How MIT Nurtured Entrepreneurs: by Ed Roberts

By Shlomo Maital


Professor Edward Roberts

   Edward B. Roberts. Celebrating Entrepreneurs: How MIT Nurtured Pioneering Entrepreneurs Who Built Great Companies.   Amazon website.

    Life goes on. Scholars are still writing and publishing books. And this one, by my mentor and friend Ed Roberts, who founded and still chairs the MIT entrepreneurship program, is highly relevant. Because as we emerge from coronavirus, we will need to rebuild our economies. A major role will be played by high-energy creative entrepreneurs – of the kind Ed has nurtured, fostered, mentored, taught, cajoled, taught, reprimanded (he practices tough love), praised and energized.

   You’ll find the book of great interest, especially its five chapters filled with in-depth interviews and background on the MIT “spinoff startups” who became the leaders of: the life sciences and biotechnology industry, the Internet, from CAD-CAM to robotics, and even “modern finance”, plus a host of other diverse firms. The book contains a major portion on MIT’s long engagements with several countries, including years with Israel, in helping to create and build its high-technology entrepreneurial sector.

   Incidentally, Ed notes “ALL author proceeds from the sale of Celebrating Entrepreneurs will be donated directly to MIT endowment funds that support the Institute-wide MIT Entrepreneurship Pogram”, which will really help to sustain and further develop MIT’s ambitious efforts on behalf of future entrepreneurs.”

     Inspired by Ed, I’ve joined others at my university, Technion, to foster entrepreneurship, ever since 1987, when I and 2011 Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman launched a general studies course on startups, featuring entrepreneurs who came to tell their story (like Jewish meatballs, both sweet and sour). You can read my survey of research on fostering entrepreneurship in universities, download it at or email me at

   And a final note. Ed gave me the chance to teach MIT Management of Technology students, R&D engineers from all over the world, in 1984. I recall my first attempt was disaster. But Ed gave me a second chance the following summer. Ever since, inspired by Ed and MIT, I’ve pursued a passionate interest in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship – the engines that have made the people of Israel prosperous.  As consultant to some of Israel’s leading high-tech companies (including Iscar, now a global giant owned by Warren Buffett),  Ed contributed directly to the birth and growth of Israeli hi-tech. 

     Thank you, Ed!