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.

To solve this ergonomic and mechanical problem, Nate and John built a new kind of dolly with a patent pending fold out handle and a gliding mechanism.  This dolly allowed delivery people to walk upright while guiding the dolly accurately without bouncing on the stairs.

This project caught the interest of Anheuser-Busch inBev, who approached the team with a lucrative development contract. Suddenly the team found themselves starting a company, adding team members (including co-founder Chris Bensonand VP Engineering Tyler Wortman), doing complex business negotiations, and developing a product development and manufacturing plan, with two of them trying to graduate in June.

At this point, the young founders could have dropped out of college to pursue this opportunity.  Instead, they decided to complete college and start their company in parallel.

Read the full post at Forbes.

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

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