Taking Risks and Avalanche Safety

This past year, 9.5% of our MIT Sloan MBA students went on to start their own company, while many others also joined a start-up. Brint Markle, one of these MBA ’14 graduates, has an incredible entrepreneurship story that I would like to share. MIT Sloan Admissions Advisor Harriet Barnett sat down with Brint to find out how he helped develop the avalanche safety-product AvaTech.

Tell me about your background and why you wanted an MBA at MIT Sloan?

I was working on a team with great consultants, but I felt I was on the sidelines and wanted to get closer to an entrepreneurial environment to see whether this was a potential career path for me. Business school was the avenue to help me push the reset button. I applied to many schools, but MIT Sloan was my top choice. I knew how strong the entrepreneurial ecosystem was and I perceived there was a tight-knit student community. I didn’t want to go to a larger school and get caught in the mix. MIT Sloan was close to perfect.

What kind of support did you and other entrepreneurial-minded students receive?

The support at MIT Sloan is absolutely unbelievable. I came in with a vague idea of doing something in the outdoor sports industry. Within the first two weeks this morphed into AvaTech, an intelligent avalanche probe that gathers rapid, objective and sharable information about the snowpack, helping snow professionals and other backcountry experts make more informed decisions in avalanche terrain. Today, backcountry travelers dig a six-foot hole in the snow to get a single data point about the snowpack. Our device really complements these and helps users gather more information quickly and objectively across a lot of terrain. Everyone was bringing exciting technology to the table. The Trust Center was integral to our development, especially Bill Aulet , Christina Chase, and Kyle Judah who have given me wonderful advice. The Venture Mentoring Service provided people who are leading CEO’s of successful companies and 20 – 30 years older than students, who I now speak with on a weekly basis. I really feel a part of the entrepreneurial community at MIT, which goes beyond MIT Sloan.

Will you be working on your company after graduation? Brint Markle, MBA '14

Yes, my co-founders and I have raised funding and are moving to the West Coast this summer. We are in the process of setting up manufacturing and preparing for our commercial release this fall. As someone who grew up as a backcountry skier and who had a friend who was partially buried in a snowpack in Europe, it’s exciting to know that we have the potential to help save lives by making a safer backcountry.

What advice do you have for incoming Sloanies?

Be open to a whole new world of possibilities. What you think is your vision can change dramatically. I recommend having a strong idea of who you are and something you care about, so you have a sense of how you are going to weave a set of experiences as you move forward. Simultaneously, though, take risks. It’s a very safe space to try new things and even if you fail, you learn a lot when you are willing to do this.

What words come to mind when describing MIT Sloan?

Innovative, exciting, collaborative. For instance, my South American classmates were so willing to help me that they connected me to heads of ski resorts in Chile where we did testing last year. This network will be invaluable for a lifetime.

Can you summarize your MBA experience for us?

Coming to MIT Sloan was the best decision I ever made. It helped me find my passion and pursue something that I find personally fulfilling that also will have an impact on the world. I leave wishing that I had two more years here.