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From the Basement to the Dome
by Jean-Jacques Degroof
Foreword by Bob Metcalf

MIT is a world-famous launching pad for entrepreneurs. 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; 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 explores 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 more than 60 courses, 80 extracurricular activities and support mechanisms; considers MIT’s particular way of teaching entrepreneurship; and outlines ways that the MIT story could inspire conversations in other institutions about promoting entrepreneurship. 

Go to the following links to purchase From the Basement to the Dome:



"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

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Jean-Jacques Degroof

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


Have you always been interested in entrepreneurship?

I have always been interested in entrepreneurship, having come from a family with an entrepreneurial background. Prior to entering the PhD program at MIT Sloan, I worked in our third-generation family-owned asset management business. During my studies at MIT, my interest turned more towards academic entrepreneurship, or more specifically, how to turn scientific discoveries made in the lab into tangible products and companies, or how to get science into the marketplace.

Eventually, academic entrepreneurship became my thesis topic. However, instead of writing about Silicon Valley and the Boston area, about which much had already been written, I focused on how successful academic entrepreneurship could be made possible in regions with poor entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure, or “old economy” areas, such as my home country Belgium. In the 1990s, there was not much interest in entrepreneurship, especially in my academic areas of management and social sciences.  Public policy also failed to show much interest in this area.

Q & A


Februray 8, 2022

From the Lab to the Marketplace: MITdesignX and Entrepreneurship Education at MIT

by Jean-Jacques Degroof 

When the MIT School of Architecture and Planning launched design venture accelerator MITdesignX in 2016, the Institute had been growing and evolving its entrepreneurial ecosystem for several decades, becoming a world-renowned example of excellence in entrepreneurship education.

September 10, 2021

3 Questions: Jean-Jacques Degroof SM ’93, PhD ’02
on how MIT became an entrepreneurial powerhouse

by Zach Winn

The Institute wasn’t always prolific in entrepreneurship, according to the venture investor.

October 7, 2021

Q&A with Jean-Jacques from the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship


A short Q&A with the book’s author, Jean-Jacques Degroof, whose book From the Basement to the Dome

goes deep into how the school has become such a hotbed of entrepreneurship.

August 26, 2021

Can you identify 22 inventions born in Massachusetts?

by Scott Kirsner

Two books detail a history of innovation that stretches over centuries.

September 30, 2021

Blog post: From the Basement to the Dome


A must-read for anyone looking to learn why entrepreneurship is such a strong part of the DNA of MIT 

August 24, 2021

Jump-starting MIT’s
startup culture


by Jean-Jacques Degroof


For decades, MIT kept its distance from local high-techstartups. In this excerpt from his new book, From the Basement to the Dome, Jean-Jacques Degroof chronicles how alumni and students took it upon themselves to kindle an interest in starting companies.



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