The students at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) Sergey Zasukhin and Andrey Senyut participated, with the support of Skoltech, in the summer youth entrepreneurship program Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (GFSA), which was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from June 17 to September 7, 2013. The goal of the program was to help the students gain entrepreneurial knowledge and skills which will enable them to create successful startups in the future. The Russian students’ participation in the GFSA was needed in order to hone this practice and apply it to those Skoltech students who will be taking part in the GFSA program next year.
Along with the Russian students, teams from the MIT and the universities of other countries from all over the world took part in this program.
The selected students were provided with a monthly scholarship, a workplace and an opportunity to interact, as part of their projects, with the mentors, who were internationally recognized experts in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation. The participants were offered weekly master classes and special seminars on business topics, such as team building, staff recruitment, the legal aspects of setting up a startup company, attracting customers, the evaluation of the competitiveness of a product, building financial models, etc. There were wide opportunities for using the academic resources of the MIT and other international universities located in Boston.
“We came there initially with a project called ImSlide – a tool for high-precision diagnostics of leukemia,” said Sergey Zasukhin. “Before our trip to the MIT, we had been working on that project for almost two years in Russia. Our project had managed to get a number of grants and received resident status in Skolkovo. In the USA, our project underwent a very thorough verification with the help of the experts supervising our project, and, as a result, it had to change dramatically. We realized that in that form in which we had brought it to Boston it was too narrow-focused for a business venture. As a result, we changed the business concept of the project dramatically.”
“The program was very laid-back in terms of the fact that there was no compulsory course of lectures. That is, from time to time, we were visited by interesting people, successful entrepreneurs, who, as a rule, were graduates of the MIT, and they shared their experiences with us,” said Andrey Senyut. “The organizers constantly put us in touch with the experts who advised us on how to develop our project effectively. Every two weeks, we had the so-called Advisory Boards, during which we told the group of experts assigned to us what we had done in two weeks and what results had been achieved. Each project had such an Advisory Board.”
“The atmosphere was very productive. We all stayed up late and worked on our projects. And mind you, no one forced us to work. What motivated us was that we were working on our own business. Besides, we realized that you don’t get to spend two months in the United States, particularly in a city like Boston, where innovation culture is really very strong, to do nothing,” added Andrey.
Skoltech undertook to cover the team’s expenses associated with the accommodation, the flights and obtaining the American visa. All the necessary conditions were created for the participants in the program to enable them to fully concentrate on the efficient work on their startup projects.
“In Russia, Skoltech selected participants for this program jointly with the MIT and did everything possible to make sure that our stay there was productive. We are very grateful to Skoltech for this support,” said Sergey Zasukhin.
“The organization called MIT Skoltech Initiative – the partner of Skoltech at the MIT – became our second home during our stay in Boston,” said Andrey Senyut. “They treated us very well there, and they were always ready to give us any assistance. If we needed some contacts or just advice, we could easily talk to any person from MIT Skoltech Initiative.