Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Overview

Developmental Entrepreneurship (DE) was a Fall Semester seminar lead by Professor Sandy Pentland on the founding, financing, and building of entrepreneurial ventures in developing nations and emerging regions.

Summary Description

We surveyed developmental entrepreneurship via case examples of both successful and failed businesses and generally grapple with deploying and diffusing products and services through entrepreneurial action. By drawing on live and historical cases, especially from South Asia, Africa, Latin America as well as Eastern Europe, China, and other developing regions, we sought to cover the broad spectrum of challenges and opportunities facing developmental entrepreneurs. Finally, we explored a range of established and emerging business models as well as new business opportunities enabled by developmental technologies developed in MIT labs and beyond.

Expected Student Deliverables

We asked students to craft a business plan executive summary, something worthy of submission in the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition $1K Warm-Up. We further encouraged the most promising teams to spend IAP internationally further researching and prototyping the new venture, perhaps under some kind of MIT Developmental Entrepreneurship Deployment Initiative.

Interwoven Strategic Themes

Woven throughout the semester were a series of critical strategic themes and threads, including broadly

  • Defining Grassroots and Developmental Entrepreneurship
  • MicroFinance and Financial Services Worldwide
  • Macro Perspective on Emerging Sources of Developmental Capital
  • Challenges: Cultural and Political Constraints to Business Progress

Defining Grassroots and Developmental Entrepreneurship

  • Grassroots vs. Largescale
  • Informal vs. Formal Sectors
  • Indigenous vs. Multi-National Company Participation
  • Classic and Emerging Business Models
  • MicroFranchising and MicroEntrepreneurship
  • Handicrafts Sector and Proprietorships vs. Scaleable Growth Businesses
  • Sustainability, Appropriateness, Empowerment, Democratization
  • Models for Local Equity Participation in Global Business

MicroFinance and Financial Services Worldwide

  • MicroFinance
  • MicroCredit - Grameen etc.
  • MicroLeasing
  • MicroFranchising
  • Micro Venture Capital
  • Family Remittances - Dramatic Mexican Numbers

Macro Perspective on Emerging Sources of Developmental Capital

  • Titleizing Dead Capital - De Soto in Peru, Egypt, etc.
  • Propertizing and Protecting Property Rights
  • Human Capital: Brain Rotation - India IITs

Challenges: Cultural & Political Constraints to Business Progress

  • Lack of Law and Ill-Enforcement
  • Over-Regulation and Bureaucratic Burden
  • Corruption and Baksheesh
  • Cultural Stultification and Anti-Innovation

Cases Used

By embracing live and historical cases drawn from a sampling of developing regions globally, we hoped to cover the broad spectrum of challenges and opportunities facing developmental entrepreneurs. Cases drawn from (although not all covered in depth) include:

Historical Cases of Success and Failure

  • Communications - African Communications Group, Grameen Phone
  • Franchise Experience Pool - Coca Cola and Other MNC's
  • Medical Drugs - Southern African MicroPharmacies
  • Entertainment - Mexican Movie Distribution Cinemex
  • Distributed Power - SELCO's First Light in Sri Lanka and India
  • Travel and Tourism - Czech Travel Agency, EcoTourism

Current Live Cases

  • Vision Correction - Saul Griffith/Media Lab and Neil Houghton/HBS et. al. with Low Cost Eyeglasses
  • Water Filtration - Susan Murcott/MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Medical Incubators - Amy Smith/Edgerton Center
  • MicroFinance - Asheesh Advani/CircleLending

Connection to Broader MIT Developmental Innovation Efforts

We hoped the course would support, promote, connect, catalyze, and otherwise accelerate MIT-wide efforts towards developmental innovation.

Building On and Complementing Other MIT Development Classes

Many technology students have participated in Development Technologies, Design that Matters, and other classes on building appropriate technologies. Developmental Entrepreneurship helped such students investigate the further challenge of broadly deploying their technology solution via business action.

Competitions, Conferences, and Field Trials

Promising students and projects were encouraged to participate in the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition, global business plan contests, development conferences, and in real field trials, seeking fast iterative feedback on business viability.

Catalyzing the MIT 1G Developmental Technology Challenge

We challenged our students and people generally to craft economically viable solutions for problems faced by at least One Billion people worldwide. We encouraged students to tackle these big challenges in any of many possible Problem Domains, but we hope folks will continue to pursue the most pressing and promising prospects with greatest vigor. Worthy sectors include: Water, Food, Shelter, Power, Transportation, Sanitation, Health, Communication, Recreation.