These first-year MBAs are trying to solve America’s food waste problem — Ricky Ashenfelter

MIT Sloan’s Sustainability Certificate program, which is designed for MBA students who want to dig deep with the goal of becoming innovators in the field, has inspired the creation of new ventures. Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina—both current students—approach the food industry from an entrepreneurial standpoint. Their new venture, Spoiler Alert, is a web-based marketplace for the real-time exchange of local supply and demand information for surplus, expiring, and spoiled food. Ricky blogged about his new company at Bloomberg Businessweek..

Jason Jay, Director, Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.

MIT Sloan MBA Candidate Ricky Ashenfelter

Ricky Ashenfelter, MBA ’15

From Bloomberg Businessweek

Americans throw out almost a third of their food annually—the equivalent of more than $160 billion—while almost 15 percent of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table. Add to this the continuing depletion of our limited natural resources for fuel and fertilizer, and what you have is a business opportunity to redirect landfill-bound waste to people in need and to businesses that can do something productive with it.

My classmate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, Emily Malina, and I are trying to do just that with a mobile application and enterprise software platform built on the principles of the sharing economy. Our business venture, Spoiler Alert, is an online marketplace for the real-time exchange of local supply-and-demand information for excess, expiring, and spoiled food.

The food waste problem is ripe for innovation. Here in Massachusetts, a commercial food waste ban will go into effect this summer. And last fall, the former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, announced the opening of a Boston-based store that will prepare and sell donated, excess food to cost-conscious consumers.

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Think like a founder before becoming one — Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From Xconomy

February 2014 will go down in history as a month with two huge startup exits: Nest (acquired by Google for a whopping $3.2 billion) and WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook for an even more whopping $19 billion).

If you haven’t caught the startup bug, there’s a good chance you will have caught it after this. What’s everybody waiting for? Let’s all go start companies!

Lest everybody get carried away with these success stories, let’s look at some statistics. In May 2013, Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator—arguably the most prestigious incubator in the U.S.—tweeted an interesting piece of data: 37 of the 511 YC companies to date had valuations of, or had sold for, $40 million or more. That’s great for the companies in the list (which includes Dropbox). But what about the 474 left off the list?

Not to be a wet blanket, but this statistic basically says an elite startup, incubated by the best of the best, has a less than 1 in 10 chance of becoming a big success.

Read the full post at Xconomy.

Elaine Chen is a Senior Lecturer in the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship.

Commentary- An MBA’s take on Seattle’s tech scene — Jarek Langer

MIT Sloan MBA Student Jarek Langer

Jarek Langer, MBA ’15

From GeekWire

Even before coming to Seattle for the first time on MIT Sloan’s Tech Trek, I had a feeling that I’d like this place. I’d heard how it’s laid back and outdoorsy. Yeah, rainy weather, but I’d also heard how friendly everyone is. Having just returned from our visit, I can say that the city lived up to its reputation. I really liked the vibe.

We visited three big tech companies on our visit: Amazon, Microsoft and Groupon. They had all given formal presentations on MIT’s campus and are always in the news, so we were all pretty well-informed about them. Visiting on their home turf, however, gave us a unique opportunity to observe and experience their culture, get a feel for the environment, and ask more probing questions. We also visited the venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, which hosted a startup panel discussion.

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How to start a business and stay in college — Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From Forbes

This is the story of Nate, John, Chris and Tyler, who started a company while attending MIT and decided to stay in school while working on their startup at the same time.

I first met Nate Robert and John Reynolds in March 2013. Nate (then 22) and John (then 21) were seniors studying Mechanical Engineering at the time.  In the previous semester, Nate and John took a mechanical design class (MIT 2.009), where they became intrigued by the problem of delivering beer to pubs without elevator access.  Traditionally, beer distribution companies use dollies that cost around $300 each.  Delivery personnel would stack two kegs on each dolly, then bend over and bounce 320lb of beer up and down flights of stairs.  Not only does this destroy the dollies, but repetitive back strain for delivery men results in a high injury rate, costing these companies millions of dollars every year.

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Working to change the Music Industry through online collaboration and sharing – Philip Cohen

Phil Cohen MIT Sloan MBA, Class of 2013

Phil Cohen, MBA ’13

When I came home from Afghanistan with the military, I was ready to focus on the things I cared about most.  I saw how short life could be, and it seemed as if I didn’t have much time to waste.  I had been a serious songwriter and musician since my early teens, but recommitted myself to this passion after this deployment.  During my transition out of the military, right before entering MIT Sloan, I ran into a guy named Chris Dorsey at a neighborhood blockparty.  Within a few minutes, Chris found out I was a songwriter, and I found out Chris was a drummer.  After the party, I sent Chris a bunch of my home-recordings and, within a month or so, we headed into the studio to record our music.  We experienced a number of inefficiencies while in the studio; but, after recording, we were caught in what felt like a never-ending feedback loop that surrounded the music we had recorded.  It was difficult to review the audio data outside the studio (the way we needed to review it), to iterate and polish our music.  This, of course, translated into our spending more time in the studio, and our spending more money than we had ever planned to spend.  Every independent musician knows this struggle; and, while in the studio, Chris and I laid the initial seeds for AudioCommon—the company we would later co-found to enable Cloud collaboration during the earliest stages of the music creation process.

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