About Proto Ventures

Proto Ventures is the first venture studio of its kind within a university. Proto Ventures combines translation and technology expertise to identify, build, and launch impactful startups from MIT research and technology.


Proto Ventures has created a repeatable process for venture creation. The Proto Ventures model is to find a real-world problem that needs solving, connect with MIT researchers to engineer solutions with entrepreneurial potential, and identify business opportunities associated with solving that problem. 

The goal is to accelerate the creation of ventures from MIT. Rather than starting with a solution, Proto Ventures starts by defining unrecognized opportunities around problems and technology spaces – a channel. Proto Ventures then identifies hidden white spaces within MIT research and technology to solve that problem. 

Like a private-sector venture studio, Proto Ventures curates ideas from within MIT’s ecosystem of labs and shepherds them to market. A key distinction from private-sector studios is that Proto Ventures is deeply embedded within the MIT research community and does not take equity in the ventures it creates. We start with problems first – seeking out the world’s hardest problems then building ventures to solve them.   


Proto Ventures launched in October 2019 under the MIT Innovation Initiative. The program is the first-ever venture studio within a university. By creating a repeatable process for identifying, building, and launching startups, Proto Ventures launched a new approach to venture creation within MIT.

Proto Ventures launched its first channel, Artificial Intelligence + Healthcare, in 2019 and the Fusion and Clean Energy channel in 2023.



Gene Keselman
Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
Executive Director, Mission Innovation Experimental (MIx)


Fiona Murray
Associate Dean of Innovation and Inclusion, MIT School of Management
William Porter (1967) Professor of Entrepreneurship

Michael Cima
David H. Koch (1962) Professor of Engineering
Faculty Director, Lemelson-MIT Program


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What is the Proto Ventures Program?

Proto Ventures is the world’s first venture studio of its kind within a university. Proto Ventures combines translation and technology expertise to create impactful startups from MIT research and technology. 

How does it work?

Proto Ventures starts with a channel, which is a bounded topic area selected by MIT in collaboration with a sponsor. Next, a Venture Builder is hired with deep scientific knowledge of the channel and strong entrepreneurial experience. The Venture Builder leads a team of MIT post-doctoral students known as Venture Fellows to identify, discover, and de-risk potential ventures.

Why did the MIT Innovation Initiative launch Proto Ventures?

To accelerate the creation of new ventures from MIT research and technology that will help solve the world’s hardest problems.

What are channels?

MIT works with a sponsor to identify opportunities around problems and technology spaces. Proto Ventures especially seeks out hard problems that are not being addressed elsewhere, and those in which a solution would have the greatest impact on society and the world.  

How does Proto Ventures accelerate venture creation?

We believe that many potentially world-changing inventions remain on the lab room floor either because the inventors are focused on academic careers or the groundbreaking commercial application is not easily recognizable. Or sometimes, an invention only becomes truly transformative when combined with ideas from other disciplines. Proto Ventures matches the technological capabilities at MIT with an entrepreneurial assessment of pressing market needs.

Who will own the intellectual property (IP) developed within the Proto Ventures Program and how is it licensed?

Proto Ventures does not take equity in the ventures it creates. Proto Ventures follows the same IP development and licensing rules as all other research at MIT, whereby MIT retains ownership of all IP that was “developed with significant use of funds or facilities administered by MIT.” Detailed rules on IP ownership at MIT are available here.