Tag Archives: MIT

A MIT entrepreneurial history – Epilogue : The Impact and some lessons learnt

Degroof has produced one of the best books describing entrepreneurial ecosystems as I have already mentioned in 2 previous posts including Part 2 : Ecosystems & Culture.
In the last part of his book, he switches to the impact of MIT and its ecosystem.

This is a well-known topic as you could read in Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT. Degroof reminds us (pages 183-89) of the biotech startups around Kendall Square (Biogen, Genzyme) as well as the R&D of big pharma relocating around, such as Swiss Novartis. It’s not only about biotech as Lotus Development or Akamai exemplify. He also mentions some alumni who became famous entrepreneurs or investors, Hewlett (36), Perkins (53) or Swanson (69). He does not mention Noyce (53) though, and his tinkerings (more here and there) or Haren (80) for French people. There could be hundreds of others!

He also adds about the impact of local accelerators from CIC in the late 90s to MassChallenge and TechStars. I am a little less convinced about the international impact MIT had in a more topdown institutional way. What is the exact outcome of partnerships in Singapore, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Spain or Portugal. The Deshpande Center certainly inspired many initiatives including the Innogrants I managed at EPFL in the mid 2000s or even what I do today.

Degroof also develops the importance of teaching and training: “In trying to reconcile the tension between rigor and relevance, Aulet argues convincingly that entrepreneurship should be framed as a craft as opposed to a science or an art. Like a craft, it is built on fundamental concepts. A potter, for instance, needs to master the basic mechanical and chemical principles of his craft. Knowing those does not guarantee success, but they considerably improve the chances. Like a craft, entrepreneurship is best learned through apprenticeship, or learning by doing, rather than relying only on lectures or manuals.” [Page 212]

Again I am a little less convinced about this generally-mentioned point: “There is a strong belief at MIT that entrepreneurship is a team sport. It is based on the evidence that teams of founders tend to perform better than individual founders, and that complementary teams tend to do better than homogeneous teams. Following on the heels of the I-Teams class, nowadays, most teams in entrepreneurship-related courses or contests are required to be composed of a mix of engineering or science students with management students. This has become an important feature and a great strength of entrepreneurship training at MIT. Both groups benefit from each other’s contributions. Engineering and science students discover the market dimensions of the projects with the help of their peers from the business school and learn that it is not enough to build a better mousetrap, while the latter benefit from scientific and engineering insights. Both groups are forced to deal with cultural differences and with more complex team dynamics than what occurs in homogeneous teams. The results are stronger teams and more effective projects.” [Page 214]

Entrepreneurship is a complex venture and entrepreneurial ecosystems are complex and fragile settings. Degroof convincingly describes why Boston has become a model. He does not really develop why it has not been as succesful as Silicon Valley, with a similar culture though. Paul Graham’s Ycombinator had moved from Boston to Silicon Valley as mentioned in Why Boston Should Worry. When I visited Novartis people in Boston, some claimed that Silicon Valley was to Boston what Boston was to Europe. Yes, Boston was more innovative than Europe and that is why Novartis moved some R&D to the West, but when Novartis bought Chiron in Silicon Valley, Novartis discovered going further West was again more adventurous. (See Myths and Realities of Innovation in Switzerland).

But these debates are secondary to the lessons learnt and synthesized by Degroof. A lot of inspiration is to be found. And coming back to the great foreword by Metcalfe : recreating MIT’s renowned entrepreneurial ecosystem is not a simple task. There is no copying MIT’s ecosystem and pasting it into another institution. The founding principles and unique cultural elements that came together to create the “secret sauce,” as Jean-Jacques calls it, the ground-up nature of what has grown and thrived at MIT, are not easy to duplicate. That does not mean that there are no concrete lessons to be learned, that there is not knowledge that can be translated and adapted for other universities and economies. Today, as a successful and seasoned entrepreneur, I still frequently look to MIT in my efforts to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem at the University of Texas. I don’t hesitate to reach out to my extensive network at MIT for answers to questions of theory and practice. From there, I have been able to make great strides in my goal. I may not be recreating MIT, but I am modeling what I do after the very best and adapting it to the specifics I have here in Austin.”

A MIT entrepreneurial history – Part 2 : Ecosystems & Culture

I continued reading the excellent From the Basement to the Dome by Jean-Jacques Degroof and found more inspiring elements about ecosystems, culture and also technology transfer from academic institutions after my first post. Here they are:

6 ingredients of the MIT ecosystem

Degroof gives us the cultural elements of the ecosystem: But what is it about this culture that has been supportive of entrepreneurship? The argument of this book is that entrepreneurship is particularly congruent with at least six elements of MIT’s culture: a well-ingrained, bottom-up organizational dynamic; excellence in all things that one studies or attempts to do, as well as a belief in hard work and fortitude; an interest in problem-solving and having a positive impact on the world; a belief in experimenting and a tolerance of failure; the pride of being viewed as rebels, sometimes eccentric and even a bit geeky, pursuing unconventional solutions; and the tradition of a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving. [Page 90]

Why startups?

Here is an interesting comment about academic technology transfer: “Established firms are seldom interested in licensing emerging technologies from academia for several reasons. They don’t understand the potential of the technology; the time frame to develop the tech into a viable product exceeds the time horizon that most firms are comfortable with, or else they fear that they could cannibalize their existing business. As a result, in 1987, the TLO’s new director, John Preston, took the initiative to license technology to new ventures in exchange for equity, first as an experiment because there was a great concern at MIT about potential conflicts of interest. During the first year of this policy, six companies were formed based on such licenses, including ImmuLogic and American Superconductor. Sixteen more companies were formed during the second year. [Page 34]

Degroof then describes the multitude of ecosystem tools, all in a bottom-up logic, with serendipity (chapter 6) as a fairly common mechanism. The beginning of chapter 8 on technology transfer with the example of Amberwave is another must-read:

Often the initial performance of the new technology is either lower than that of existing solutions or not high enough to justify the switching cost for potential clients. As a result, established companies often don’t see the potential of new academic technologies. Moreover, in the few cases when the technology’s advantage is obvious or clearly promising, established companies are often concerned lest they cannibalize market share from their existing technology—a technology in which they have invested time and money, and around which they have built whole supply chains and other infrastructure.
It is estimated that an investment equal to 10 to 100 times the cost of the academic research is needed to bring an academic technology to market. This process also requires patience and perseverance. It can take at least two to three years for a patent to get issued once it is filed. When a company finally licenses a technology, it might take an additional five to ten years before it generates revenue. All in all, the uncertain performance of developing academic inventions, the associated costs, and the time lag between invention and revenue generation make investing in embryonic academic inventions extremely unattractive.
This does not mean that large firms never license patents from universities, but more often, inventors are the only ones to understand and to believe in the commercial potential of their technology. They are, therefore, frequently the only candidates interested in founding (and sometimes funding) a company to commercialize their technology. This process involves obtaining a license for the patent or patents based on their invention from their university, since, following the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, the university owns the intellectual property of government-funded research. The edge that inventors have is the extensive and unique knowledge that they have accumulated through their research efforts and exposure to industry over the years.
[Page 156]

Managing technology transfer

And more interesting information here about avoiding conflicts of interests at MIT: Policies do not allow faculty members to use students for research and development (R&D) related to a start-up in which that professor has equity, nor may students be employed by such a start-up. A start-up in which a professor has an interest is not allowed to fund research in that professor’s lab. Similarly, a professor is not allowed to conduct federally funded research in collaboration with such a start-up, with the exception of SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding. A start-up venture may not be located in a lab. Employees of a professor’s start-up may not be involved in the research activities of the professor’s lab. Research in the lab may not be influenced by a professor’s other professional activities. A faculty member’s full-time employment at MIT prohibits significant managerial responsibilities in a start-up. [Pages 161-62]

Or about making money with Technology Transfer: Many universities expect their technology transfer activities to be profitable and bring in revenue. Although MIT is one of the most successful and experienced universities in terms of technology transfer, its experience shows that this kind of financial gain is a misleading expectation. “Any university that counts on its tech transfer to make a significant change in its finances is statistically going to be in trouble,” said Nelsen. To that end, her motto during her tenure as head of the TLO was, “Impact, not income.” [Page 162]

Many startup stories

Degroof adds anecdotic descriptions of individual companies, rich with lessons: these are BBN (1948), Teradyne (1960), Analog Devices (1965), Prime Computer (1972), Apollo Computer (1980), Thinking Machines (1983), Harmonix Music Systems (1995), Amberwave (1998) ThingMagic (2000), Momenta Pharmaceuticals (2001), SmartCells (2003), Ambri (2010), Firefly Bioworks (2010), Sanergy (2011), Wecyclers (2012), Nima Sensor (2013), Bounce Imaging (2013), ReviveMed (2016), Biobot Analytics (2017), not forgetting Robert Langer’s 40+ spinoffs from 1987 to today!

Internal venture capital – The Engine

My experience with academic venture capital funds is mitigated to say the least. So this is an interesting experiment: Faced with this perceived market failure, MIT’s leadership pointed to the need for patient capital to bring ventures that are trying to commercialize tough science and need more time than do digital businesses to reach a stage where they are ready for venture capital. […] In October 2016, President Reif announced the creation of The Engine, https://www.engine.xyz , a for-profit but public benefit corporation, separate from MIT, that would act as an accelerator for start-ups trying to commercialize “tough techs” by providing advice and physical facilities, as well as an investment fund of patient capital. […] In addition to going against MIT’s policy of not funding entrepreneurial projects, The Engine also broke with Institute tradition by incubating the entrepreneurial projects of its members, which certainly raised substantial objections within the MIT community. [Page 64]

The Engine has a double bottom line: it seeks financial returns and it seeks impact. The Engine raised $200 million for its first fund, with MIT contributing $25 million. […] The fund invests from $250,000 to $2 million per venture, and its investments are not exclusive to MIT-related firms. The investment is made with a time horizon of eighteen years, rather than the typical five to eight years given in the case of venture capital funds. […] Second, The Engine gives start-ups access to infrastructure, such as expensive, specialized equipment, including some from MIT, that otherwise might represent a barrier to entry to firm foundations. The Engine’s facility was initially located in 26,000 square feet of space in Cambridge, with the ambition of expanding to 200,000 square feet through a network of offices, labs, and prototyping and makerspaces a few blocks from Kendall Square. […] Third, the new initiative comes with a network of professionals and mentors in the so-called hard-tech space. [Page 173]

In 2020, The Engine raised a second $250M with $35M from MIT and Harvard University joined as a new LP. Is this different than VC? Will it succeed? Time will tell…

A MIT entrepreneurial history by Jean-Jacques Degroof

With an impressive foreword by Bob Metcalfe (the inventor of Ethernet et cofounder of 3Com) who rightly renames MIT a “Innoversity”, Degroof explains in From the Basement to the Dome that entrepreneurship is engrained in the MIT history and culture, not so much from a political decision but from serendipitous events.

Its motto (Mens et Manus, “Mind and Hand” in Latin), its logo, the right given to professors to spend 20% of their time in consulting since the 20s and the creation of the patent committee in 1932 are all indications that practice is as important as theory in engineering science. The importance of military funding through the creation of OSRD was also critical to the richness of MIT’s inventions.

The culture is exemplified by Ray Stata, a cofounder of Analog Devices : “It’s like ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ If you see others start companies and become successful, you say, ‘If they can do it, so can I.’ Whereas if you don’t see that up close and personal, there’s a fear and a mystery about how to do it. The entrepreneurial spirit at MIT gives you confidence.” [Page 17] And what about his experience in business: “I don’t have a clue about how to be a president, but I’m going to take the next twelve months to learn. And if at the end of that twelve months you guys collectively decide, or if the board decides, that I’m not the person who can provide leadership, I’ll step down. But in the meantime, while I’m learning, you’ve got to help me.” Fortunately, Stata’s direct approach worked. “Everybody dug in, and there was then no way I could fail. Over the next twelve months I learned how to be a president, and that process has continued for four decades.” [Page 18]

If you didn’t know Ray Stata, you might have known the building on MIT’s campus with his name.

I wondereed before beginning the reading if Degroof would mention the debate about why Boston did not end being as successful as Silicon Valley. And he does! Early in his book, on pages 24-25. This is a must-read and I am not finished yet. Degroof quotes famous Regional Advantage by AnnaLee Saxenian. I will let you discover.

This table that I had copied a long time ago is another illustration of the differences, not so much between Stanford/Berkeley and MIT/Harvard but about the number of firms spun-off from established firms. Just compare what happened at IBM on the west and east coasts. (PS: I had not initially mention the source of the table, it is part of High-Tech Startups and Industry Dynamics in Silicon Valley, Public Policy Institute of California, Junfu Zhang (2003) San Francisco, California.)

Let me finish this 1st part with another quote by Lita Nelsen, former head to MIT’s Technology Licensing Office: “People say to me, ‘Does MIT have an incubator?’ And my classic answer has been, ‘Yes, it’s called the city of Cambridge.’” [Page 26] This reminds me a quote of Richard Newton, a former professor at Berkeley. He had written stating a colleague of his: “The Bay Area is the Corporation. […When people change jobs here in the Bay Area], they’re actually just moving among the various divisions of the Bay Area Corporation.” This is a critical explanation of ecosystems, they are not so much about institutions but about the fluidity of exchanges between individuals.

MIT’s Lita Nelsen Perspective on Academic Technology Transfer

I just read an excellent interview of Lita Nelsen who has recently retired as head of MIT’s Technology Licensing Office. You should read the full Exit Interview: Lita Nelsen on MIT Tech Transfer, Startups & Culture. I was used to say that MIT was more conservative than Stanford just like the Boston Area has been known to be more conservtaive than California, but things change. So let me just mention a few extracts.

Lita Nelsen (Formerly head of MIT Technology Licensing Office)

About patents:

Patents are needed because the whole idea is if you’re going to get somebody to invest a lot of time and a lot of money, if you succeed you don’t want the other guy, the bigger guy, saying, “Well, thank you very much. Now that you’ve shown the way, get out of the way.” We are primarily using patents as an incentive for investment.

About universities having an investment fund:

[The Technology Licensing Office helps] start about 25 or 30 companies a year. God knows how many [other companies started on campus] go out the back door. No one fund could put that amount of sweat equity into all of them. Now imagine we have MIT’s fund, and I invest in company A, but don’t have the resources to do B, or maybe not C. Then I go with C to [an outside venture capital firm] and say, “How would you like my leftovers?” There’s a negative selection bias there for what we don’t invest in. So, better to let a level playing field for anybody who wants to play.

But one thing any institution doing it has to decide is, are we primarily in it for return on investment? Or are we primarily in it for getting companies started that wouldn’t otherwise get started? You usually get a mixed message if you ask people which it is. And as everybody knows, when you get mixed missions, things get very hard to manage.

About equity in licensing:

How much equity does the Technology Licensing Office usually take when it spins out a company? Usually in the lower single digits, maybe a little higher if you have a software spinout. And it’s common shares.

If it’s research-intensive stuff—biotech, things that take multiple rounds of funding—[our stake] usually gets demoted down to [tiny] portions. You make a little money; you don’t make a lot. Except in cases when the Wall Street bubble is totally irrational. Even nationwide, you can show that tech transfer is, at best, a lottery if you want to make an ability to influence [a university’s financial position]. The primary winners—not 100 percent of them, but damn close—are single pharmaceuticals. Because if a pharmaceutical hits the market, it’s going to be in the multi-billon dollar [range]. The equity is seldom worth a lot, unless of course you can follow up with preferred investments. But that’s not what we’re in the business of doing. Any university that counts on its tech transfer to make a significant change in its finances is statistically going to be in trouble.

About accelerators:

“Does MIT have an incubator?” And my classic answer has been, “Yes, it’s called the city of Cambridge.”

The problem with accelerators is the definition has become as broad and varied as incubators, which range from science parks to little projects within universities, so you don’t know what the word means until you dig in. But some of them are putting money into product development. Some of them are venture funds expecting ROI. Some of them are [funded] through donations, as we did with Deshpande and Harvard did with their accelerator.
It’s going to be interesting to look at the mechanisms that people are trying. Because the problem is there: How do we get from the stage of which the university has done its research and maybe even gotten on the cover of Science magazine, to where somebody is going to invest in that ripening process before it actually turns into true product development, short-term product development? How do you get from the petri dish to full-scale clinical trials? You’ve got to get pretty far along before pharma’s going to do that for you. So people are looking both within universities and outside of universities as to how you fill the gap.

About teaching entrepreneurship:

now MIT, with its emphasis on innovation, is investing officially in training students in innovation and entrepreneurship, along with, not separate from, their intense technical educations. It’s not “you go and learn how to be an entrepreneur,” it’s you learn biology or chemistry or electrical engineering or computer science, but you also learn how entrepreneurship and innovation and moving technology out into the marketplace works—rather than having to learn that after you graduate.

The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce – again

I read again The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce for reasons which are not directly related to Silicon Valley or Start-ups. A few days ago, I blogged about an extremely good article from the New Yorker – Our Town by Larissa MacFarquhar. The author illustrates some universal values of humankind through a small community in Iowa. And this reminded me of Tom Wolfe article written for Esquire Magazine in 1983. I found it again online here. It begins with : “In 1948 there were seven thousand people in Grinnell, Iowa, including more than one who didn’t dare take a drink in his own house without pulling the shades down first.” Robert Noyce studied at Grinnell College then left to MIT then to what would become Silicon Valley. Grinnell College was quite advanced in electronics. Tom Wolfe claims: “But MIT had proved to be a backwater… when it came to the most advanced form of engineering, solid-state electronics. Grinnell College, with its one thousand students, had been years ahead of MIT.” And later Grinnell College would invest in Intel, making its endowment unusually successful.

I was about to blog here about Wolfe’s article and (re)discovered, shame on me, that I had blogged about it in 2012! I had mentioneed the piece about the Wagon Wheel bar. Here it is again.

Or else he would leave the plant and decide, well, maybe he would drop in at the Wagon Wheel for a drink before he went home. Every year there was some place, the Wagon Wheel, Chez Yvonne, Rickey’s, the Roundhouse, where members of this esoteric fraternity, the young men and women of the semiconductor industry, would head after work to have a drink and gossip and brag and trade war stories about phase jitters, phantom circuits, bubble memories, pulse trains, bounceless contacts, burst modes, leapfrog tests, p-n junctions, sleeping-sickness modes, slow-death episodes, RAMs, NAKs, MOSes, PCMs, PROMs, PROM blowers, PROM burners, PROM blasters, and teramagnitudes, meaning multiples of a million millions. So then he wouldn’t get home until nine, and the baby was asleep, and dinner was cold, and the wife was frosted off, and he would stand there and cup his hands as if making an imaginary snowball and try to explain to her… while his mind trailed off to other matters, LSIs, VLSIs, alpha flux, de-rezzing, forward biases, parasitic signals, and that terasexy little cookie from Signetics he had met at the Wagon Wheel, who understood such things.

Here is another piece about stock options, which I discussed in another recent post: Rewarding Talent – A guide to stock options for European entrepreneurs by Index Ventures.

From the beginning Noyce gave all the engineers and most of the office workers stock options. He had learned at Fairchild that in a business so dependent upon research, stock options were a more powerful incentive than profit sharing. People sharing profits naturally wanted to concentrate on products that were already profitable rather than plunge into avant-garde research that would not pay off in the short run even if it were successful. But people with stock options lived for research breakthroughs. The news would send a semiconductor company’s stock up immediately, regardless of profits.

There would be so much more to say about this marvelous piece of Silicon Valley and American history. You should read it!

The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce

I am reading a new book on Steve Jobs and Silicon Valley entitled The Apple Revolution. I will come back on what I think when I am finished reading it. I discovered in the first pages of this book that famous author Tom Wolfe had written in 1983 another article about Silicon Valley centered around Bob Noyce, The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce.

You probably do not remember my previous posts mentioning Noyce, and if not you may want to read them:
What is the mentor role? in August 2010.
The Man Behind the Microchip in February 2008.
It is not very surprising that Noyce, the founder of Intel, is mentioned in a book about Apple computer. Noyce was a mentor to Jobs as you may see below or by reading my post above. Don Valentine add further that Noyce and Jobs may have been the two most important personalities of Silicon Valley: “There were only two true visionaries in the history of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs and Bob Noyce. Their vision was to build great companies…”

Wolfe’s article is great and if you do not have time to read The Man behind the Microchip, you might want to read this shorter version. let me just extract a few things:

About the culture of Silicon Valley, work, openness and …
“The new breed of the Silicon Valley lived for work. They were disciplined to the point of back spasms. They worked long hours and kept working on weekends. They became absorbed in their companies the way men once had in the palmy days of the automobile industry. In the Silicon Valley a young engineer would go to work at eight in the morning, work right through lunch, leave the plant at six-thirty or seven, drive home, play with the baby for half an hour, have dinner with his wife, get in bed with her, give her a quick toss, then get up and leave her there in the dark and work at his desk for two or three hours on “a couple things I had to bring home with me.
Or else he would leave the plant and decide, well, maybe he would drop in at the Wagon Wheel for a drink before he went home. Every year there was some place, the Wagon Wheel, Chez Yvonne, Rickey’s, the Roundhouse, where members of this esoteric fraternity, the young men and women of the semiconductor industry, would head after work to have a drink and gossip and brag and trade war stories about phase jitters, phantom circuits, bubble memories, pulse trains, bounceless contacts, burst modes, leapfrog tests, p-n junctions, sleeping-sickness modes, slow-death episodes, RAMs, NAKs, MOSes, PCMs, PROMs, PROM blowers, PROM burners, PROM blasters, and teramagnitudes, meaning multiples of a million millions. So then he wouldn’t get home until nine, and the baby was asleep, and dinner was cold, and the wife was frosted off, and he would stand there and cup his hands as if making an imaginary snowball and try to explain to her… while his mind trailed off to other matters, LSIs, VLSIs, alpha flux, de-rezzing, forward biases, parasitic signals, and that terasexy little cookie from Signetics he had met at the Wagon Wheel, who understood such things.
It was not a great way of life for marriages.”

About youth and innovation:
“The rest of the hotshots were younger. It was a business dominated by people in their twenties and thirties. In the Silicon Valley there was a phenomenon known as burnout. After five or ten years of obsessive racing for the semiconductor high stakes, five or ten years of lab work, work lunches, workaholic drinks at the Wagon Wheel, and work-battering of the wife and children, an engineer would reach his middle thirties and wake up one day; and he was finished. The game was over. It was called burnout, suggesting mental and physical exhaustion brought about by overwork. But Noyce was convinced it was something else entirely. It was…age, or age and status. In the semiconductor business, research engineering was like pitching in baseball; it was 60 percent of the game. Semiconductor research was one of those highly mathematical sciences, such as microbiology, in which, for reasons one could only guess at, the great flashes, the critical moments of inspiration, came mainly to those who were young, often to men in their twenties. The thirty-five year-old burnouts weren’t suffering from exhaustion, as Noyce saw it. They were being overwhelmed, outperformed, by the younger talent coming up behind them. It wasn’t the central nervous system that was collapsing, it was the ego.”

About status, hierarchy and success:
“And if he was extremely bright, if he seemed to have the quality known as genius, he was infinitely more likely to go into engineering in Iowa, or Illinois or Wisconsin, then anywhere in the East. Back east engineering was an unfashionable field. The east looked to Europe in matters of intellectual fashion, and in Europe the ancient aristocratic bias against manual labor lived on. Engineering was looked upon as nothing more than manual labor raised to the level of a science. There was “pure” science and there was engineering, which was merely practical. Back east engineers ranked, socially, below lawyers; doctors; army colonels; Navy captains; English, history, biology, chemistry, and physics professors; and business executives. This piece of European snobbery that said a scientist was lowering himself by going into commerce. Dissenting Protestants looked upon themselves as secular saints, men and women of God who did God’s work not as penurious monks and nuns but as successful workers in the everyday world.”

Although he was an atheist, Wolfe sees in the values of “Dissenting Protestantism” roots of the Silicon Valley culture. “Just why was it that small-town boys from the Middle West dominated the engineering frontiers? Noyce concluded it was because in a small town you became a technician, a tinker, an engineer, and an and inventor, by necessity. “In a small town,” Noyce liked to say, “when something breaks down, you don’t wait around for a new part, because it’s not coming. You make it yourself.”

Interestingly enough the Apple Revolution also mentions all these points, but in the context of the hippie counter-culture… wait for next post!

Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT

A new report has been published about the Entrepreneurial Impact of MIT

It is full of data and even if obviously self-serving, it remains very interesting. Let me just quote what I noticed:

Growth: the number of “first-time” firms has increased from about 2’000 in the 70s to 6’000 in the 80s and 10’000 in the 90s.

Origin: Non-US founders had slight visibility in the 40s, grow to 12% in the 90s and 17% in the 00s. 30% of MIT foreign students founded a company at some point.

Age: Before and during the 70s, 24% of first-time entrepreneurs were under 30, growing to 31% in the 80s and 36% in the 90s. There is no real difference between industry segments.

Serial entrepreneurs: I have a small disagreement on that point as I am not sure serial matters, but… about 40% are serial entrepreneurs so 60% are not…

– Engineering vs. business degrees: EE/CS degrees is 22%, management is 16% for the 90s. Clearly science and technology matter.

Location: in the 50s and 60s, majority of companies were in Massachusetts, but thereafter Silicon Valley has become a critical locus. In the 00s, 26% are in MA and 22% in CA.

Then the report talks about the culture and the ecosystem. It is also very interesting. We should always remember that:

– Tons of money went to research from the militaries and space agencies.

– MIT had more of a tacit and hands-off role, but much encouraging.

Role models: “entrepreneurs could name about ten other new companies before they started their own”. Authors compare to another study where “Few of the Swedish entrepreneurs could name even one or two others like them”. They quote Schumpeter: “The greater the number of people who have already successfully founded new businesses, the less difficult it becomes to act as an entrepreneur. It is a matter of experience that successes in this sphere, as in all others, draw an ever-increasing number of people in their wake”

– Feedback loop: there is a positive impact of such examples and this may be the main reason of the creation to tech. clusters.

Culture: the best is a quote by Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor, founder of 3Com and now a partner at Polaris Ventures: “It’s not just that MIT’s entrepreneurial environment flourishes under its institutional commitment to technology transfer,” he said. “It’s also that MIT includes both ‘nerds’ and ‘suits.’ Divergent life forms, yes, but necessary to and working together at MIT on entrepreneurial innovation. And what keeps MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem accelerating is that nobody is in charge. There are at least twenty groups at MIT competing to be the group on entrepreneurship. All of them are winning.”

… Nobody is in charge…

Tech. transfer: the majority of the exclusive licenses go to startup companies. The TLO’s strategic dependence on startup companies has been the reluctance of large companies to invest in “university-stage” technologies, because the risk and cost of development is high and the time to market is long.

– License deals: For startups, instead of cash up front and in lieu of some of the royalties, the TLO usually takes a small equity ownership that is less than 5 percent of the new firm.

And some conclusions:

– Universities that are strong in research and technology are at the forefront of knowledge creation and potential application. When the university is able to couple this capability with the inclination and resources needed to connect ideas and markets, impressive possibilities exist for generating entrepreneurship-based economic impact at the local, as well as national and global levels.

– Numerous changes are needed in most universities over an extended period of time in rules, regulations and, more important, attitudes and institutional culture.

– Until quite recently, MIT had followed a “hands-off” approach toward entrepreneurial engagement, in contrast with many other universities in the United States and abroad. MIT has neither created an internal incubator for ventures nor a venture capital fund to make life easier for prospective startups.

– Instead, MIT has relied internally on growing faculty, student, and alumni initiatives, especially during the most recent thirty years, to build a vibrant ecosystem that helps foster formation and growth of new and young companies.

Educational programs require investment in and acquisition of faculty to develop and teach such programs. Effective and well-trained academics are, unfortunately, still scarce in most entrepreneurship related disciplines. Fortunately, successful practitioners are available everyplace and the MIT history indicates that they are quite willing and enthusiastic about sharing their time and experiences with novice and would-be entrepreneurs.

For those who have been so far, first you should read the full report and second I aggregate below a few tables from the report: