MEMSI is not a hackathon. MEMSI is not a business case competition. Heck, MEMSI does not even have money or opportunity prizes. No. MEMSI aims to educate what entrepreneurship is like through simulation, immersing into one industry (for my year, it’s aviation), and using the framework of Disciplined Entrepreneurship.
MEMSI filters their participants. There are a simple interview and threshold one must pass (Year 3 and above). This ensures the participants are
- Very much past the honeymoon stage of college life
- Interested in being an entrepreneur
This distinction is critical. There’s a base level of maturity and laser-sighted focus that the participants have. Yet, MIT’s brand name being attached to the program ensures everyone is humbled and open-minded to being taught. All these are important as if you are here to look for a teammate. Ideally, you want someone intelligent, energetic, and ethical. MEMSI did the work for the first two. You’re here to spot the creme de la creme and see who you can work with. Interestingly enough, 2 weeks is an extraordinary amount of time to ensure most people drop their nicey mask by then, which allows for a better observation of whose who.
Entrepreneurship through Education
The program uses the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship. It lays down the 24 steps it believes will drastically improve the odds of any attempt at entrepreneurship. I have been reading many startup books: Zero to One, The Lean Startup, The Hard Things about Hard Things, etc. But none have attempted to lay it out as methodically as this book attempts to.
The key lesson I’ve reaped from it is the importance of validation.
I am a self-taught computer engineer and a Physics student. The thing about engineers is that we believe that validations can only be done after we have a good enough proof of concept (POC). What is good enough? Frankly, I don’t know, but what I know is it’s never good enough. This causes me to spend a lot of time learning new frameworks, coding, ironing, making my sites robust, etc. before I validate. What happens then? Either
- My good friends tell me it looks good, suggests 1-2 small suggestions, which I go home to edit in the hope of making it “good-er enough.” It might gain traction, but it’s slower than I hoped it would be.
- I’m straight up told that they won’t use it.
The benefits of validating include
- Ensuring the pain point and your solution is something people actually want (I.E., will pay for!) Else, why build something if no one actually wants it?
- Steering the solution iteratively to ensure it solves problems
- Continuous motivation when people spread the word of your solution around
Always validate. These are pearls of wisdom learned from past lessons, I supposed. But I sure wished I picked up this book a lot earlier.
I learned so much about robots and how advanced HKIA is in advancing the airport infrastructure. Previous years went to Shenzhen and had an up-close look at the Shenzhen manufacturing process. The HK MIT Innovation Node is jampacked with 3D printers, eye-tracking cameras, raspberry pi’s, etc. If you’re exploring the possibility of building a hardware product, MEMSI is gold.
Should You join?
All in all, if you’re here wondering whether you should apply for MEMSI, then it comes down to three factors.
- Are you looking for teammates for future startups?
- Do you believe that the chances of success in entrepreneurship are improvable through education?
- Do you intend to learn more about hardware development and manufacturing?
If, for any of the three questions above, your answer is yes, then I’ll highly recommend MEMSI.
Some caveat into why I might be biased. Our team won MEMSI. I believe what I’ve more importantly won is finding the teammates to develop something with going forth. So, with all the bounties I walked away with, I am definitely biased.