In this interview, the Executive Director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the MIT Engineering Faculty, Leon Sandler, discusses the first steps that a scientist or technologist needs to take in order to succeed in an entrepreneurial project.
Deshpande is a center for the commercial development of technological innovation projects, established at the Engineering Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its Director, Leon Sandler, explains that projects funded by the center must meet certain requirements: they must have a potential impact on the world and be viable from the technical and financial points of view.
“MIT is a university that seeks to have an impact on the world. Thus, when assessing and funding projects we think about whether a given idea is capable of such an impact. Also, if something is not commercially viable it will never reach the market”, said Sandler in an interview given at the EmTech España emerging technologies conference.
When launching technological projects, the Deshpande director recommends that entrepreneurs seek potential buyers for their product or service at the earliest possible opportunity. “The most important thing for any company is to have customers"”, he says. Thus, the first step is to answer two questions: “who is going to buy this product and why”.
With regard to how best to transfer a project from the laboratory or research environment to the market, Sandler identifies two key risks. “In the laboratory you get ideas of what a technology can do, but it may not yet be proven. You need to reduce the technological risk and be certain that the technology is viable”, he says. “You also need to reduce the market risk. If you go into production, will you have buyers?”.
Sandler added that when an idea is taken from laboratory to market, entrepreneurs need to “continue their laboratory experiments and data gathering, but also to interact with the market and ensure that the product or service is delivering what is required”.