MIT is world-famous as a launching pad for entrepreneurs. MIT alumni have founded at least 30,000 active companies, employing an estimated 4.6 million people, with revenues of approximately $1.9 trillion. In the 2010s, twenty to thirty ventures were spun off each year to commercialize technologies developed in MIT labs (with intellectual property licensed by MIT to these companies); in the same decade, MIT graduates started an estimated 100 firms per year. How has MIT become such a hotbed of entrepreneurship? In From the Basement to the Dome, Jean-Jacques Degroof describes how MIT's problem-solving ethos, multidisciplinary approach, and experimental mindset nurture entrepreneurship.
Degroof explains that, at first, the culture of entrepreneurship sprang from such extracurricular activities as forums, clubs, and competitions. Eventually, the Institute formally supported these activities, offering courses in entrepreneurship. Degroof describes why entrepreneurship is so uniquely aligned with MIT's culture: a history of bottom-up decision-making, a tradition of academic excellence, a keen interest in problem-solving, a belief in experimentation, and a tolerance for failure on the way to success. Entrepreneurship is the logical outcome of MIT's motto, Mens et Manus (mind and hand) ), translating theories and scientific discoveries into products and businesses—many of which have the goal of solving some of the world's most pressing problems. Degroof maps MIT's current entrepreneurial ecosystem of students, faculty, and researchers; considers the effectiveness of teaching entrepreneurship; and outlines ways that the MIT story could inspire conversations in other institutions about promoting entrepreneurship.
Jean-Jacques Degroof earned degrees from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain) and later an MSc and PhD degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He started his career in the financial services industry in Belgium and then transitioned into academia at the MIT Industrial Performance Center and at the Massavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government of Harvard University.
While conducting research on the commercialization of academic research, Jean-Jacques facilitated the launch of technology startups both in the US and in Europe, which initiated twenty-five years ago a new phase in his career in venture investment. His portfolio has included several companies now quoted on stock-exchanges and others acquired by larger corporations.
Throughout Jean-Jacques’ entire career, philanthropy has been a focal point of engagement with a focus in the areas of entrepreneurial education and aging.
Jean-Jacques is the author of From the Basement to the Dome. How MIT’s Unique Culture Created a Thriving Entrepreneurial Community (MIT Press, 2021).
Sophie Manigart obtained her Master in electronic engineering and Ph.D. in management at Ghent University. She is full professor at Ghent University and at the Vlerick Business School, where she serves as Faculty Dean. She was/is a guest professor at Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania), London Business School, IE Business School (Madrid) and ESMT Berlin.
Her research focuses on the financing of entrepreneurial enterprises, as well from the demand perspective as from the supplier perspective. In particular she studies the interactions between business angels, venture capital investors and entrepreneurs. She is associate editor of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, and editor of special issues on entrepreneurial finance-related topics in the Journal of Banking and Finance, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice and Small Business Economics. She published in journals like Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Journal of Banking and Finance and others.