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About This Course

Many seemingly great ideas and technologies come to a sudden halt in the face of one simple, inescapable question:

"Who is your customer?"

Deploying solutions to the 21st-century’s energy and cleantech challenges require not only creative innovations and technologies. Entrepreneurs must approach these challenges with unparalleled tenancy, vision, and knowledge.

Cleantech Academy, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, is based on Energy Ventures, a course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cleantech Academy is taught by the Energy Ventures faculty Bill Aulet, Francis O’Sullivan, and Tod Hynes. The course is a project- and lecture-based class in which teams create a new business in the energy sector. The goal of Energy Ventures is to educate entrepreneurs through hands-on practical experience. This advanced entrepreneurship course goes beyond general entrepreneurial concepts to address special challenges faced in the clean energy and related industries.

In just under 10 years at MIT, the course has spun out over 10 ventures and Energy Ventures alumni have gone on to found over 25 companies, many of which have competed in and won business plan competitions such as the DOE Cleantech University Prize. It is the intent of Cleantech Academy for undergraduate and graduate students across the U.S. to do the same.

In the course you will learn, through the stories of MIT entrepreneurs, how to go from idea or technology to the necessary understanding of who and why will want to buy your product. Course assignments will be real-life exercises that will guide you through a series of concrete, practical, and effective steps that will help you make your idea very real.

Prepare to have some fun, too!


According to Forbes magazine, the 8 skills every successful entrepreneur has in common are:

  • Resiliency
  • Focus
  • Team Building
  • Long-Term Goal Oriented
  • Sales
  • Willingness to Learn
  • Self-Reflection
  • Self-Reliance

  • If you identify with any of these traits and want to use them to become your own boss or change the world,this course is for you!

    Course Staff

    Course Staff Image #1

    Francis O'Sullivan

    Francis O’Sullivan is Director of Research and Analysis at the MIT Energy Initiative, and a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

    His research interests span a range of topics related to energy technologies, policy, and economics. His current research is focused on unconventional oil and gas resources, the energy-water nexus, and solar energy. He has extensive expertise regarding the production dynamics and associated economics of North America’s shale plays. His work also includes the study of global gas market dynamics and the LNG trade, and he is actively studying the implications for international energy markets of emerging unconventional hydrocarbon resource plays, particularly those in China and Australia.

    O’Sullivan has written and spoken widely on these topics, and has made presentations to the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy; the United States Environmental Protection Agency; the Brookings Institute; the Bipartisan Policy Center; the Center for Strategic and International Studies; the National Governors’ Association; the National Association of Regulated Utility Commissioners at CERAWeek; the American Physical Society, and to a range of other academic, policy and industry forums. He is an author of the 2011 MIT Future of Natural Gas Study, and a member of the MIT Future of Solar Energy study group. O’Sullivan is also an elected member of the National Academies’ Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability.

    Prior to joining MIT, O’Sullivan was a consultant with McKinsey and Company, where he worked extensively in the areas of economic, investment and risk analysis, strategic planning, and operations in the private equity, oil and gas, electric utility, and renewable energy sectors.

    O’Sullivan received his BE degree from the National University of Ireland, and his EE, SM, and PhD degrees from MIT, all in electrical engineering.

    Course Staff Image #2

    Todd Hynes

    Thomas (Tod) Hynes is a Senior Lecturer in the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. He teaches Energy Ventures, a graduate-level course that guides teams of business, engineering, science, and policy students through the process of creating new energy ventures.

    Hynes is also the founder and president of XL Hybrids, a company which addresses one of the largest and most immediate challenges in energy – rapidly reducing dependence on petroleum for transportation. XL Hybrids has developed a proprietary hybrid electric powertrain which is cost effective for commercial fleets and can be installed in both new and existing vehicles in four hours. This hybrid powertrain is rapidly getting adopted by Fortune 500 companies and uses components from leading suppliers like Johnson Controls. XL Hybrids has also developed an advanced telematics platform which wirelessly collects vehicle operational data to optimize the performance of hybrid technology in real world applications. Hynes raised over $10M to launch this venture, and assembled and manages a cross-disciplinary team.

    Hynes is the cofounder of the MIT Clean Energy Prize and is on the Advisory Board. He also works with and advises startups and established companies active in energy. Hynes was the director of alternative energy for Citizens Energy for five years and launched the company’s wind development business. He successfully developed and sold over 230 MW of wind projects, and expanded the company’s wind business to include a project pipeline of over 2,000 MW. In addition to directing project acquisition, development, management activities, and operations, he assessed and developed new alternative energy business opportunities in energy efficiency, waste to renewable fuel, GHG offset projects, low head hydro, energy storage, and other sectors of the energy space. Prior to joining Citizens Energy, Hynes was the principal director and cofounder of Strategic Energy Systems, a consulting and engineering services firm focused on distributed power generation and wind power. He also was the cochair of the Energy Committee for CERC, the organization that “greened” the 2004 Democratic and Republican National Conventions,. He has served on the steering committee of the Boston Climate Action Network since 2003.

    Hynes holds a BS in management science from MIT.

    Course Staff Image #2

    William Autlet

    Bill Aulet is the managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at MIT and also a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The center is responsible for entrepreneurship across all five schools at MIT starting with education but also extending well outside the class room with student clubs, conferences, competitions, networking events, awards, hackathons,student trips and most recently accelerators.

    Bill teaches at least three different classes per year (introductory to advanced entrepreneurship classes) in addition to his responsibilities of running the center. His work has won numerous awards and most recently, in April 2013, Bill was awarded the Adolf F. Monosson Prize for Entrepreneurial Mentoring at MIT.

    During his three year tenure as the head of the Trust Center, he has conceived, designed, and overseen the implementation of many new innovative programs including: MIT Clean Energy Prize, Trust Center TV, Energy Ventures Class, Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), MIT Entrepreneurship Review, Entrepreneurial Product Marketing and Development Class, Linked Data Ventures Class, Founders Skills Accelerator, t=0 Entrepreneurship Festival, Beehive Cooperative, Entrepreneurs Walk of Fame, Corporate Innovators Sponsor Group, Applications of Advanced Entrepreneurial Techniques "GSD Ninjas," and Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator.

    Prior to joining MIT, Bill had a 25 year track record of success in business himself. He has directly raised more than $100 million in funding for his companies and more importantly has led to the creation of hundreds of millions of dollars in market value in those companies.

    Bill started his career at IBM getting training and experience in technical, marketing, sales, financial, and international business operations and management. After 11 years, he was named an MIT Sloan Fellow which resulted in him attending MIT for a one year degree program. Upon graduation, he resigned from IBM and became a serial entrepreneur running two MIT spinouts as the president/chief executive officer (Cambridge Decision Dynamics and then SensAble Technologies). The latter became a two-time Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest-Growing Private Company. With a presence in over 20 countries, SensAble also won more than 24 awards and was featured in Fortune Magazine, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications for its innovative products and strong business foundation.

    In 2003, he was recruited as chief financial officer to co-lead a turnaround of Viisage Technology, a security technology company with a dual focus in the areas of drivers’ licenses and facial recognition. During his tenure of two and a half years, Viisage developed a new strategy, overhauled its operations, made three major acquisitions, executed two major fundraising rounds and as a result, its market value increased from $50 million to over $500 million.

    Today, in addition to his work at MIT, Bill works with individuals and companies to become more successful through innovation-driven entrepreneurship. From single entrepreneurs trying to launch new ventures all the way up to large multi-billion dollar corporations seeking to achieve their goals through entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and innovation, the same fundamentals have been successfully applied. He also serves on the board of directors or advisors for a number of companies. He is a regularly featured speaker at management leadership programs on topics such as entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, entrepreneurial marketing, technology innovation, creating sustainable and rapid profitable growth, financing strategies, and operational excellence. He writes as much as possible in places such as, MIT Sloan Experts, The Boston Globe, the Kauffman Foundation, The Huffington Post and the MIT Entrepreneurship Review.

    A former professional basketball player, Bill lives in Belmont, Massachusetts with his wife and has four grown sons. Mr. Aulet holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Harvard University and an SM from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

    1. Course Number

    2. Classes Start

      Aug 04, 2016