Alumni Share the "View from the Top"

Entrepreneurs offer economic insights

As a student, Nate Ball ‘05, SM ‘07, won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for a powered rope ascender that could lift a 500-pound load 10 feet per second. As an alumnus, Ball attended the Boston-­area View from the Top event October 14 to talk to fellow alumni about his startup, Atlas Devices, and to learn from experienced business leaders. “The challenges my company faces are not new,” Ball says. “These people have been through it before, and it’s easy to talk to people here.” (Learn about Ball’s role in the PBS show Design Squad in “Engineering TV Careers.”)

SUCCESS STORY Professor Yet-Ming Chiang addresses the View from the Top audience.

Karl Buttner ‘87, chair of the financial software firm 170 Systems, came for a glimpse into the future of the economy. He appreciated the relatively small scale of the event–about 150 people–and the opportunity to meet “people who are hard to get access to.”

View from the Top, an MIT Alumni Association panel series launched in 2007, invites MIT graduates who are leaders in business, research, and academia to share their observations about trends and challenges. Events in Boston, London, and New York drew standing-room-only crowds last year.

Speakers at the Boston Metro West event included Yet-Ming Chiang ‘80, ScD ‘85, cofounder of battery company A123 Systems and MIT’s Kyocera Professor of Ceramics, who talked about MIT’s thriving entrepreneurial community. James Shields ‘71, SM ‘72, president and CEO of Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, provided an update on the business of research and the flow of federal funds to energy and green tech. Alan Spoon ‘73, SM ‘73, managing general partner of Polaris Venture Partners, shared insights into venture capital, citing Warren Buffett’s praise of “transparency and hustle” as fundamental to business success. Sheryl Handler, PhD ‘85, CEO of Ab Initio Software, moderated the panel.

To learn about upcoming alumni education events, visit

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