For those unfamiliar with the story behind Prep4GMAT and LTG, Elad Shoushan, the current CEO who is also a second year student at the Sloan School of Management, created the app and the company. Elad's struggles with the GMAT inspired him to create Prep4GMAT, and he brought his fledgling business and his vision for personalized test prep with him to Cambridge. LTG has since transformed into a growing company, benefiting from MIT's emphasis on entrepreneurship and technology startups. As a result, the story and development of LTG is closely tied to culture and teaching of MIT.
The Sloan School of Management ranks as one of the best business schools for entrepreneurship and has a history of generating successful companies and educating future leaders of industry. Sloan is located in Kendall Square in the heart of Boston's technology and innovation hub where countless startup companies rub shoulders with tech giants like Microsoft. Given the fertile location and MIT's renowned faculty and alumni, entrepreneurs have unmatched opportunities to not only develop business ideas but bring these ideas to fruition with the backing of superb resources.
Entrepreneurship at Sloan
Sloan students choose among different MBA tracks, one of which is the Entrepreneurship and Innovation track. No matter their emphasis of study though, all students have ample opportunity to learn and practice entrepreneurial skills.
"There's so much going on here. You get drawn into it," Elad says of the entrepreneurship culture at Sloan.
A drive to innovate is the backbone of this culture — a quality that's common at MIT and something the university looks to strengthen by fostering cooperation among different schools and departments. For the business school, there's a natural fit between executive and entrepreneurial leadership and the tech prowess for which MIT is known. "The university really tries to pair students from different departments, linking up Sloan students who have business expertise with tech students designing innovative technologies."
LTG's first year at Sloan
Elad, unlike most Sloan students, arrived his first year with a working product he had developed. This proved to be an advantage as he had already gone through the initial work of turning an idea into a reality, which allowed him to focus on making new improvements and iterations while at Sloan. In his first year at school, he was able to take a step away from the product and refine the details of his vision and the specifics of the company.
"Balancing Sloan's core curriculum with running a business was definitely tough the first year. Though the product didn't change much during this time, I was forced in school to really hone the vision and goals for the company."
Now in his second year at MIT, Elad accredits this refinement to Sloan's opportunities for entrepreneurship and its many resources available to students who are looking to create innovative businesses.
Pitch competitions were one such opportunity and played a critical role in the development of LTG. These competitions act as a crucible for any startup or business concept: Having to present a business idea or product to a panel of experts forces teams to fine-tune their ideas into actionable steps that have a real chance for success.
Pitch competitions not only help improve ideas and business plans, but they also improve the presentation and communication skills of the presenter as Elad found. "Pitching made me a much better presenter. You have to be able to convey your vision and your product under different time conditions, from only having five minutes to present sometimes to having an hour to present."
There are a countless number of pitch competitions at MIT and in the Boston area. Perhaps the most famous university contest is the $100K MIT Entrepreneurship Competition, which has kick-started over 85 companies in its history. Outside of MIT, LTG participated in the Mass Challenge, the world's largest startup competition, in which LTG was a finalist.
In school, Elad submitted LTG as a business case for many of his classes, which proved to be a great way to get the advice of MIT's renowned faculty. Additional guidance was found through the Venture Mentorship Service, which still plays an integral part in guiding the company. VMS is a unique Sloan service that pair student entrepreneurs with established mentors who provide one-on-one guidance and feedback through frequent one-hour meetings.
"VMS is great for deep thinking about your business after you have your product. They are very honest and give you direct and critical feedback to make your company and product better."
Often, students meet with their VMS mentors in the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, which is also where many MIT startups work and classes on entrepreneurship are held. The Trust Center acts as the "home base" for entrepreneurship at MIT by bringing together research faculty, practicing entrepreneurs and students into one place. The facility, renovated and expanded in 2011, features meeting rooms and ample desk space for students to collaborate on their startup projects and receive mentorship.
"The Trust Center is especially good for helping students take the next step after coming up with an idea," says Elad. The idea that successful entrepreneurship can be taught orients the practices of the center. Classes taught there help break down the often chaotic process of getting a startup going.
For LTG, as for any startup, there's always more work to do and improvements to be made. With the end of the first semester now approaching, the work at LTG has only increased and new ideas continue to develop, but of course, this is part of the spirit of startups and of MIT.
"The work never ends, but you get to work with passion, so it's worth it."