How Entrepreneurship Helped Bring Prince William and Kate to U.S.

This past week, you have probably seen that Prince William and Princess Kate visited Boston for their big Earthshot Prize and what a week it was. President Biden and scores of others were on hand for this enormous event. The hoopla from the visit was really quite amazing.  What does this have to do with Disciplined Entrepreneurship? Well, actually a lot.

While we entrepreneurs generally don’t care about credentials and titles (read “royalty”) for their own sake, the cause of fighting climate change is one of, if not the most, consequential challenges we face. As such, we applaud William and Kate’s efforts with the Earthshot Prize. Using their platform and access to capital to create incentives and visibility for entrepreneurs working to address this challenge is very helpful.

Almost fifteen years ago, inspired by then MIT President Susan Hockfield, Tod Hynes and I started to work to do something unique with the existing committed players in the MIT energy field, at both the faculty and student levels (including John Deutch, Ernie Moniz, Richard Lester, John Tester, Don Lessard, and more; and probably most importantly the students, including David Danielson, Nol Brown, Joel Moxley, and others too numerous to name). We looked to integrate our expertise in entrepreneurship with the powerful technical and policy capabilities that MIT had in the field to create a specialized lane for students of clean energy entrepreneurship.This started with a class called “Energy Ventures,” which was built off applying the fundamental framework of launching a company to the energy sector. The course was designed to be interdisciplinary and bring together technical, policy, business, and strategy courses across MIT and Harvard to create a space and structure to develop new startups in the field.

We also had another insight; that we needed to celebrate these entrepreneurs and create a new platform for them to succeed because these ventures were not going to be able to compete with traditional entrepreneurship for short-term recognition. This was the genesis for the MIT Clean Energy Prize, which owes eternal thanks to NSTAR’s and now Eversource CEO Joe Nolan for supporting us at the birthing stage and the first five years of existence.

Fast forward 15 years later and the Energy Ventures Alumni group is now a strong and extremely powerful community of 500+ change makers who continue to help each other in this generational challenge. Alumni have spun off many dozens of companies and organizations like Greentown Labs that have done enormous good for the world. Many alumni are now in government, large corporations, investing groups, academia, and other organizations so the community has expanded well beyond just startup founders.

At the MIT Trust Center, we now work with leaders in Texas on a project called TEX-E to bring this influence beyond just those entrepreneurs getting educated in the Boston area. We have hired our first EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) dedicated to climate tech, the great Ben Soltoff. He works closely with Greentown Labs, now the biggest clean energy incubator in the world, in both Boston and its new location in Houston. Our center not only continues to support Tod Hynes, Frankie O’SullivanLibby Wayman, and Jacquelyn Pless in teaching the continually updated Climate and Energy Ventures course, but we have brought Tod on as a Senior Advisor to our center after his success in the marketplace.  The Boston/MIT Clean Energy Innovation Ecosystem is considered the gold standard for building entrepreneurs who can address the two-prong imperative of energy and climate.

Courtesy Bill Aulet, MIT Trust Center Entrepreneurship News



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