MBA Philip Cohen: MIT’s new startup accelerator a ‘hive’ of entrepreneurial activity

Philip Cohen, MBA ’13, Managing Director of Beehive Cooperative

What are some of the biggest hassles of first-time entrepreneurship? In no particular order: rallying people around an idea; identifying the right teammates, finding a mentor, finding a legal team and investors; and finding a supportive entrepreneurial community that understands what you’re going through.

I’ve experienced these hassles first-hand. I am one of the founders of AudioCommon, a web-based platform that allows musicians and other members of the audio production industry to communicate and collaborate in new ways throughout the audio recording process. I also have the pleasure of managing MIT’s newest and largest startup accelerator: Beehive Cooperative. At the Beehive, we work to alleviate the aforementioned headaches.

The Beehive, located on the fifth floor of the MIT Sloan School of Management, is the summer headquarters to roughly 40 early-stage MIT startups. The companies get to use the space for free, enjoy an atmosphere that is both collegial and dynamic, and gain access to the steady flow of practitioners—from entrepreneurs to investors—who stop by to get a glimpse of the great work that is going on here. Though the majority of our companies are in the very early stages of development (the initial prototype phase), the enthusiasm that each startup brings to the office is contagious.

By design, the Beehive is home to an eclectic mix of companies. They range from Sistine Solar, a builder of artistic sculptures that incorporate the latest in solar technology, to Buzzy Baby a firm that makes baby strollers ideal for navigating stairs and escalators, to Delightfully, a “gift-wrapping” service that allows customers to personalize the digital gift-giving experience.

The Beehive houses 14 discreet offices and a large, open common area with five table clusters. One side of our space offers a sweeping view of the Charles River and the Boston city skyline. Office décor is decidedly minimalist, but there are a few quirky posters with aphorisms that play off of the bumblebee theme: “Bee Entrepreneurial,” “Bee Unique,” “Bee Bold,” and “Bee Creative.” The space looks both fun and professional.

Each day, teams come together to hash out problems and debate strategies. Though the Beehive is still relatively new, important relationships have already begun to form. To help foster this process, we hold biweekly brainstorming sessions, where company leaders discuss obstacles they’re facing in an attempt to leverage the collective experience and brainpower of the Hive. Every other week, the Beehive also hosts an outside guest speaker. The opportunity for founders to mix and mingle with seasoned experts is significant.

In my mind, perhaps the Beehive’s most important attribute is its atmosphere of positive reinforcement. Starting a new company is difficult. The act of creation—be it writing, illustrating, making music, or building a company—is emotional and delicate. Validation is important; and if you aren’t given a pat on the back at some point along the way, the entire project could crumble—regardless of a team’s talent or idea. The startup phase of a company’s life is tenuous. Through its outstanding body of young entrepreneurs, the Beehive offers just the right amount of help and motivation at this critical and exciting time of company development.

Philip Cohen, a second-year MBA student at MIT Sloan School of Management, runs the Beehive Cooperative, the school’s newest and largest startup accelerator. He is also the founder of AudioCommon

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