From the Basement to the Dome
How MIT's Unique Culture Created a Thriving Entrepreneurial Community
How a bottom-up problem-solving ethos, multidisciplinary approach, and experimental mindset have 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.
“Degroof does an outstanding job describing how MIT's culture of experimentation, problem-solving, and tolerance to failure has led to the creation of what is now a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures.”
Adrian Garcia-Aranyos, President, Endeavor
“I have always been a huge fan of MIT entrepreneurship. Its impact has been profound. It is invaluable to have a rigorous and thoughtful longitudinal study of how this happened—and what others can learn from this grand experiment and experience. I highly recommend this book to all who want to understand entrepreneurship and innovation better.”
Tom Byers, Professor and Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship, School of Engineering, Stanford University
“At the Kauffman Foundation, we are constantly looking at ways to increase the quality and quantity of entrepreneurship, especially for those who've been left behind. MIT has been the gold standard for entrepreneurship education. This valuable and well-researched book details its origins at MIT and how it has evolved over time. The lessons are clear and potentially transferable to help elevate the field at a time when we need it more than ever.”
Wendy Guillies, President and CEO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
“MIT has an illustrious history of innovation and entrepreneurship. Degroof distills key learning points, and these practices can be adapted by other universities and organizations that aspire to be innovative and entrepreneurial.”
Maw-Der Foo, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
“From my experience supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems at Harvard and Oxford, I have long admired MIT's prowess. While some ask whether entrepreneurship can be taught, leaders seeking organizational change wonder, 'Can traditional institutions truly embrace entrepreneurship? How did MIT succeed?' Jean-Jacques Degroof's excellent history answers these questions and shows how MIT built a powerful engine for innovation and societal change.”
Peter Tufano, Dean Emeritus, Saïd Business School, Oxford University, and Emeritus Professor, Harvard Business School
"The book is awesome. I love it and have recommended it widely."
Bill Aulet, Managing Director of Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship