This article was written by David Sweeney and originally appeared on MIT News on October 13, 2020 (photo: Christopher Harting).
Powered by the MIT Innovation Initiative (MITii) and launched in October 2019, the MIT Proto Ventures program takes an entirely new approach to venture formation from within MIT. It oversees the accelerated emergence of new ventures along a full life cycle: from discovery of ideas and resources at MIT to exploration of the problem-solution space to a methodical de-risking process to helping build a “proto venture” with internal and external support that demonstrates the viability of the venture.
Under the leadership of MITii Venture Builder Luis Ruben Soenksen PhD ’19, the program announced last week that two new MIT startups will launch as part of Proto Ventures.
“The Proto Ventures program has nurtured everything I know is relevant in order to develop high-impact scientific ventures in today’s world,” says Soenksen. “This time has been an extraordinary complement to my PhD studies and research activities at MIT and is leading me to pursue my passion around artificial intelligence and health care in the form of multiple startups. What more could I’ve hoped for?”
In its first year, the Proto Ventures program has led to hundreds of ecosystem interactions, and a log of 319 screened concepts needed to identify the kind of high-impact proto ventures that would attract long-term collaboration with multiple faculty, students, and staff across MIT.
The program hosted its AI+Healthcare forum in February, bringing together 48 representatives of corporations, startups, venture capital firms, local hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, and MIT researchers. Thirty-eight curated “proto venture” ideas were discussed and screened through roundtables, expert discussions and a voting process to gather multi-sectoral input on the anticipated value and impact of the proposed ventures, initiatives, and organizations at the intersection of artificial intelligence and health care.
Two startups emerged from within the program’s AI+Healthcare track, which was sponsored by MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (Jameel Clinic):
Going forward, Jameel Clinic will assume day-to-day management of this AI+Healthcare channel, promoting and accelerating these proto ventures along with further launches of the program.
MIT Innovation Initiative actively seeks new Venture Builders to develop additional channels within the MIT Proto Ventures program.
“The role of MIT Venture Builder is one of the most exciting opportunities for an entrepreneur in the MIT community”, says MIT Innovation Initiative Executive Director Gene Keselman. “It’s a unique license to explore and tap into the resources of the entire Institute, bring together people and organizations that may not otherwise have collaborated, to rapidly explore, invent, iterate, and launch.”