a collection of individual units, centers, programs, and events, but as a facilitator and leader in global innovation and impact.
Dec. 2: MIT Startup Showcase London
More than a dozen MIT-affiliated startups will present at this event connecting industry leaders with innovative startups in enterprise information technology, data analytics, automation, security, and more. The showcase will include a keynote talk on innovation through analytics from MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Dimitris Bertsimas, who will also join a panel on managing innovation.
This is the third event of its kind for MIT Startup Exchange, which is led by former MIT Sloan lecturer Trond Undheim. The group chose London because it is a “global innovation capitol,” Undheim says.
Startups presenting “Lightning Talks” at the showcase all feature a technology innovation at their center. Tulip Interfaces, for example, is an internet of things platform company for the manufacturing sector. Luminoso is an artificial intelligence-equipped “deep analytics” company that helps clients like Autodesk and Sprint gain insight into customer sentiment and feedback.
Unlike startup incubators and accelerators, the MIT Startup Exchange does not mentor new entrepreneurs or teach them how to execute on a business plan. Instead, it connects mature startups with industry leaders for strategic partnerships, product development collaborations, new business lines, and new customers.
The Dec. 2 startup showcase is “focused on technology, but also on … interaction in the innovation community,” Undheim says.