MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program

What Is MIT REAP?

While reading various online and offline resources about disruptive innovation, I came across the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT REAP).

According to their website:MIT REAP

The MIT REAP is a global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth & social progress through innovation-driven entrepreneurship (IDE) built upon a region’s unique history, capacity and comparative advantage. Partner regions form stakeholder teams and commit to a two-year learning engagement working with MIT faculty and the broader REAP community through a series of action-learning activities to assess, build and implement a custom regional strategy for enhancing IDE ecosystems.

MIT REAP admits 8-10 partner regions annually to participate in the two-year engagement. Each partner region has a team comprised of 5-7 highly driven and influential regional members and is headed by a regional champion. All 5 major stakeholder groups are represented in an MIT REAP team: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community.

MIT REAP involves four action-learning cycles over a two-year period. These cycles involve highly interactive workshops every 6 months, which are interspersed by action phases:

(1) A typical workshop is 2.5 days and consists of lecture & discussion, case study analysis, ecosystem engagement tours, programmatic deep dives, group work report-outs, and preparation for action phases. 2 workshops are hosted at MIT and 2 workshops are hosted by selected partner regions.

(2) Action phases are active time between workshops where teams return home to deepen analysis, validate assumptions with a broad network, and implement new programs and policies.

Why Consider MIT REAP For NE Wisconsin

MIT campusI’ve interacted quite a bit over the last ten years with the MIT Club of Wisconsin (MIT alumni who live in Wisconsin). They are a fantastic bunch of people, smartest bunch of interesting geeks I ever met. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit MIT yet, but hope to one day.

If I could chose one university to work with on a wide variety of technology issues, MIT would be my choice. MIT is considered the best technology university in the USA, and is considered by some to be the best in the world. It was the source of many innovations in computer science, and an almost endless list of new technologies have come from, and keep coming from, MIT.

StanfordIf I could chose one university to work with on a wide variety of entrepreneurship issues, Stanford would be my choice. Stanford University has a better reputation than MIT in terms of tech entrepreneurship and being the source of highly-scalable startups. But MIT has also been the starting point for many startups and tech entrepreneurs.

In terms of which of the two would be my top choice for working with NE Wisconsin to leverage emerging technologies, disruptive innovation and entrepreneurial swarming, I would have to pick MIT. They definitely have the edge on emerging tech, they’re definitely behind on entrepreneurial swarming, and they seem slightly behind on disruptive innovation.

But the reason I’d choose MIT is because their culture is probably closer to that of NE Wisconsin than Stanford is. Even though Stanford would probably have better suggestions for our region for disruptive innovations and entrepreneurial swarming, those suggestions would be based on what’s happening in California and other tech hotspots around the world. Those suggestions might be actionable in five or ten years in NE Wisconsin, but not in 2016 or 2017. I think it would be too challenging for Stanford, based on what they know and where they see things going over the next ten years, to figure out innovation improvement recommendations that are appropriate for NE Wisconsin.

wisconsin red NEI think MIT’s recommendations would be a lot more in line with how the companies, universities, government, and investors in this region think. Unfortunately, NE Wisconsin is not ready for Stanford recommendations.

In addition to our area being able to act more effectively on MIT’s recommendations, I think MIT can help NE Wisconsin develop some awesome niche emerging technology specialties. If we can have a few disruptive innovation wins in niche areas, that gives us a base to launch more scalable tech startups, and that will be the beginning of entrepreneurial swarming.

Questions About MIT REAP And Similar Programs

Even if MIT was willing to accept NE Wisconsin into their program (no guarantees about that), there are lots of questions about the MIT REAP opportunity.

  • questionsWho would the region’s representatives be on the MIT REAP team of 5 – 7 members? I’ve got a list of the people I would put on the team.
  • Who would pay for the MIT REAP team’s expenses (MIT fees, travel, lodging, etc)?
  • Why would the MIT REAP improve the region’s tech entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation more than the current NE Wisconsin programs, people, and organizations will without MIT?
  • What are the MIT REAP deliverables or realistic expectations for NE Wisconsin at the end of the two year program?
  • Are there other programs outside NE Wisconsin for improving a region’s disruptive innovation and tech entrepreneurship, and might one of those be better than MIT’s and better than our homegrown bootstrapping efforts?

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PS — Iceland is one of the regions that will be in the next MIT REAP class starting in October 2016. That would be soooooo cool to be in the program and get to know the people from Iceland, as well as all the other teams (I don’t know what other regions will be in the Fall 2016 class). And I’m betting that one of the 2.5 day workshops hosted by partner regions will be done in Reykjavik! 🙂

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