Enterprise North East Trust's Chief Executive Gary McEwan is passionate about two things in business, developing the talents and skills of our future entrepreneurs, and encouraging enterprise in Scotland. It's for this reason that Gary recently visited what some deem to be the 'home of entrepreneurship' in the United States of America. He's kindly agreed to share some of the findings from his exploration and the people he met. Over to Gary...
I just returned from an enlightening 5 days in Boston, Massachusetts. There I visited Babson College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The City of Boston Economic Development department. It was insightful, inspirational and incredibly relevant to the work we do here at Enterprise North East Trust.
On my visit I pondered; 'As a country, we tend to get on with things in Scotland, but do we move forward properly by continually looking inward? I don’t think so.' In other parts of the world they are taking great strides in the methodology of how you create an entrepreneurial culture and how you nurture and develop talented people.
The first place I spent time was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is in the Cambridge area of Boston. MIT is a world class university where entrepreneurship runs through everything they do. For the second year running, QS World University Rankings named MIT as the best university in the world http://www.topuniversities.com.
As recently as July, the former US President Bill Clinton described the university as having “the best technology-transfer program in the US”, specialising in turning student ideas into blockbuster businesses.
Between 2000 and 2006, MIT graduates started more than 5,800 companies, and since then the numbers have only been rising. The Institute produces more patent applications than any other single university in the world, with 179 in 2011. MIT’s entrepreneurial impact is so great that, according to a 2009 study conducted by the founder of the Trust Center, active companies created by its alumni bring in a combined revenue today of as much as $2 trillion. That would make those companies the equivalent of the 11th-largest economy in the world.
With this in mind I met with Bill Aulet, the Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship (and author of 'Disciplined Entrepreneurship - please see picture) closely followed by a meeting with Christina Chase who is the full time ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at the Center.
We discussed many things but I started by outlining the Enterprise North East Trust vision to create world class provisions for the entrepreneurs in the cities where we work. They were very impressed with the ambition and we discussed at length how they have managed to create an environment which fosters and develops new entrepreneurs. We discussed infrastructure needs, generating a spirit and energy, the use of agents (business advisers & mentors) and the values that align to make these environments work best. We will continue to engage with MIT as we move our own Enterprise plans forward.
I then spent time in Babson College. Babson was ranked number 1 for Entrepreneurship by U.S.News & World Report 2013 “America's Best Colleges" for the 16th consecutive time. Babson is unquestionably the leader in executive management programmes and entrepreneurial leadership. There I met with Prof. Les Charm who is a senior figure within the college and also Elaine Eisenman, Dean of Executive Education. Over two days I talked to them about how entrepreneurship is taught and some of the current thinking about how new businesses are incubated (or ‘accelerated’ as they prefer to call it). I witnessed their approach to teaching entrepreneurship first hand and we discussed the very strong links that exist between Babson and Scotland. We now have the contacts we need at Babson to assist us in moving our own ambitions forward.
My final port of call was to spend the day with the Economic Development Department of Boston City Council with the very helpful Brian Goodman, who is in the executive team there. We talked about Boston as a city and how it supports the entrepreneurial community. They don’t have a Business Gateway service nor do they have an Enterprise Trust, as we would call it, however they do have many ‘not for profit’ organisations doing things within their communities with support from their city council.
I was taken on a tour of the council's new ‘Innovation’ building. It was about 1 month from completion and is a stand alone facility which has been created as a place for entrepreneurs to attend and learn. It is as close to a Business Gateway as they have and I am sure it will be a great asset to the city. In many ways it is similar to what we at Enterprise would like to create in the cities where we work.
Brian introduced me then to the Mass Challenge http://masschallenge.org/
The Mass Challenge is the worlds largest business ‘accelerator’ operation. It is a competition open globally to early stage businesses. If selected, you enter the large facility in Boston and your ideas are nurtured and developed with a host of support mechanisms. It is housed on an entire floor of a skyscraper. There are 120 businesses in 4 open plan quadrants in the heart of Boston. These are not fancy offices, it is just teams working away in fairly plain conditions with only the bare necessities of power, heat, light and an internet connection. There is a central space where workshops happen; a bell sounds, everyone assembles and a short workshop takes place, then everyone is back to their own workstations to pick up where they left off. They have teams from Russia, Israel and everywhere in between. They believe and hope that these businesses take root in the city and the Mass Challenge becomes a feeder of new high quality business for the city. It was a truly inspirational place to visit and rounded off a very worthwhile trip.
The board and management team here at Enterprise North East Trust are very much working towards what Enterprise will look like in the future and what we should create as a delivery model. This visit to Boston certainly provided me with ideas, inspiration and contacts in this area, all of which will prove useful as our own plan develops.
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