In the past years we have seen a new development in tech incubators – more vertical incubators that specialized in a specific field such as Big Data, FinTech, Saas etc. – and we also have seen a new type of incubators – culture and art incubators. One worth mentioning is NEWINC, which was launched in the summer of 2014 by the New Museum.

mit_logoIn December MIT launched its own MIT STARTUP initiative that will include, among others, an incubator or The Studio.  MIT STARTUP is an arts entrepreneurship initiative, supporting arts-based entrepreneurial projects at every stage of development. The initiative is presented by MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), in partnership with the Sloan School of Management’s Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

I had the opportunity to speak with Sam Magee, the mind behind the new initiative to promote art entrepreneurship and one of the principal organizers of MIT STARTUP. The initiative rose from experiences with the famous Media Lab at MIT, an interdisciplinary research laboratory devoted to projects at the convergence of technology, multimedia, sciences, art and design.  As an active member of the MIT staff and while working with Sloan School of Management, Magee recognized that the basic foundations of the arts exist in the business school. In MIT publication, Magee pointed out,

“The arts are an integral part of the startup process. MIT STARTUP recognizes that creative thinking and innovation are fueled by the artistic mind, and this initiative offers an arena in which students are encouraged and supported in their creative endeavors.”  

That’s when Magee suggested the business school launch the Creative Arts award – a competition for creative projects, with winners receiving up to $15,000 in financing and getting the support of MIT. After 3 successful years they decided to initiate a specific program for arts entrepreneurship – MIT STARTUP.

The Boston Globe recently reported that arts and cultural organizations create 45,000 area jobs and contribute $1 billion to the local economy. Acknowledging the role of the arts in both the startup process and wider economic growth, MIT STARTUP adds to the Institute’s strong history of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Photo: Ahmad El-Nemr,  MIT website.

Photo: Ahmad El-Nemr,
MIT website.

The program includes five interrelated elements:

  • The Creative Arts award – competition to win $15K in the Creative Arts Track within the MIT $100K entrepreneurship competition; the prize seeds startups that incorporate an innovative use of art into their business plans. The jury includes known figures in their fields: Marc Steglitz, chief operating officer at the Guggenheim Museum, New York ; Eran Ergozy, musician and chief technical officer & VP of engineering of Harmonix Music Systems; Marcel Botha, entrepreneur, engineer, architect and inventor; Guilherme Marcondes, artist, filmmaker and 2013 MIT Visiting Artist; and Mary Hale, artist and designer at Shepley Bulfinch.
  • Hacking Arts – an annual student-run festival and hackathon that brings startup founders, programmers and designers together. The event features talks by entrepreneurs in the creative industries, tech-enabled live performances and art pieces, and demos by emergent startups.
  • The Studio – to further support their art entrepreneurs MIT STARTUP will launch a dedicated lab that will promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the arts only. “The newly constructed maker space in MIT’s Student Art Association studios will feature digital fabrication technologies alongside other tools to help bring innovative ideas to fruition. The space will unite a cross-disciplinary community of artists, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers and scientists to design, prototype and fabricate the next generation of disruptive ideas for the arts.”
  • Speaker series Arts Innovation in the Digital Age” – a speaker series designed to expose MIT students to new forms of artistic practice.
  • A future regional organization that will bring together the different stakeholders of the art ecosystem in the area. The future organization will allow entrepreneurs from different labs to learn, network, collaborate and share ideas and projects.

Speaking with Magee made me optimistic about the future of initiatives such as MIT STARTUP. Magee has inspiring vision and plans for the new program and I’m positive we will see great things coming out of this new initiative.

Read the original publication at the MIT News Blog here.

Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter for updates.


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