Ten Thoughts from MIT Sloan’s Silicon Valley Tech Trek

Opinion

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technology “flattens” our world. We are all connected to each other and your company can and should have a presence in many different regions. Groupon, the biggest story of 2010, symbolized this in spades as it came out of Chicago. As one entrepreneur said, “it couldn’t have happened here; we just couldn’t see that kind of business model with our supposed wisdom.” Maybe this was just wishful thinking, but I sensed a more inclusive and broader perspective.

7. They Can’t Figure out Groupon Either. Oh yeah, as I just mentioned, the biggest story of 2010 is a mystery to the really smart people out there too. Not only did they not see it coming, it is very unclear where they go from here.

8. Rich Wong of Accel Partners is a Superstar. Yes, I will admit I love a guy who is an engineering geek, logged some time in a large company (Procter and Gamble), then became an entrepreneur and has an MIT degree, but he is so entertaining and humble.  Rich had a busy year with the Admob investment closing, and investments in Atlassian Software and SunRun. Rich’s firm, Accel Partners, also had a busy year, with all that’s going on with Facebook, Groupon, Etsy and the like. That makes for a good year, and I am very confident that more are to come.

9. China: They May Call This the Year of the Rabbit But Maybe Gorilla is More Appropriate. You can’t go anywhere in Silicon Valley without becoming overwhelmed when the discussion turns to the business opportunities in China. The sheer magnitude that China represents is mind-boggling. We had one student on our tour who had over 400,000 people following him on the Internet (I have those zeros right) but since it was in China, he did not think it was such a big deal. The IPOs for 2010 were dominated by Chinese companies or companies serving the Chinese market and that has been noticed by the powers that be.

10. MIT Sloan MBAs Are the Best, But Boy Do They Need to Learn to Market Themselves Better. The good news is that it blows me away each year how intelligent, diligent and professional these MBA students in their late 20s are, and what incredible accomplishments they have had already. They are such a great group who are fun to be around and so supportive of each other, it is truly amazing…and they get better every year (applications have been up 57 percent over the past five years, higher than any other business school). The questions they ask and the qualifications they have are just what the world needs now for the new innovation-based economy. But now the bad news, they need a massive upgrade in personal branding. Their understanding of how to present and sell themselves holds them back. We will work on that this year but this trip reminded me of why they are so wonderful and successful here at MIT and after they graduate.

I feel like I just got a refresh of my data base, a new version of my operating software, and drank a few cans of Red Bull…and now I am geared up and ready to go. Bring on 2011!

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Bill Aulet is the managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also the author of “Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup”, published by Wiley, which was released in August 2013. Follow @BillAulet

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