I’ve co-founded or been an early investor in many things. One of my favorites is the MIT Banana Lounge. I will be hanging out there Tuesday afternoon and doing an AMA from 2pm to 4pm.
It began with an email from Zoe Sheill. I met Zoe at PSL when she was an intern the summer before her freshman year at MIT. We stayed in touch, and I went bananas when I got the following email from her on May 3rd, 2021.
… Right now, though, we’re running into a bit of trouble raising the money for starting the banana lounge again in the fall. In the past, we’ve given out about a quarter of a million bananas per semester, and about 76% of our budget is just bananas. The Undergraduate Association funded us in previous years – they are now using their limited money for newer projects now that the banana lounge has gotten a lot bigger (over 15k students would visit the lounge per week). Malte (the student that started the banana lounge 3 years ago), me, and Greg had a meeting a while ago and Greg recommended talking to you as a successful MIT alum and someone also excited about the possibilities with bananas.
After some back and forth, I agreed to provide the needed funding. Zoe responded with:
Our banana guy for 2021-22, I’m so excited! You are saving Banana Lounge. So many students will benefit from this and we are very much looking forward to sharing your story with them. I’m humbled by your generosity and the team is grateful and excited, thank you.
The MIT Banana Lounge has become a core part of the institution. Its fame began with a tweetstorm by Iain Cheeseman, a professor at the Whitehead Institute and the MIT Department of Biology.
More fame followed with articles in Boston Magazine (The World Needs More Ideas Like the MIT Banana Lounge) and the Boston Globe (At MIT’s ‘Banana Lounge,’ it’s not just the free food that’s a-peeling.) It appeared in Psychology Today (The Psychology of MIT’s Banana Lounge). The MIT Class of ’62 hunted it down, and MIT President L. Rafael Reif spent about five minutes on it in his Charge to the Class of 2022.
I get an update from the team every few months. The stats so far for the 22-23 academic year (through January) follow:
The complete 22-23 academic year plans include 600,000 bananas and 500,000 student visits.
After I provided the funding in 21-22, I was joined by Alex Rigopulos and Eran Egozy (co-founders of Harmonix) along with MIT Undergraduate Asociation and some students and recent alumni.
Because it’s MIT, I get graphs in my periodic updates.
I’ve moved on from sponsoring bathrooms, although I finally did get a bathroom sponsored at MIT. It’s top secret where it is, so don’t tell the MIT administration if you happen to find it.