MIT Proto Ventures Program

A new approach to venture formation inside one of the world’s preeminent academic and research institutions

MIT is launching a new approach to venture formation inside one of the world’s preeminent academic and research institutions. This approach will further MIT’s mission to bring knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges.

Proto Ventures will oversee the emergence of new ventures along a full lifecycle: from discovery of ideas and resources within the MIT community; exploration of the problem-solution space; a methodical de-risking process; and helping build a “proto venture” that demonstrates the viability of the venture and the robustness of the technology.

The Proto Ventures Program will have multiple “channels,” each led by a new position at MIT: the Venture Builder. Venture Builders are domain experts (typically holding a PhD in a science or technology field) and have some experience or interest in technology translation. They will lead teams composed of faculty and students on the path to creating a proto venture and will ultimately in translate these projects into real ventures.

Different aspects of the Venture Builder role are comparable to an MIT Post-Doc, a Startup Founder, and an Associate at a Venture Capital firm.

A venture builder gets:

  • Compensation like a Venture Capital Associate
  • IP rights and ownership like an MIT Post-Doc
  • Leadership opportunities like a Startup Founder
  • Autonomy to discover and experiment across MIT
  • Budget to create teams and run projects
Interested in applying to be a Venture Builder? See the full job description

FAQs

About the Proto Ventures Program:

  • What is the Proto Ventures Program?
    The Proto Ventures Program finds the innovative people, ideas, and technologies across MIT and brings them together to create transformative technology ventures.
  • Why is the MIT Innovation Initiative launching this program?
    MIT’s mission is to bring knowledge to bear on “the world’s great challenges.” The Proto Ventures Program will create new technology paradigms in pursuit of that mission.
  • What are the desired outcomes of the Proto Ventures Program?
    The creation of new markets and transformative technology ventures that will have a profound impact on the world’s great problems.
  • How does the program work?
    Venture Builders will be hired to lead a rigorous “channel” discovery process centered on the MIT community. They will have a budget and will be supported by a team of Venture Fellows (current MIT community members seeking to work on projects) whom they will recruit. The Venture Builder will be supported by a board of advisors and a phased program framework (discovery, identification, exploration, and experimentation) with a series of milestone-based deliverables to help structure progress.
  • What are channels?
    Channels are bounded topic areas, such as health care and artificial intelligence, that the teams will work on. The program will have multiple channels.
  • Who will own the intellectual property (IP) developed within the Proto Ventures Program and how it is licensed?
    The Proto Ventures Program will follow the same IP development and licensing rules as all other research at MIT, whereby MIT retains ownership of all IP that was “developed with significant use of funds or facilities administered by MIT.” Detailed rules on IP ownership at MIT are available here. All Proto Ventures that reach a stage of maturity for incorporation and launch outside of MIT will work with the Technology Licensing Office to license any IP created during the Proto Ventures Program by following standard MIT protocols.

About the Venture Builder:

  • What is a Venture Builder?
    A Venture Builder is person within the MIT community whose sole job is to uncover ideas that could give rise to transformative technology ventures, and then lead the iterative process of experimentation and venture development. Different aspects of the Venture Builder role are comparable to an MIT Post-Doc, a Startup Founder, and an Associate at a Venture Capital firm.A venture builder gets:

    • Compensation like a Venture Capital Associate
    • IP rights and ownership like an MIT Post-Doc
    • Leadership opportunities like a Startup Founder
    • Autonomy to discover and experiment across MIT
    • Budget to create teams and run projects
  • What is the profile of the Venture Builder?
    Someone with deep technological expertise and demonstrated leadership experience. The Venture Builder holds a PhD in a scientific discipline with experience in the relevant channel. Ideally, this includes experience in translation of technology, leading research teams, or building ventures based on research.
  • Is the Venture Builder an employee of MIT?
    Yes, the Venture Builder is a full-time employee of MIT with full benefits.
  • What is the Venture Builder’s role if/when a company is formed? Do they stay at MIT or join the venture?
    It is our hope that the Venture Builder will want to exit MIT in a leadership capacity with the Proto Venture they lead development on.
  • How will equity be divided and who will control the formal venture formation process?
    As with any early-stage project that reaches a stage of maturity for formal business formation, the Venture Builder will play a central role in guiding the transition from proto venture to outside venture (including issues around equity splitting) in parallel with standard IP licensing process and subject to MIT’s Conflict of Interest management protocols.
  • Will MIT or The Engine invest once the venture is formed?
    MIT does not invest in startups. Venture Builders are encouraged to view The Engine as path to funding and continued development outside of MIT, but the program will not have a formal connection to The Engine.
  • What is the timeline for a Venture Builder?
    A minimum of two years under a channel.
  • Will the Venture Builder need to be located in Boston/Cambridge?
    Yes, this will be a full-time position on MIT’s main campus in Cambridge, MA.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at the Proto Ventures Overview.

For more information on the Venture Builder position and to apply, click here.