September 13, 2017: Accelerating Innovation: DesignX@MIT

On September 13, 2017, the MIT Club of New York, in collaboration with MITArchA (the MIT Architecture Alumni Affinity Group) hosted a talk by students and leaders of DesignX, a startup accelerator hosted within MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P). Held at the New York office of Gensler (a sponsor of DesignX), the event drew enormous interest from New York-area alumni, with over seventy in attendance.

Jay Damask ’90, President of the Club of New York, and Rocco Giannetti, Principal at Gensler, introduced the event. Three DesignX leaders then spoke. Hashim Sarkis, Dean of SA+P, stated that DesignX was created to prepare students for an evolving profession. Dennis Frenchman MCP ’76, Class of 1922 Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Faculty Director of DesignX, made the case that schools cannot let students and their ideas “fall off the edge of the table” after graduation, and said that SA+P would continue to support DesignX entrepreneurs as they transitioned from students to professionals. Frenchman then stated that this relationship would operate in two directions, and invited alumni to participate in DesignX as mentors and champions of the program and the community. Gilad Rosenzweig MCP ’13, Executive Director of DesignX, gave a brief introduction as well.

Representatives of five DesignX startups then gave short presentations. Kim Smith MAS ’17 presented Learning Beautiful, which creates analog learning tools that teach children computer science concepts. Rachelle Villalon PhD ’17 discussed Hosta, which converts interior photographs into BIM-ready 3D models that facilitate home renovation. Ariana Salazar MCP ‘16 and Nissia Sabri SDM ’16 presented Bitsence, which uses analytics and remote sensing to help building owners understand how their spaces are used. Noelle Marcus MCP ‘17 and Rachel Goor MCP ’17 explained Nesterly, a community-driven digital marketplace which allows homeowners to rent spare rooms to young people at affordable rates in exchange for help with mutually determined tasks. Finally, Daniel Fink SMArchS ’17 presented Placeful, which combines design, computation, and development to reveal untapped opportunities in local communities, empowering homeowners to maximize the value of their properties. Andrea Chegut, Head of Research at DesignX then gave a short talk on the role of data and analytics within the DesignX universe.

The talk concluded with a question-and-answer session moderated by Gilad Rosenzweig. Alumni in attendance asked many detailed and specific questions regarding technical and business issues, with some alumni expressing interest in supporting the activities of DesignX and its cohort.

Special thanks to Gensler and the MIT Class of 1960 for their support of DesignX.