The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum Global will be closing its program effective June 30 and is asking all of its affiliated chapters, including the Central Coast chapter, to discontinue all association with the brand.
The news came in an April 30 email to Enterprise Forum chapters from the CEO of MIT Technology Review, a magazine owned by MIT that oversees the MIT Enterprise Forum.
Despite the setback, Steve Sereboff, the current chairman of the Central Coast chapter, said the chapter will be spinning off as its own independent nonprofit with the same mission it has had for the past 35 years: to promote entrepreneurism and build connections in the business and technology communities in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
“We’re really excited about the opportunities that are in front of us, and while we have enjoyed being affiliated with MIT, we’re really jazzed about life after we spin out,” Sereboff, a partner at SoCal IP Law Group in Westlake Village, told the Business Times.
Sereboff said that the Central Coast chapter will retain all of its current assets, including its cash reserves and its videos and online content. The group’s web domain name, mitcentralcoast.org, will be retained by MIT, but the university has pledged to redirect traffic for some period of time.
“From a resource standpoint, they helped our chapter get its start and we are grateful with the relationship we have had with the alumni association but they have had little involvement in our regular operations,” Sereboff said.
In the email sent to MITEF chapters, Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the CEO of MIT Technology Review and the chair of the Enterprise Forum program, did not give an exact reason for the closure.
“The mature state of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem today and a long-term trend towards different models of support for entrepreneurs” have contributed to the decision, she wrote. “This is not a decision we have taken lightly; certainly, we are aware that it impacts — and will disappoint — many people.”
The MIT branding was helpful in some ways, Sereboff said, but in other respects the name change might be a good thing.
“By eliminating the MIT name, I think the perception of people locally will be more open to what we do,” he said.
The new name of the chapter has not been decided yet. Sereboff said there will be no board changes and the mission will not change.
The Enterprise Forum is not seeking a new host organization right away. The board members are excited at the prospect of being independent and keeping their options open for new sponsors and partnerships, Sereboff said.
The Central Coast chapter’s May and June events will be affiliated with MIT, Sereboff said. After that, the new non-profit will be on its own.
The MIT Enterprise Program has been around since the 1970s and has 25 chapters, including the Central Coast.
The Central Coast chapter was founded in 1986 in the Ventura area, to serve Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. For the past 20-plus years it has held panel discussions and other live events, most of them in the Santa Barbara area, until the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the events online last year.
Sereboff said the announcement was not a surprise but added he is “not dwelling” on MITEF’s decision to end the program.
“We are really strong. We have 20 years of running successful events, we have a calendar of events laid out for the next two years already, and we have lots of cash,” he said. “This is just about organizational alignment.”