When deciding if LGO was the right program for me as an aspiring entrepreneur, I didn’t know whether I could manage a dual degree program while also working on a venture. The prospect seemed daunting, to say the least. Having just completed my second semester at MIT, my fears were unfounded. There is no better program or university to pursue a new venture than with LGO at MIT.
Entrepreneurship at MIT is built upon the Disciplined Entrepreneurship framework, a 24 step process created by MIT professor Bill Aulet. I knew I wanted to combat rising CO2 emissions in rideshare, but did not know where to start. Throughout the LGO Summer Core, I discussed my idea with friends and classmates who were supportive and helped me think through critical assumptions. My LGO classmates supported me like family and without those conversations, I would not have built up the confidence to actively pursue building a new venture.
During the Sloan core, I knew I wanted to take 15.390: New Enterprises with Aulet. If there is one word to describe 15.390, it’s “speed.” The first week of class we pitched ideas and were required to form teams within a week. It is during that time that I saw just how well integrated LGO students are to the greater MIT community. My team of four ranged with backgrounds from a Ph.D. in Materials Science to MS in Design and City Planning. Over the course of the semester, we grew into a team with a mission to make ridesharing more sustainable for drivers and our planet. We named our new enterprise Taxie.
The most important lesson we learned in 15.390 was the importance of talking to customers. Through dozens of customer interviews with Uber and Lyft drivers in Boston, we discovered the reasons why drivers lack the incentive to switch to electric vehicles (EV) and their daily pain points. These conversations pointed us towards our solution: a vehicle subscription service offering short-term, premium EVs rentals for rideshare drivers – with insurance, charging, and maintenance included.
Ideating a solution is half the challenge when creating a new enterprise. The other, more important half, is having the funds and the network required to execute and bring the product to market. Luckily MIT provides its students resources for those too. MIT has a campus-wide program called Sandbox where students can apply for a grant ranging from $1,000 – $25,000. Only a month into working on Taxie we applied and received $1,000. The grant helped us build momentum and funded the launch of our website: taxie.us.
MIT provides a range of events for its student entrepreneurs to get exposure to investors and venture capital (VC) firms. Three months into working on Taxie we applied and got the incredible opportunity to pitch our idea at PITCH, one of the $100k Competition events, which culminate in a $100,000 grand prize for the winning startup with no strings attached. Prior to pitching, the LGO office connected me with an alum who two years earlier had won the PITCH competition and who helped our team prepare. At the event, we pitched Taxie to an audience of over 2,000 attendees of MIT students, VCs, and other investors. The exposure from PITCH led to other, smaller pitches to several partners at VC firms and set the foundation for VC relationships we are building.
One of my favorite parts of MIT is Independent Activities Period (IAP). This takes place during the month of January and is an open period in between semesters where MIT offers additional courses and activities where – true to MIT culture – we learn by doing. This IAP my team and I were admitted into Fuse, a startup accelerator hosted by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Fuse is the first time the team is working full-time on Taxie and we set ambitious goals for ourselves. We have since achieved a critical milestone: getting our first customer. As a team, it feels amazing to see our work actually make a difference by displacing one combustion vehicle used for ridesharing with an electric one.
One lesson I learned at MIT is that entrepreneurship is never a solo journey. My team Eesha Khare (Materials Science PhD), Amrutha Killada (IDM), and Haley Ketterer (MBA) have been monumental in making Taxie what it is today. What’s next for Taxie? We are growing our fleet of vehicles to get drivers off our waitlist and into premium EVs. We’re looking to continue taking advantage of all MIT offers its entrepreneurs by enrolling in the Sloan class 15.378: Building an Entrepreneurial Venture, a project based course designed for founding teams already working on a venture, and also by applying to MIT’s summer accelerator, delta v. Our team is motivated, above all, by the prospect of helping rideshare drivers make a living wage while curbing CO2 emissions.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur looking to leverage your MBA experience to launch your business there is no better place than LGO and MIT. As an applicant, I knew I wanted to start a business but I had no idea where to begin. At MIT I gained the confidence to become an entrepreneur and I now see a path forward to continue scaling our business. If you are ready to take your first step in your entrepreneurial venture, the LGO community is here to support and guide you on your way to success.
By Gustavo Castillo, LGO Class of 2022