The Entrepreneurship Center is one of the hubs of entrepreneurial activity at MIT, and as of this past Monday, it has a new acting director: Bill Aulet, a former start-up CEO and public company CFO. Aulet replaces Kenneth Morse, who had been running the Entrepreneurship Center since its founding in 1996.
As for Aulet's mission, "anytime you hit the 'reset' button, it's a chance to re-look at everything," he says.
Morse tells me he is writing a book on global entrepreneurship from his new vacation home in Woods Hole. (Morse's wife, Laura Barker Morse, retired from Atlas Venture last fall, where she was the recruiting partner.) He'll serve on the board of the MIT Enterprise Forum, and will continue to teach at MIT's executive education program, but says he won't be teaching in the MBA program at Sloan.
What's in store for the Enterpreneurship Center under the Aulet regime?
I first met Aulet in 1997, when he was running SensAble Technologies, an MIT spin-out. (Full disclosure: in my short-lived consultant days, I did some work for SensAble in the 1997-1998 timeframe.) Before that, he had run another MIT spin-out, Cambridge Decision Dynamics. After SensAble, he served as CFO at the biometric access company Viisage Technologies, now part of L-1 Identity Solutions. Earlier in his career, he played professional basketball in the UK.
Aulet, an alumnus of MIT's Sloan School, became a senior lecturer there in 2005. Much of his focus has been on positioning Sloan and its students for success in the cleantech/energy space, and in 2007 he was instrumental in creating the $200,000 MIT Clean Energy Prize. Two of the courses he teaches at Sloan are Energy Ventures and Financing Energy Ventures, along with New Enterprises, the school's introductory entrepreneurship class.
What changes will Aulet introduce? He's still in exploratory mode, having met with profs at Stanford University, and faculty at MIT's engineering school and Media Lab. "We want to be extremely collaborative," he says. He's talking with the IDEO office in Cambridge and the Cambridge Innovation Center about how he might update the Entrepreneurship Center's facilities.
He'll also be looking at how the Entrepreneurship Center communicates through technologies like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. (There has never been a blog, for instance. Aulet, meanwhile, has penned the occasional opinion piece for Xconomy.)
But the overarching goal is thinking about "how we can provide a smooth glide path for entrepreneurs at MIT to bring their ideas to the outside world," he says.
I asked Aulet about the "acting" part of his title. "We'll see a year from now whether it's a good match," he said.
Update #1: Ed Roberts, the founder and chairman of the Entrepreneurship Center, just called to tell me that there isn't an on-going search for a permanent director, but neither is the job Aulet's for good. "We will see how this works out over the next several months," Roberts said. He added that Sloan prof Fiona Murray was also just named as associate director of the center. "We are broadening the base of governance and management of the Entrepreneurship Center as we start to move into even more aggressive programming going forward," Roberts said.
Rich Kivel, a local biotech entrepreneur who chairs the MIT Enterprise Forum, says Aulet "brings a lot of vigor and enthusiasm and energy" to the Entrepreneurship Center. "He's the new blood coming in, and he has very much of a commercial focus."
Morse, meanwhile, said that when he started the center in 1996, he thought he was only there for a two-year stint. It turned into "a great 13 years," he told me earlier today. "When I came, we had two courses in entrepreneurship, and about 150 students," Morse says. "Today, there are 31 courses with 1600 students."
"We finished our house at Woods Hole, and I have an office designed for writing this book," Morse says. "When it was done, I ran out of excuses." The working title for the book is "Making It Happen Globally," and it will focus on entrepreneurs outside of areas like Silicon Valley and Boston, "who in spite of the absence of an ecosystem were able to build a great company," Morse says.
While he was running the Entrepreneurship Center, Morse didn't take board seats, though he is an advisor to several companies and is a member of the CommonAngels investing group. "Maybe there are some boards in my future," he says. "I haven't thought about it yet." Earlier in his career, Morse helped launch tech companies including 3Com Corp. and Aspen Technologies. More recently, he helped Farrukh Captain, an MIT alum, start a network of angel investors in Pakistan -- and a Pakistani chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum, too.
When I asked Aulet why there hadn't been a press release to announce the transition, he told me, jokingly, "We're still in the first 100 days of the Entrepreneurship Center under me. And we don't do marketing."
Update #2: It's a bit of inside baseball, but in an e-mail, Ed Roberts takes issue with my statement that the MIT Entrepreneurship Center was founded in 1996, and has been run by Morse since then. I verified that with the center's own online history, and told Roberts that. His reply: "The date is incorrect, and will be changed immediately. It clearly was put there by Ken to match his vision that everything began when he arrived." Roberts asserts that he started the center in 1991, well before Morse was hired to be the first director.
I am sure there is some very interesting history between these two guys...
(Photo credit of Bill Aulet: Mark Hartley)