From the Basement to the Dome

From the Basement to the Dome

How MITs Unique Culture Created a Thriving Entrepreneurial Community

Jean-Jacques Degroof


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How a bottom-up problem-solving ethos, multidisciplinary approach, and experimental mindset has nurtured entrepreneurship at MIT.

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:
Jean-Jacques Degroof has worked in academia, financial services, and venture investment, working with technology start-ups in both the United States and Europe. He holds an MS and PhD from the MIT Sloan School of Management.