Step into the newly renovated Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship on MIT’s campus, and you might think you’ve mistakenly wandered into the office of a startup or co-working space. That’s the point.
“A lot of our students want to start companies out of school,” says Tommy Long, the center’s chief of staff. “We wanted to give them a little bit of a taste of what a startup environment is like.”
The 26-year-old center aims to be a resource and connector for MIT students across all disciplines and grade levels who are aiming to become effective entrepreneurs. One of its main offerings is its first-floor space at 1 Amherst St., building E40, on the east side of MIT’s campus in Cambridge, MA. Besides housing the center’s staff, the office provides workspace available 24/7 to students working on entrepreneurial projects and startups.
But the old space was often cramped. So, when the tenants in the office next door relocated, the Trust Center knocked down the wall to expand from about 4,500 square feet to around 7,200 square feet, says Trust Center program coordinator Renee Lawlor.
“We wanted to expand for quite some time,” Lawlor says.
The renovation and expansion project began last July and was completed this week, minus a few finishing touches—including setting up an expanded makerspace with more 3D printers, a laser cutter, and other features, Lawlor says.
I toured the revamped center this week (see slideshow above). It looks and feels like other startup spaces I’ve visited around town, such as the Cambridge Innovation Center. The Trust Center has open desks, conference rooms, tiny “phone booth” rooms for making calls, unconventional furniture, walls that can be written on, a small event space, and a café area that has a cabinet filled with ramen noodles and granola bars—staple food groups for college students. (There are no ping-pong tables or other cliché startup office frills though.)
The initiative is notable because it shows how organizations at MIT—one of higher education’s most prolific generators of new technology, spinout companies, and company builders—are investing in resources for entrepreneurial-minded students. The renovation also shows how today’s tech startup culture is permeating college campuses.
To get ideas for the redesign, Trust Center officials visited accelerators and co-working spaces, including Workbar and MassChallenge, and the offices of startups and big tech companies, including Sonos and HubSpot, Lawlor says. The center went for an “industrial feel,” she adds.
“This is much more than an academic center,” Lawlor says. “We wanted the space to feel fun and keep the energy we had in the smaller space.”